The vampire genre is almost as old as film itself, going all the way back to Nosferatu. Its popularity comes and goes in waves, as does the originality of the particular specimens. There's something of a fallow period going on in bloodsucking movies these days, so producers want to come up with a new spin, which is what the creators of The Caretaker have tried to do. It's at times inventive, and fun, but not always successful.
The premise is pretty simple: a wave of a vampire like infection is sweeping Australia, and perhaps the world. A number of disparate people get trapped in a remote house with a vampire. He offers them a deal: he'll protect them from other vampires at night, if they protect him from humans during the day.
The vampire is Dr. Ford Grainger (Mark White, who also produces), and he arrives at the home of Lester (Colin MacPherson) to see to Lester's mother, who is showing all the symptoms of vampirism. Ford isn't quite sure he's one of the undead at this point, but a confrontation with mother soon convinces him. Also showing up at the house are stormy young couple Guy and Annie (Clint Dowdell and Anna Burgess), and masculinist activist Ron (Lee Mason), fresh from seeing the men's group he was addressing massacred by vamps.
These are all strangers to each other, and they've arrived at the house for various reasons of chance and convenience, but they have to start working together if they have any chance of survival. The human tensions threaten to destroy the fragile group, however, as well the quite natural reluctance to share the house with a vampire.
The film is well done enough, particularly given the evident small budget. They get an enormous amount of value out of the beautiful locations and practical sets they have access too. The cinematic style is interesting and well executed, with a number of nice visual jokes and impressive set pieces. The performances are pretty good too, even if Ford's tendency post vampire transformation to spout off airy philosophical monologues is a bit off putting. The strained relationship between Annie and Guy is quite convincing, and adds a lot to the drama of the piece. Colin MacPherson also stands out as the extremely creepy, sexually deviant and manipulative owner of the house. He is constantly playing members of the group off of each other, and in particular never ceases in his attempts to get into Annie's pants, by any means necessary. And although the filmmakers intentionally kept the gore and blood splatter low key, the effects are nevertheless quite well done.
Having said that, The Caretaker is not an unqualified success. Although there are a number of very cool scenes of vampire mayhem, which are delightfully over the top, no kind of tension or sense of fear is ever developed. Perhaps this isn't what the producers are going for, but the film reads as more of a domestic drama (though an exciting one) with supernatural elements than a straight up horror movie. It is enjoyable to an extent, but not overly thrilling or scary, and it does tend a little to the hammy side of the spectrum.
Especially given that it's a low budget production, The Caretaker is impressive in most areas of execution. The story doesn't quite play out as elegantly as it could, and it lacks coherence at times, especially in the beginning when a bewildering number of new characters are introduced and plotlines set up. It's a decent film, but not great. Recommended.
Making of Documentary
The Lester Rap
Director / Producer Commentary