The Caretaker sits just between effectively transcending the slasher model and rehashing its formula. The group of teenagers it casts as its line-up of victims is certainly more well rounded the most of the characters in these films. The actors have all rehearsed together, play well and the lines come with an occasionally acerbic and amusing bite. On the other hand, The Caretaker is never as wittily knowing about the slasher genre and its cliches as Wes Cravens Scream (1996).
The stalker theatrics are all average competent but nothing that truly stands out. The film takes some time to get past the long extended intro with the trip up the house and the telling of the story to the part where the victims start getting stalked. Certainly, director Bryce Fridrik Olson achieves his best moments during the telling of the spooky story, which is constantly being interrupted by mundane questions or the guys being jerks and then adroitly flows back into mood without a moments pause. On the other hand, not enough is made of the play between faked Halloween scares and the real thing, despite the film having the perfect set-up for it.
Alas the point that The Caretaker shoots itself in the foot is when its big name star Jennifer Tilly turns up. Tilly has taken on some amazingly trashy roles in recent years see her extraordinarily self-deprecating performance in Seed of Chucky (2004). Here Tilly, outfitted in a dress designed to maximize her impressive cleavage, is allowed her head and goes for broke. She has a series of scenes going on about wanting to have sex with a student while someone else films it so as to become famous or proposing dating the serial killer before getting her throat slit, where she gives the impression that she had ad libbed most of her dialogue. Unfortunately, her presence throws the tone of the film off. She pushes a film that had up until that point taken itself relatively seriously over into camp territory. It is as though for two-thirds of the film, The Caretaker had been taking its horror generally seriously, before its star came along and by refusing to take any of it seriously pushed everything in a totally different direction.
The other star name Judd Nelson gives a more effectively serious and convincing performance, although his appearance is only kept to two minor scenes. Jonathan Breck, who has accrued a number of genre roles and is touted as a horror actor on the basis of having played The Creeper in Jeepers Creepers (2001) and sequel, has an interestingly odd part as a creepy limo driver. The twist ending revelation of the killers identity is modestly effective if far-fetched.
One other minus point is the supposed Sinister House of the show. Clearly the filmmakers were unable to obtain a big gloomy mansion or even a double-storey house and have to make do with an unimposingly ordinary single-storey suburban home it is the sort of location where any decent attempt by a victim to run from the masked attacker would take about 30 seconds to get from one end of the house to the other.