Babysitter Massacre

| October 10, 2013

Like the immortal anti-heroes starring in the subgenre’s biggest franchises, the slasher film refuses to die. The main reason for this is probably because it’s always been a good way for low-budget filmmakers to make something marketable without going bankrupt. This is even more true today in the era of cheap, high-quality digital video cameras that allow microbudget filmmakers to shoot decent-looking footage with consumer-level technology. However, there is an art in making a slasher movie that’s actually interesting and that will satisfy the hardcore fans of classic 80s slasher films, and no amount of tweaking in an independent filmmaker’s editing software of choice can save a dull slasher knock-off from a weak script, bad special effects and even worse acting. The pile of low-budget slashers grows alarmingly every day, and it’s rare to find one that truly lives up to the early-80s “golden age.” Babysitter Massacre is one of those rare films that delivers, and then some.

It’s Halloween, and the seventh anniversary of the disappearance of April, a young girl who was a member of a junior high babysitters club. Her friend and neighbor Angela (Erin R. Ryan) is having a party and inviting all the old crew in hopes of renewing their friendship and making Halloween fun again instead of a night to dwell on the past. Unfortunately, the killer has returned and is intent on dispatching all the members of the babysitters club, finishing the job he started all those years ago and totally ruining Angela’s party. One by one, he murders the babysitters and sends pictures of their bodies to Angela, who just thinks her friends are particularly into the Halloween spirit this year. She invites her friend Bianca (Marylee Osborne) to the party, despite the fact that she was with April when the killer took her, and some of the other babysitters blame Bianca for not saving April. Sure enough, when Bianca shows up, spiteful Arlene (Tara Clark) immediately starts trying to pick a fight.

Bianca leaves the party and sees what she believes is the killer at the town’s big Halloween party. As she tries to figure out what to do, the killer tears his way through what has to be a good percentage of the town’s college-age population on his mission to eliminate all the babysitters. Meanwhile, Angela, Arlene and Lucky (Joni Durian) try to make the best of their party by draining several bottles of wine and dressing up in lingerie left in a box on Angela’s porch that Arlene believes was left for them by her (currently ex-)boyfriend Dave. Arlene has dumped Dave yet again, and she believes he is trying to woo her back by re-enacting Sorority House Massacre II. Probably thanks to the wine, Angela and Lucky are easily talked into going along with her, but as the night drags on and the body count rises, how long will it take for the killer to show up at Angela’s door?

Writer/director Henrique Couto has created one of the best independent slasher films to come down the pike in ages. This is mostly thanks to a solid cast, led by Erin R. Ryan’s great performance as Angela and Marylee Osborne’s as Bianca. Angela has scenes establishing her character and relationships with her mother and next-door neighbor (the father of the missing girl) that really flesh out both Angela and the supporting characters, and Bianca drives the story forward as she hunts for the killer and tentatively starts to work things out with her ex-boyfriend. There are some great throwaway gags that the supporting cast nails that give the film a nice counterpoint to its brutal scenes of murder and mayhem: the word “Massacre” in the title is not a threat, it’s a promise. And any slasher fanatics wondering if the film skimps on gratuitous nudity need not worry– there are enough naked coeds here to fill virtually any other franchise’s entire roster of sequels. Joe Bob Briggs is going to be absolutely ecstatic when he sees this movie.

Oh, and the film also looks nice, has tons of blood and good makeup and effects, and you can actually hear all the dialogue and everything. That you actually give a damn about any of the characters is almost too much to ask, but Babysitter Massacre delivers anyway. It’s not perfect, of course– some of the characters’ decisions toward the end don’t make much sense, and the ending feels a little rushed (although appropriately open-ended), but those are pretty minor problems given how good the rest of the film is. This is one of the best microbudget horror films of the year and well worth seeking out for slasher aficionados.

Alternative Cinema releases Babysitter Massacre on DVD 15 October 2013. Special features include a commentary track with filmmaker Henrique Couto, deleted scenes, bloopers, a video of the film’s world premiere, a “making of” featurette, and two short films (“Completely Defective” and “The Best Part of Dayton”).

About the Author:

Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He is author of "The Unrepentant Cinephile," and a regular contributor to Daily Grindhouse and Film Monthly as well as a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. He is co-director of the Chicago Cinema Society and proud owner of 35mm prints of Andy Milligan's "Guru, the Mad Monk." Follow his long-form film writing on Medium:

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