There's no doubt that when I slipped Babysitter Wanted into the DVD player that after about ten minutes it's fair to say I experienced some serious déjà vu. I'd heard a lot about the 2008 film and was anxious to see it, but was faced with a 'haven't I already seen this before' attitude. The plot, while relatively simple, mirrors 2009's House of the Devil - at least at first. I assume neither film intentionally ripped the other off, as I've no idea which was actually in production first, but having seen HotD first, I will admit to being slightly bored throughout the beginning of Babysitter. That is not to say that the start of HotD wasn't snooze-worthy as well.
Angie (Sarah Thompson, looking a lot like Jennifer Garner) is off for her first real away-from-home experience: she's starting college. Straight off, she'd faced with a drugged-up, trashy roommate who nonchalantly points out that there is no bed for her - but she is welcome to use the (is that vomit or another bodily fluid?) stained-up couch until she gets one.
It's made blatantly obvious that Angie comes from a religious family by having her drop to her knees and pray before the first fifteen minutes are up. Not sure if she was praying for her roommate and her pathetic boyfriend not to be too loud while hitting the bong and having sex or just praying for a bed to magically appear. But when prayers don't work she starts looking into actually buying a bed, which in turn means she will need a part time job to acquire the money. Ta-dah! Premise unveiled.
Answering an ad for "babysitter wanted' (clever, eh?), she ends up out in the middle of nowhere at a large farmhouse. She meets the Stanton family, who by all accounts seem perfectly normal. Dad and Mom (Bruce Thomas and Kristen Dalton) are glad to hire her and make arrangements to have her sit that weekend with little Sam, who I would say is about 6 or 7 and mildly eccentric, even for a youngster.
While awaiting the weekend, Angie has some unnerving moments at college when someone starts taping pics of missing girls on her dorm door and an ominous-looking, scarred-up bald guy shows up in the back of her classes and is seemingly following her on darkened streets. Even though she calls the police and they promise to keep a look out, she's justifiably frightened.
In a tired plot device, Angie's car won't start the night of her first babysitting gig and she has her semi-quasi new boyfriend Rick (Matt Dallas) drive her out to the farm, effectively stranding her at the forboding residence. Sam is already asleep when she arrives and the parents make a quick exit after giving her the required phone numbers and showing her where Sam's "special food" is located in the fridge. Hmm...
Naturally, it's not long before she starts to hear some strange noises and gets a few eerie phone calls. But she brushes off the bad vibes when Sam appears and tells her he's hungry. When she opens one of his special containers of food I'm pretty sure that's when I would have called it a night, rang up the boyfriend, and settled in for a night of uninhibited sex in the back seat of a Ford Explorer. But she obliges the creepy little tyke and is then momentarily distracted by another disturbing phone call. When she comes back to the kitchen, Sam is gone and someone is rattling the front door knob to try to gain entry.
Obviously panic sets in and this is where the movie amps up some action, thank goodness. And while Babysitter Wanted never drifts far from formulaic horror, it throws in a few surprises that differentiate it from House of the Devil and other films of its kind.
It seems like a bad idea to spill more plot details here, so I'll just suffice by saying it does veer off the likely track a bit and give us a bit of torture and gore, but still sits firmly in familiar territory. Sometimes it seems like two separate films merged together, as the first and second acts are vastly contrasting. While it seems like it will be a When a Stranger Calls/Halloween-type film in the beginning, it contrasts quite a bit with the some of the Captivity/Hostel-like moves near the end. I've also heard a few people call it funny, and while it did have a tad bit of black humor, I can't get behind folks calling it comical.
We are also treated to a decent acting job by the central characters. Imagine my delight when I saw Bill Moseley as the town sheriff. Gives the film some street cred in my book right there. Sarah Thompson is quite good as the devout babysitter who has to reach deep inside herself to escape a life-threatening situation. And her boyfriend Rick - the aforementioned Dallas - is a guy whose acting talent really doesn't matter because you get lost in his piercing gray-green eyes. Hot damn.
For a film that was made in '08 and not given a DVD release until just recently, one has to question just why that is. I heard a lot of good things about it, so of course wanted to see it for myself - and while it's a decent little film, I can't say watching it prompted me to rush out and purchase it on DVD. I do however, own House of the Devil.
Take from that what you will.