“The Babysitter Murders” (2015): Classic Horror Movie Trope Gets a Wildly Entertaining Variation


Writer/director Ryan Spindell has crafted a practically perfect short horror film with The Babysitter Murders. It leads viewers to think we are heading down a well-trodden path but instead leads us to unexpected and wickedly fun places, and looks and sounds great doing so.

There’s a horror film within a horror film here, as a babysitter (Caitlin Custer) watches an old slasher film about a masked killer stalking, you guessed it, a babysitter. (Fans of John Carpenter’s Halloween will recognize this short’s title as the original working title for that iconic fright film.)  Meanwhile, young Logan Kubler (Bradley Bundlie) sleeps soundly upstairs. As the sitter prepares something to eat, she misses a news bulletin about a prisoner escaping from a nearby asylum. Soon, she is confronted by a distressed man (Ben Hethcoat) with a bleeding head, and the two begin a life-and-death battle over Logan, with plenty of original violent ways to hurt each other and gory effects on tap.

Caitlin Custer gives an action-packed, multilayered performance in The Babysitter Murders.

The Babysitter Murders is either set in some wonderfully timeless retro world, complete with out-of-date television sets and phone answering machines, or the Kublers are committed to living a lifestyle filled with vintage trappings. The set design for the house is terrific.

The short already had my full attention but when a modified airplane spin was used in a fight scene, I was hooked. The sitter and the killer go at it hard and heavy, and Caitlin Custer and Ben Hetchcoat give it their all. The actors are also delightful in their less physical moments, too. Josephine McAdam also deserves mention as her performance as Faye, the final girl in the slasher film.

Ben Hetchcoat is terrific as a man engaged in a life-and-death battle.

Ryan Spindell’s pacing is spot-on, and his use of lighting adds to the excitement of the proceedings. The film’s colors feel warm and rich, even in darker scenes. For the slasher film scenes, Spindell goes for an older, slightly more washed-out look, but avoids going overboard on frills to make the movie seem dated. Cinematographer Elie Smolkin and editor Eric Ekman have both done marvelous work on The Babysitter Murders, and Gregory Tripi’s scores for both the main story and the slasher film set the tones beautifully.

The Babysitter Murders has been picking up well-deserved awards during its film festival run, including both the jury and audience prizes for Best Short Film at the Stanley Film Fest, and Best Director (Horror Short) at Fantastic Fest. With one viewing, you will see why, but trust me, you will want at least a second viewing. For more information about Ryan Spindell and Trapdoor Pictures, check out www.trapdoorpictures.com/.

The Babysitter Murders: 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.