Although advertised as a horror film, Caregiver (2007) has as its central horrors all-too-credible methods of physical & psychological abuse. It's much more a psychological thriller, & surprisingly effective for a no-budget direct-to-video product.
It's no outright gem & doesn't entirely overcome it's down-market target range, directed as it is by Dennis Devine who is not generally known for competence, while his recurring interest in killer women (from psycho girlfriends to amazon warriors) doesn't generally pan out to much. But for this one, the screenplay which he co-wrote with Sally Mullins is suprisingly intelligent for a film that intends to shock, & the performances suit the task at hand.
The exploitation content is so minimal it's not apt to delight the gore hounds at all, but it's too harsh for the wussier viewers who would want such thematic material as spousal & child abuse to be treated as the serious subject it admittedly is.
But if Caregiver does miss pleasing viewers because it's a neither/nor movie, that's rather too bad, as I think it's a good thing for the novice & exploitation filmmakers to be striving for a little more significance than simple sleeze.
Right at the beginning a child, little Paige, commits slasher killings of her two disgustingly abusive foster parents (David Alan Graf, & a woman credited only as "Genesis").
Twelve years later a group of hot babe juvenile delinquents are introduced in a halfway house for troubled teens. New housemother, Paige (Osa Wallander), seems almost too sweet for words. The nubile teens assume they'll be able to railroad the naive nambypamby Paige.
Paige is better prepared to dominate unruly girls than at first seems likely. But before we see what Paige is capable of, we follow an oversexed girl symbolically named Krysta (Jeanie Marie), who likes to stroll about naked, then unexpectedly slits her wrists in the shower, to a rather spiritual choral soundtrack.
Though the film won't otherwise be supernatural, Krysta's ghost, real or imagined, will be encountered from time to time, always with a poetic touch in counterpoint to the slowly revealed sadism of the new housemother.
Krysta was amazingly well played. The rest of the cast begins with mediocre acting but as things get brutal the characterizations become better defined. Lara (Elisa Eliot) is the type to snoop & brown-nose & just about gets a crush on Paige, but slowly learns to fear her. Therese (Rachel Beth Blaha) has a goth look & point of view. Tania (Kali Hawk) is the black girl with an attitude, luckier than she knows to have escaped the halfway house with only broken bones.
For all her pose of extreme naivete & persistant sweetness, Paige is a sociopath who manages to go undetected. Even before she goes off on one of the kids, slugging her in the stomach, we can tell she's nuts. Between outbursts she'll return to her candyass persona, & the adults who oversee the halfway house have no suspicion of the menace she represents. Certainly the complaints of troubled girls are not to be believed.
Monique (Rebeka Montoya) still has nightmares about the boyfriend who used to beat her. With Paige's own history of abuse, she knows all about old boyfriends. Her own longterm abuser Tom (Nicholas Hosking) shows up to terrorize her anew. But she's learned a lot of her own terror techniques from him, & she did after all kill her evil foster parents when still a child.
So she & her friend Linda (Kristen Pfeifer) kill Tom, most definitely in self-defense, but Linda is totally weirded out when Paige follows up by dismantling Tom's body with an electric carving knife.
When Monique & Tania have a bitch-fight, Paige accidentally gets hit, after which their days are numbered. Paige & Monique have been having a clash of wills all along, & eventually she tries to blackmail the crazy woman into quitting.
Paige has tracked down that old boyfriend Richie (Sebastian Gonzales) & soon facilitates his break-in by night, promising him Monique is eager for "the fuck of the century." She sets him up to take quite a gruesome fall.
I liked this demented movie & Osa Wallander grew on me as a performer, as did several of the supporting cast. I wish more microbudget horror films were as good, as sometimes the quest through dreck looking for the middlingly good ends up an insufficiently rewarding ratio. The fact that the distributor is barrel-scraping Brain Damage Films will keep a lot of potential admirers seeing this, which is too bad, as it's well above the usual Brain Damage item.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl