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DVD Review: The Caretaker

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Where would we be without sex, high school high jinks, bare boobs, flatulence, and late night slaughter? Short a few thousand slasher films. Add “big” names, like Jennifer Tilley and Judd Nelson, to the mix and you’ve got The Caretaker.

A group of high school boys rent a limo for the homecoming dance but take their dates to a deserted house in the middle of an orchard. The group’s alpha male arranges for a friend to provide scary sound effects. The friend drags along his girlfriend (they have the best two lines in the film: she says, “These are the biggest oranges I’ve ever seen.” “They’re grapefruit, babe.”), and—oops—even before the party arrives they’re dead.

The teenagers are stereotypical, but what do we expect? The boys all want to get drunk and lucky; neither happens. If you can’t figure out who the good girl is, look for the only one whose dress didn’t come from Frederick’s of Hollywood. As for the teacher chaperoning the dance… I’m pretty sure she’s a hooker on the side. She’s also the dumbest teacher in all moviedom.

The limo driver is a creepy guy with a shrunken head hanging from his rearview mirror, but he gets the kids to their destination; the youngest girl is afraid and stays behind in the limo and waits with him. Once in the house, one of the boys tells an urban legend about the former inhabitants. The story goes on and on. When it’s over, they find a body. The kids have been hearing strange sounds and are convinced “Adam,” the former resident who went bonkers, is going to kill them. Well, they are not entirely wrong. As you would expect, Adam is on the prowl. Or, at least, somebody dressed up as Adam with a thirst for gore.

There is blood in The Caretaker, but surprisingly little of that gore. When we first meet the teenagers, we know they are going to be picked off and (because they are so obnoxious) are disappointed it takes so long for Adam to start. Once he does, he makes quick work of most of the cast without making us gag. The boy who first suggests they stay together is also the first one to walk off on his own, and then to send someone into the house alone. If characters in these movies didn’t contradict themselves and go where no one else is dumb enough to go, the films would run longer than 90 minutes, and none of us want that.

The real skinny on The Caretaker is that it is typical for the genre, light on suspense, but laden with enough laughs to make it (I hate to admit) amusing. We know what’s going to happen, and early on we know how it’s going to end. I can’t imagine anyone to whom I could recommend this movie, but that’s just testimony to how dull my life is. If you like B-movies, if corpses don’t particularly upset you, and if you’re in the mood to waste some time, you’ll enjoy The Caretaker. It’s violent, but hardly. The teenage boys all want to get some action; the teenage girls don’t plan on giving them any, and the language is inoffensive. Even the nudity was minimal—and silly.

Judd Nelson, as the overprotective, doting father of one of the girls, has few lines, and Jennifer Tilley is that moronic teacher who wants to become famous by sleeping with a student. When that doesn’t work out, she works on becoming famous by dating a serial killer. Her character is a cartoon which she takes over the top and beyond. The Caretaker is a movie to watch when you’re not feeling particularly discriminating and it goes well with popcorn. The only extra feature on the review copy is a trailer.

One of the things I expect from any movie I watch is that the cinematography be at least equal to that in a prime time television series. The Caretaker meets that criterion and is neatly edited. It also has a killer soundtrack that adds to the merriment. For a direct-to-video release, it is surprisingly painless (can you tell it’s killing me to give The Caretaker a decent review?). However, it is totally unbelievable—who would believe six teenagers and not one cell phone? Puh-leeeze!

Bottom Line: Would I rent/buy The Caretaker? No, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun watching it.

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