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.
The Babysitter Murders is either set in some wonderfully timeless retro world, complete with out-of-date television sets and phone answering machines, or the Kublers are committed to living a lifestyle filled with vintage trappings.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.
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 / 5)