Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Caretakers – review

Director: Steve Hudgins

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

Not to be confused with the earlier (and singular) the Caretaker, writer and director Steve Hudgins has followed a line of concentrating on the vampire’s human servant that has also been seen in such films as the Familiar and Sodium Babies.

The film has been made on a budget and it does suffer for that but, on a positive, there are some really interesting lore aspects and quite a complex story drawn – much more complex than one would expect on the budget.

Jessica Dockrey as the Albino
It starts with a voiceover and then meet Jack (Nick Faust) who is on a porch when Catherine (April Jennings) and Paul (Travis Shanks) walk up. Catherine orders Jack to train him, after asking the man’s name Jack shoots him in the face. Catherine simply walks into the house. We see (by virtue of a binocular shape on screen) that they are being watched. This turns out to be by a private investigator and his albino sidekick known, imaginatively, as the Albino (Jessica Dockrey). I’ll come back to the Albino later.

Michael Coon as Jimmy
Elsewhere there is a knock at a door and a woman answers to see a young man, Jimmy (Michael Coon), who is sweating. He suddenly grabs her and drags her inside, eventually stabbing her viciously – we’ll talk blood soon as well. As it is he gets a testing kit out and checks the dead woman’s blood type but it is wrong. By now his companion, Rachel (Brittney Saylor), has entered the house and he tells her this. She insists on being locked up but starts getting violent with him as he does as she asks. Rachel is a vampire and the hunger is out of control.

Sally and Parker
I don’t want to spoil too much storyline, as this is the strongest aspect of the movie, but there are some bits I need to explain. Rachel’s father (Bill Johnson) has gone to a couple, Parker (Joe Estevez, Blood Slaves of the Vampire Wolves) and Sally (Felicia Stewart), to help him find his daughter. They in turn have hired the PI and the Albino and are aware of vampires.

Catherine and Jack
Catherine is a pureline vampire – another species. This is where we get the interesting lore. The pureline vampires have one main vulnerability – that is the deepest part of their sleep is so deep that anything could be done to them. Because of this they are secretive and have human caretakers. Jack is Catherine’s caretaker but she realises that he wants more out of life, which is why she wants him to train his replacements – this ends up being a father and his daughter who Catherine had saved from a serial killer.

overhelmed by hunger
We discover that the purelines have telekinetic and limited telepathic powers (she knows when her caretaker is hurt) and a support network through human society. They feed on blood but it is slightly different to most vampire films. They have to bite their victim and release a chemical into the wound that alters the blood over a period of time – making it drinkable (though this does not sound like a good evolutionary survival tactic). If a victim should escape with their blood altered – like Rachel did – then they become a hybrid, developing fangs and an overwhelming and inescapable hunger. They must drink their own blood type and become increasingly unstable and violent. Rachel quickly develops the ability to smell her own blood type. Catherine wants Rachel found and destroyed.

pureline vampire
This had problems but generally story wasn’t one of them – it gave us story in spades and a complex one at that. One aspect that I did like was that there was no moral judgement on the part of the filmmakers – the characters simply were. However some bits didn’t ring true, for instance the complete lack of comeback when Jack killed the first new caretaker. The acting was ok, amateurish in places but good enough in the main to go along with the story. The photography was amateurish, to be honest, though kudos to those behind the lighting as the use of coloured light was reminiscent of classic Euro-horror. However it was in some of the sfx that we see our biggest issues.

badly realised blood
I’ll start with blood. The vivid pinkish-purple blood was entirely the wrong colour to be blood and it looked daft. However many a film gets blood wrong. I was also thrown, in the very first instance, by the Albino. We didn’t get her name at first and I assumed with the pale makeup, the white contacts and the wig that we were faced with some form of undead. The fact was that making the character an Albino added nothing to the film – she could have given the same stoic performance as just a specialist PI/vampire hunter – but the look was a jolt as the makeup/contacts/wig were unnatural and a detriment to the film.

All in all the photography and some bad sfx choices underlined that we were not dealing with a more professional piece and kept the film off kilter despite having plenty of story. On balance this deserves 4 out of 10, as a flawed film with some good aspects and worth a watch for the story at least. The film was produced by Big Biting Pig productions.

The imdb page is here.

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