The Night Sitter is the latest Christmas-set venture from directing team Abiel Bruhn and John Rocco. The pair have previously worked within short films and always seem to find a way to include the festive period within their work. With The Night Sitter, as with all good Christmas films, the holiday is merely a backdrop to proceedings.
The main story focuses in on Amber (played by The Walking Dead‘s Elyse Dufour), a young woman on her way to a night of babysitting. That’s not her only plan for the night though, as she actually is set to rob the house because the family is pretty rich. What she fails to prepare for is a trio of witches brought forth accidentally by her charge, Kevin (Jack Champion), and his dad’s occult collection. The pair must form an unlikely alliance to save themselves from the evil coven.
The ‘80s color palette and visual effects are an early indicator of the direction this film is going to take. Once the children have been put to bed, Amber’s friends arrive, providing fresh teenage fodder for whatever is lurking in the house. Throw in a nerdy neighbor who takes about 10 minutes to develop a crush despite Amber’s obvious lack of sexual interest in him, and the stage is set for a bloody showdown. As it becomes apparent that the danger is very real, Amber finds unexpected depths within herself and grows increasingly determined to protect Kevin no matter what.
Directors Abiel Bruhn and John Rocco take a playful approach to the action. There are plenty of thrills and spills and, yes, quite a lot of homage, though most of it is gracefully handled and doesn’t detract from the film’s own story. The one place where they overstep themselves is in calling their antagonists the three mothers, conjuring up images of a class of horror they cannot come close to and threatening to leave viewers disappointed with what is otherwise an enjoyable piece of genre fluff. Where it remains aware of its limitations, the film is highly effective. Good chemistry between Dufour and Champion means that their bond feels real and keeps us caring for them even during the silliest parts of the story.
In terms of plot, The Night Sitter is a little out there. It starts out really well by building on the character of Amber and the situation that is being presented. The film takes a good amount of time introducing us to her and it also gives us a taste of her background. After introducing us to Amber and the kids she’s babysitting, around the halfway point, the film gets a little bit too silly. It’s a comedy horror that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but by the end, events have spiraled to such a point that it’s hard to keep track. The narrative started becoming more ridiculous, to a point where people my not be able to fully embrace it. The other issue is the witches. It’s really important for movie audiences that their monsters follow a specific set of rules, rules that set out the parameters of what the monster can and can’t do. In the case of vampires for example, most films stick to the rule that they can’t go into the sunlight, but there are no such rules with the Three Mothers, as they are known. The rules of what they can and can’t do change the further along we get, and it’s just a little too hard to follow.
What saves The Night Sitter is the relationship between Amber and young Kevin. Initially frosty, the two warm to one another and Amber forms a very maternal bond with him. It’s a touching undercurrent and one that highlights that strong bonds can be formed in the strangest of situations.
A visually thoughtful film, The Night Sitter is an entertaining Yuletide comedy horror. The notion of dark comedies is a hard sell to begin with, but the likeable young leads in the movie, the fast pace storytelling, and the balancing out of both the dark and light sides of itself, make The Night Sitter a wonderful throwback to what made audiences flock to ‘80s horror movies and what made those films so entertaining and memorable. If Hollywood starts making more babysitter horror movies as a sub-genre, then they should look at this movie for consideration because it knows what it is, even if it’s too silly or ridiculous to watch. The Night Sitter is an unpretentious and enjoyable little film with sympathetic leads and plenty of personality. It will particularly appeal to fans of ‘80s horror and one almost expects to see the wavy lines of old VHS across the middle of the screen in a scene where Amber flashes her bra, but its exuberance and solid emotional core will win over plenty of younger viewers too.
Available on VOD and DVD August 6th, 2019.
Final Score: 3 out of 5.