A babysitter takes a last minute job and winds up with plenty of time to regret it in this claustrophobic horror yarn.
The movie starts with young Zoe arriving at the suburban home of Bruce and Margaret. They seem like a nice pair but they are in a rush . Dad grudgingly agrees to pay Zoe a hundred dollars for the overnight gig explaining they couldn’t get their regular sitter. Turns out they got invited to a “no kids” wedding and are stuck.
The children are another matter . The oldest is Jack who appears to be Zoe’s age but is such a hulking and sulking creep that she is thrilled that he prefers to spend most of his time alone in his room. Tyler is 15 and totally at the mercy of his hormones which leave him leering at Zoe like she had staples in her belly. Then there is little Grace who refuses to take off her Princess costume and spends most of her time hiding under the furniture in fear of a dragon.
The day gets better with Grace being dropped off at a party while Zoe and Tyler play a boxing game on the family WII. Grace gets a ride back with a neighbor, who seems awfully keen to snoop around the house but Zoe politely gets rid of her. Too bad . That nosy neighbor’s curiosity was another hint that something is wrong here but Zoe misses it.
Jack comes out of his shell ,somewhat, and even makes Zoe laugh until her boyfriend shows up. He recognizes Jack from school and later reveals the guy is a little weird. The pair shrug it off, big mistake, and settle down on the couch to make out(if they had ever seen an 80’s flick about babysitting they would have known that this was an even bigger mistake).
Zoë hears a noise but is knocked unconscious . She awakens to find that Jack is freaking out and is convinced that she is a spy. She wisely grabs the kids and locks them all in the bathroom . What follows is a very long night during which she learns Jack has a long history of breakdowns but that his family has kept his problems a secret.
Over the course of the night they try to reason with him . Unfortunately his paranoia is so extreme that they can’t get through . They can only listen as he begins to torture Zoe’s boy friend . The parents don’t return as expected forcing Zoe to gather up some bravado and convince the siblings to help her take down Jack for his own good.
To give away more would rob potential viewers of some excellent suspense and one very nasty twist.
This works well thanks to a tight script and a very game cast of youngsters. The performers are actually rich with film experience despite their age. Viewers might recognize them from television and movie roles. The blasé parents are also good thanks to Linda Hamilton(The Terminator) and Ted McGinley (Married With Children)who play them straight.
This movie also gets credit for getting a lot of tension out of one setting, the bathroom. Luckily the family has a nice lavatory since most of the film takes place there. You are left to imagine, for the most part, what Jack is up to outside of the room and it helps sustain the tension for the audience. The film also deserves high marks for an honest depiction of mental illness. Sadly most families still treat it as a private and shameful matter when it is actually quite common and treatable. The movie goes a long way towards showing how dangerous, and stupid , it is to adopt that attitude.
Best Lines: “Your family has a confetti drawer?”
“I’m on phone probation.”
“It’s not a real phone, it calls Barbie.”
Tom Doty is a columnist for The Floyd County Times.