Night of the Caregiver

Film review by Thomas M. Sipos




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Night of the Caregiver (2023, director: Joe Cornet; Craig Hamann; cast: Natalie Denise Sperl, Eileen Dietz, Joe Cornet)





Like many low-budget horror films, Night of the Caregiver is a small film. Small as in only a few actors in a single location. Well, there's also a brief scene on a patio, and a scene of a woman driving, but almost the entirety of this short film is set at an isolated house.

That can be good. A few actors at a single, nearly empty location can make for a spooky atmosphere. Night of the Caregiver achieves that. It's a diverting film, reasonably satisfying, albeit also remarkably bland, slight, and unoriginal.

Juliet (Natalie Denise Sperl), a student training to be a caregiver, saw a job listing on the university's bulletin board. It's to look after Lillian (Eileen Dietz) for a single night, as her regular nurse has the night off. Most of the film is set in Lillian's house. She's a sweet old lady with a heart condition, but she also has a dark secret.

Sperl looks way too old to be a university student. But casting actors way older than their characters is a horror tradition, so we'll suspend our disbelief over that. (Hell, I've seen some horror films cast thirty-year-olds to play high school students.)

Overall, not much happens in Night of the Caregiver. Juliet talks with Lillian. The old lady goes to sleep. Then Juliet wanders about the house. A few spooky things occur. Some ominous shadows. Is someone there?! Juliet has a brief vision of a tarantula. She phones her roommate or girlfriend (Anna Oris), another lady who should have graduated by now.

And then ... Lillian reveals her true form! Juliet runs but is trapped by the house. Police detective Roman Eckhart (Joe Cornet -- who also directed!) bursts in to help Juliet. Lillian pauses her chase to give Juliet and Roman time to exchange some painfully stilted expository dialog.

Cornet's long, silky brown tresses do nothing to youthen his craggy face. (Actors striving to look younger is this film's primary motif.)

Night of the Caregiver treads familiar ground. A lone woman in a strange, isolated location. A few jump scares. Some scenes of long, dark demonic fingers curling around doorways. (How many times have we seen that?) A final chase.

Apart from Dietz, most of the cast are acceptable if uneven in their performances. Dietz is the standout, a true pro who turns in a flawless performance as a tiny, treacly old lady harboring a hidden evil. Oris is the worst of the bunch; stiffly delivering her lines in a forced manner.



Cinematography and production design are quite good, creating an appropriately brooding and somber house. Credit to Sam Wilkerson and Dean Karr, respectively, for their fine work. But though the film is set in the Los Angeles area, it doesn't look it, apart from an establishing shot. I dunno, maybe it is.

The film is 77 minutes long, but the story only runs for 66 minutes. After that, the camera pans about the empty house for nearly 4 minutes, leading to a "shocking surprise" that isn't, and then the credits roll for another 7 minutes.

Night of the Caregiver belongs to a subgenre of caregiver horror stories, the most famous being Henry James's Turn of the Screw. "The New Nanny" episode of Ghost Stories is my favorite of this subgenre.

Night of the Caregiver isn't bad, but it is bland and unoriginal. Hardcore horror fans will have seen it all before. But it's an acceptable time killer if you have nothing else to watch.



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