The Caretaker is another iteration of the well trod "beautiful people in jeopardy" genre of slasher films. Unfortunately, it does nothing to rise above the level of cliché, or transcend the familiar tropes of this kind of film. The result is a mediocre movie that slides along with little inspiration or fun.
The local high school is having a Halloween / Homecoming dance, and three friends decide they are going to ditch the official festivities and scare the pants off of their dates, figuratively speaking. Topher, Snail and Ricky (played by Andrew St. John, James Immekus and Diego Torres respectively) convince their young companions to accompany them to an abandoned grapefruit orchard, having previously arranged for their friend Derrik (Will Stiles) to precede them and make scary noises and jump out from the shadows and whatnot. Their plans are dashed when Derrik and his girlfriend Missy (Lola Davidson) are brutally murdered pretty much as soon as they set foot on the grounds of the orchard by the eponymous Caretaker.
The three young men arrive an hour or so later, along with their dates Chloe (Victoria Vande Vegte), Sonja (Jennifer Freeman) and the new girl in town Ella (Kira Verrastro). Unaware that the real Caretaker is wandering around killing attractive youth, the boys proceed to tell his story. It seems sixteen years ago or so, he got married and was so jealous that he chained up his wife and wouldn't let her out of the house. When their daughter was born, she tried to run away and he killed her, disappearing with his child. His trademark method of murder involves rolling a grapefruit at his victim, and then slashing them to death with a modified fruit picker. Soon enough, the Caretaker steps in and begins to kill the cute young things that are trespassing in his former home.
There are some problems with this film. First off, a serial killer that rolls grapefruit at you comes off as less than menacing. Furthermore, the film fails to build up any considerable tension or fear. Sure, the killings are bloody (though somewhat underwhelming), but the super secret twist ending is obvious from about the thirty minute mark, and little is done to enhance the scares. The acting is merely passable across the board, and the actors aren't given a lot to work with in terms of dialogue or motivation. The characters are all standard, horror movie teens: pretty but dumber than average. One couple even tries to hide from the killer while never thinking to turn off their flashlight.
The star power, such as it is, is provided by Judd Nelson and Jennifer Tilly, neither of whom does more than provide a run of the mill performance. Nelson is stern as the overprotective father of Ella, and Tilly is big breasted and flighty as the half off her nut teacher, Miss Perry. In short, The Caretaker isn't terrible, but doesn't do anything more than go through the motions. The plot is interchangeable with a hundred other teen slasher films. It fails to be either very funny or very frightening. The identity of the killer is obvious from early on. Nothing new or inventive is tried. It's just sort of blah. Rent this one, at most.
The video is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, and is okay but not great. There is some murkiness at times. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.
The sound is Dolby 2 channel, and is also nothing special. The dialogue is always clearly audible. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality of the final product.
The only extra included is an uninspired trailer. However, this review is based on a check disc, so no comment can be made on the quality or quantity of the extras included on the final product.
The Caretaker starts with a stock plot involving a serial killer stalking and butchering a group of attractive teens in an isolated location, and doesn't do anything to move beyond these inauspicious beginnings. The kills are bloody but understated. The thrills are slim to none. The final plot twist is predictable. It's not horrible, but not worth much effort either. This one is a rental at best.