In a world where '80s throwback movies and TV shows are a dime a dozen, it’s extremely rare that we see anything new or exciting. Too often, filmmakers treat homage to their favorite pop culture moments as if it’s the movie itself, going out of their way to make references to older works while forgetting to tell a new story of their own.
Fortunately, The Night Sitter isn’t strictly an '80s throwback, nor is it simply a love letter to Giallo cinema. You could watch this movie with no previous experience with the horror genre and still be absolutely blown away by how much fun it is. Also, it’s a Christmas movie, and I’m a sucker for a good n’ gory Christmas movie.
The Night Sitter follows a con artist named Amber (Elyse Dufour) who poses as a babysitter in order to gain access to the home of a wealthy ghost hunter wannabe. There’s nothing particularly malicious about Amber, petty theft aside; when she’s almost immediately caught by one of the kids she’s babysitting, she seems at least slightly remorseful, even as she excuses herself by saying the kid’s dad is so rich he won’t even be bothered by a minor loss.
The setup is fast-paced and simple, and we quickly get to the horror elements of the movie. See, one of the kids Amber is babysitting has some pretty vivid and recurring dreams about three witches coming to kidnap him, and he’s encouraged by his dad to draw the haunting images from his dreams. Through a series of coincidental events and neat exposition, these witches are brought into the real world…and they’re a real treat.
I won’t tell you where the movie goes from there, only that it plays by a set of rules that gives the audience plenty to anticipate and just enough plot to justify the nonstop carnage and brutal-but-cool death scenes. The first act pretty much gives away where the movie’s heading, which I’m sure was intentional, and the ending is well-earned thanks mostly to Dufour’s ability to play both a kind-hearted thief and a formidable badass.
The witches were my favorite part of the movie. They’re a trio of fun-loving and sadistic villains that seem to be a cross between Hocus Pocus and The Evil Dead II, and they’re able to possess their victims. One of these unfortunate possessed victims is Lindsey (Amber Neukem), a ditsy girl who Amber definitely doesn’t care for but arrives with her fellow con-artist Rod (Jermaine Rivers) to help load the stolen goods. Amber Neukem really steals every scene she was in, and The Night Sitter gives her the opportunity to show her range as an actress and demonstrate her brilliant physical comedy skills.
The gore effects are top-notch and, for the most part, practical. Watching The Night Sitter made me feel like a kid in a candy store, and the enjoyment I derived didn’t fade until the credits rolled. Abiel Bruhn and John Rocco, who co-directed The Night Sitter, know how to make a movie both for casual horror fans and for the horror elitists who nitpick every small thing while jacking off to their own reflection. The story is compelling, the aesthetics are absolutely gorgeous, and the characters are, for the most part, likeable.
The only part of this entire movie I had an issue with was the one-trait nature of certain characters. There’s the creepy-but-charming exposition character who lives across the street, and he…does exposition stuff. I get that The Night Sitter is a comedic horror movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but I wish there was more to this character’s development than what’s delivered. Another character I wasn’t too fond of was the obsessive not-quite-boyfriend character, who was a drag every time he showed up. I feel like his presence could’ve been cut in half with no expense to the story, since the only thing he really did was obsess over Amber and repeatedly lecture her about everything she does.
All that aside, The Night Sitter is a damn good movie with guts aplenty and a few great surprises, and I look forward to checking out other work by the directors and the cast.
I give it 7/10 Witch Hats.