Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Caretaker – review

Director: Tom Conyers

Release date: 2012

Contains spoilers

Its always good to see vampire films emerging from Australia. This is one that seems to stretch over a few genre areas and, perhaps it stumbles just a little in doing so, but makes a brave stab at doing something unusual even though, at its heart, it uses the house under-siege in an outbreak trope beloved of both the zombie genre especially but also appearing in several vampire films.

What I love about many Australian films is the tendency to put in off-beat characters and this is no exception. Did they work? We’ll get to that later, but first the premise…

shielded from the sun
As the film starts we meet several of our main players though their stories will emerge slowly through the film. We have Ron (Lee Mason), an activist for men’s rights who believes that the divorce system is stacked against the male gender. There is Guy (Clint Dowdell) and Annie (Anna Burgess) a couple camping to try and rekindle something – it eventually emerges that the acidly tongued Annie had decided she couldn’t say “I do”, whilst stood at the altar. Most of our attention, however, is on Dr Ford Grainger (Mark White). As he drives along we hear snippets of a remembered conversation, talk of an epidemic that seems like the flu, the fact that he is infected and his arguments that he should still help people.

reflection fades
He is headed to a wine merchant’s home. The merchant, Lester (Colin MacPherson), has been phoning the hospital to say that his mother (Abbe Holmes) is ill – but with debts staking up and therefore no electricity he has not heard that there is an epidemic. As Ford drives he shields himself from the sun and when he gets to the house he runs into shelter. We see a wisp of smoke as sunlight grazes his fingers. He knows the symptoms displayed by Lester's mother well; she has covered the mirrors as she claims that the reflection is wrong and sleeps during the day (we later discover he has taken amphetamines so that he can get up and out of his hospital bed). When he sees her she seems to recognise him as infected as she states it is her nest – we discover vampires are territorial. His reflection does move differently and have fangs and when someone fully turns their reflection vanishes.

young vampire
Lester makes a steak for Ford, who has said that he must monitor the mother overnight, but he can't keep the food down, even though it is cooked rare. That night is the third since the flu-epidemic started and it takes three nights to turn. Ron’s motivational session in the pub is rudely interrupted as vampires descend on the men in there. In the hospital all the patients awaken and attack the staff and Ford beheads his rival vampire. In the morning Annie and Guy (none the wiser with regards the vampires) end up at Lester’s having run short on gas, Ron has survived the night and gets there too. When they look in on the doctor (who has eaten bits of Lester’s mum) he gives them an offer. Protect him through the day from their kind and he’ll protect them at night from his.

Lester and Annie
The film is really character driven and all the characters are quiet oddball. Lester, for instance, is a middle-aged lecherous pervert who likes young women, has a mannequin in his room and an imaginary twenty year old girlfriend. This works in the films favour but there was something just off. I can’t put my finger on it, perhaps it was the dialogue, the delivery or the substance could have been tweaked that little bit and propelled this into a classic. As it is, it is good but you feel that a chunk of something is missing. Frustratingly Ford, who seems a good character, becomes little more than a blood soaked cypher after he turns.

vampire doctor
The vampirism is interesting. It is a global pandemic and has been spread by mosquito bite (which was an unusual idea). Thus we later get hunters wearing mosquito netting. Other than that they are standard; night living, sun burning, fanged blood drinkers. A stake in the heart, apparently, will kill (as will beheading or neck breaking) but they shrug off gunshot wounds. The territorial aspect, of course, would come into play if one of the primary human characters were to be bitten by a mosquito…

Ron and Guy
The cinematography is brilliant for a budget film and really captures the glory of the countryside. The soundtrack is beautiful, haunting in places but can overwhelm the dialogue and perhaps needed a lighter aspect to capture the quirkiness of the characters a little more. Ultimately this is a film about redemption and beneath the sporadic moments of gore, beneath the odd-ball characters and the vampires, there is the heartbeat of a drama. It is interesting stuff, it might have been a classic but, as is, is a solid 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


LoBo said...

Hm, sounds interesting. I haven't heard of this film before you reviewed it. This film seems like a vampire version of Night of the Living Dead. I believe i actually will purchase this film later.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Lobo, its drama element takes it away from NOTLD - though the outbreak premise is similar, ie it takes elements.

I mention because if you go on thinking it is the vampire equivalent of NOTLD you might be disappointed.

LoBo said...

I see. I will still purchase it later.