Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Andrew St. John, Kira Verrastro, James Immekus, Jennifer Freeman, Jonathan Breck, Jennifer Tilly, Judd Nelson
Directed by Bryce Olson
You got to love the marketing department at MTI Video for the bold proclamation they stuck on that back of the DVD:
“THE TEEN SLASHER FILM IS BACK!”
Really? Is it now? I would have sworn the teen slasher film has been back for a while. MTI must not have gotten the memo. But if you ever want to know why the teen slasher film went away, then just watch The Caretaker.
Inoffensively lame but lame nonetheless, The Caretaker fancies itself a Scream-style slasher. Except the humor isn’t all that witty, and I cannot for the life of me figure out what the point was making an R-rated slasher movie that is virtually bloodless, holds off on the majority of the killing until the last 20 minutes, and the kills mostly cut away right before the moment of fatal impact. What little carnage you do see is shockingly tame given this is a film whose whole selling point is a madman slaughtering teenagers with a fruit picker.
The remake of My Bloody Valentine begged the question as to how many different ways you can kill another human being with a pick axe. The Caretaker asks how many different ways you can kill someone with a fruit picker. The answer to that question is two: stabbing and slashing. The caretaker in full regalia reminded me of the “Man in the Yellow Hat” from Curious George with his face covered.
Three girls and three guys skip the school dance and have the creepy limo driver take them to a shack out in the middle of a grapefruit orchard where years earlier a murder occurred. The guys are plotting to play a scary joke on the girls, I guess hoping to frighten them into giving some nookie or something like that. Really, these guys are just immature jerks. The attractive girls all convey a whiny shrillness to some degree and the guys struck me as future frat boy date rapists in the making.
The young actors aren’t all bad, but when Jennifer Tilly pops up as a horny school teacher determined to hump one of her pupils, hoping to get famous in a media-fueled teacher/student sex scandal, she runs circles around the rest of the cast — a testament to her ability to make something out of nothing. Also a testament to her timeless cleavage. Tilly’s like in her 50s; yet, her cleavage is ageless. Does she have a Dorian Gray-like picture of her bosoms up in an attic somewhere?
I once heard a joke about Corbin Bernsen showing up to film his few scenes in a b-movie in and out so fast he left the motor running. Judd Nelson here trumps that – he not only leaves the motor running, he doesn’t even leave the car. Nelson’s two scenes have him driving a car that he never gets out of, never turns off the motor of, and drives off at the end of both of his two scenes in. Drive-by acting at its finest.
Once in the shack it becomes time for the teens to sit around in a circle and explain the backstory behind the house’s crazy caretaker. Sometime back in the Eighties or Nineties, this guy named Adam moved his young wife out to this tiny house in the middle of this grapefruit orchard. Adam grew increasingly crazy. “He turned an ordinary fruit picker into a weapon of mass destruction.” Extremely jealous of anyone that laid eyes on his wife, boarding up the windows so nobody could see inside, his sanity spiraled so far out of control that he had his wife chained up. She gave birth to a baby girl while in captivity. She eventually chopped off one of her hands to escape with the infant daughter but got lost and confused in the orchard. Adam caught up with her, killed her, and made off with their baby daughter, never to be seen again.
Okay, how many sentences did it take me to explain that? The filmmakers take over ten long tedious minutes to explain and dramatize what only took me seven sentences. Without this sequence stretched out beyond reason, The Caretaker would be barely 70 minutes long. That would have been fine with me. Trimming a few more minutes of the kids wandering about the orchard during the third act would have been fine with me as well.
The revelation of the killer’s identity may have set a new bar for implausibility. Without spoiling it, the killer’s motivation fails to explain the pre-title murder of a random person that wandered into the orchard. More importantly, and this one is a really doozy, I am fairly positive they showed the killer in one location far away as we were being shown another murder being committed. I could be mistaken, but I am fairly sure the editing made it appear this killer was in two places at once.
1 1/2 out of 5
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