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Ben Nagy reviews ‘The Sitter’: Cat-sitting nightmare becomes a Satanic trap

Charlotte (Aisling Knight), a college student studying psychology, is offered a pretty obscene amount of money (200 pounds a night – roughly $258 U.S.) to stay three nights in a big house out in the woods because these codgers are going to take a long weekend and they don’t want to leave their cat or their house alone in writer/director Simon Richardson's Satanic shocker.

It’s like House of the Devil, only Britisher

This week’s flick, The Sitter, features the age-old trope of “If it seems too good to be true, it’s probably an attempt to lure you to an isolated place so nasty things can happen to you.”

The Sitter is the creation of writer-director Simon Richardson and was originally titled Darkness Wakes upon its initial release in the United Kingdom. It is not the 9-year-old U.S. comedy with Jonah Hill in it, so don’t be confused as to why this review is showing up on Joe Bob’s site.

What we have here is essentially a British version of a flick that was featured on Season Uno of The Last Drive-In – The House of the Devil – with an eerily similar setup. 

Charlotte (Aisling Knight) does what she’s being paid to do — sit — in The Sitter. (Screen capture from DVD by reviewer Ben Nagy).

Here Charlotte (Aisling Knight), a college student studying psychology, is offered a pretty obscene amount of money (200 pounds a night – roughly $258 U.S.) to stay three nights in a big house out in the woods because these codgers are going to take a long weekend and they don’t want to leave their cat or their house alone.

After Charlotte has a conversation with her best friend, Kate, about how Charlotte broke off a four-month relationship with her boyfriend, Seth, because she didn’t want to aardvark him so soon (the implication is that she hasn’t aardvarked at all, ever), she gets a call from the eccentric old couple saying she has the job if she wants it.

Right, I know. They made a flipping Geico commercial about it. But if the characters aren’t naïve or opportunistic, then how many horror movies would we really have?

So Charlotte settles in for her three nights of watching a reclusive black cat and we’re left with a ton of psychological and supernatural questions to be answered.

Are the noises upstairs the cat or something else? Are the double-dream sequences that Charlotte experiences in various stages of undress residual guilt from cutting it off with Seth and her yearning to follow her pal Kate’s advice that “Sometimes all a girl needs is a good f—” even if that encounter is with a hooded creature with claws? Is that hooded creature with claws she’s dreaming about Satan, an agent of Satan or the sequestered son of the Farrows?

And if you’re not into the psychological stuff, there are some sinister neighbors who show up and spook Charlotte, including a guy who breaks into the house and licks her underwear.

And if you’re not into the psychological stuff, the demon aardvarking scenes or the underwear-licking pervo neighbor menace, you can check it out to see if you can spot the references to Rosemary’s BabyBurnt Offerings and any other horror classics dealing with haunted devil houses. Or you might wanna pair it up with House of the Devil for a compare/contrast on how they do these things across the pond and in the U.S.

There are some things that could have improved this one:

The fake blood looked a bit watery during the human sacrifice scene at the end (hey, us Drive-In Mutants care about the quality of our fake blood) and after an entire flick setting up atmosphere and menace, it ended on an uncharacteristic jump scare when a crash cut to black and a last scream or bit of dialogue might have been better. (Note to all filmmakers: Satan movies don’t end on jump scares because Satan’s gonna keep Sataning and there’s not much the mere mortals in the flicks can do about it – just look at Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen.) There also were three scenes of Charlotte wandering around in the dark in the house with a flashlight, a match and her phone flashlight, and that got a bit repetitious.

Still,The Sitter is solid narratively, atmospheric and well-shot, with some fraying as mentioned toward the end – the U-turn that happens after Seth’s disappearance could have been set up better by having an earlier scene or some dialogue that established a long-standing feud between the neighbors (you’ll know it when you see it). Worth seeing alone for Aisling Knight, who gives a fearless performance (except for the parts where she has to be scared), that carries this sucker to its evil end.

Although The Sitter has an on-screen body count of only three (there might have been five deaths total), we still have enough material for …

Best Dressed for Success: Charlotte takes a bath and two showers during the approximately 72 hours that she’s supposed to be cat-sitting. She also has an intriguing selection of sleepwear and undergarments that she brought with her to a strange house just to take care of a cat. Obviously these choices were vital to the narrative, especially during the tastefully shot aardvarking scenes that involve clawed demon monsters and people alike.

In her dreams-within-a-dreams, Charlotte turns pale, loses her pupils and her hair color changes. (Screen capture from DVD by reviewer Ben Nagy)

Best Undressed for Success: In a couple of her dream sequences, Charlotte gets all pale, her eyeballs go black, her hair color changes to a raven red, and she’s walking through blackness. Primo cinematography and it’s not just because she’s nekkid.

Here Charlotte prepares to bid the Farrows (Jill Buchanan and Richard Kilgour) farewell before they entrust their haunted house, reclusive black cat and possibly a monster to her for three nights of fun. (Screen capture from DVD by reviewer Ben Nagy)

Best Practices for Pet Care Ignored: Mr. Farrow (Richard Kilgour) takes Charlotte on an odd tour of the house, pointing out the obvious — “Here’s the bread box. Here’s the larder. Here’s the bathroom.” — and letting Charlotte have free reign of the wine and booze. However, he does not show her the litter box or give her any indication as to whether their precious reclusive feline is an inside or outside cat. You think if they’re paying her that much that they’d want that sucker PRISTINE.

Best Practices for Pet Care Ignored, Part 2: Charlotte does not go out and search for the cat after she realizes that the door of the house was left open. There also was no scene where she has to scoop the litter box (see above).

Best ‘Crazy Ralph’ Impersonation: Neighbor Marie (Jane Paul-Gets) stumbles out in the middle of the road in front of Charlotte’s car, looks at her and says “He’s f—-d you already. Mind your dreams.” She also is the victim of a literal Bible thumping after already getting clocked in the head with a wooden mallet.

The Sitter gets three and a half stars. Check it out on DVD and streaming on Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and The Microsoft Store. 

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