There is an instant paradox that strikes me when I envision a movie about Vampires set in the sun drenched vastness of Australia. But in a subgenre where an element of legitimate originality is surely high up on any Horror fans list why not give the bloodsucking flick from Down Under, THE CARETAKER a day in court?

Any concerns that director Tom Conyer’s movie was simply another trite exercise in vampy campy comedy were quelled within the initial frames with the melancholic soundtrack that accompanied the opening of the movie. The widescreen 2.35:1 presentation instantly gave the picture a cinematic look as the story begins at a small Australian town at the mercy of a crippling flu epidemic. There is, however, suggestions in the press that this illness is to blame for a few isolated episodes of the infected displaying ‘psychotic symptoms’ which is some cases have resulted in violent murders.

A trio of narratives are quickly merged by the crisis: Firstly we have Ron (Lee Mason) who is sick with the cards being dealt to him by the female hand and as such has formed a local Fathers For Justice type committee. His pub hosted rants often descend into rather laughable misogyny but even so he does at least manage to generate a decent audience. Then there is Guy (Clint Dowdell) and Annie (Anna Burgess) whose relationship has survived a jilted alter episode and his constant conspiracy theorist outlook on life. Together they all converge at Lester’s (Colin MacPherson) spacious residence. Lester who appreciates fine wine and women half his age (he is in his 50’s don’t panic!) lives with his elderly mother who herself is in the clutches of the sweeping illness. As such, he has consulted the enigmatic Dr Grainger (Mark White) who also is staying at the house.

If trying to avoid the carnage that is sweeping the nation isn’t a treacherous task enough, things soon get positively complicated when the Dr enlightens the group that vampirism is the real cause of the outbreak and that he is one himself!

A fragile pact is agreed on: If the humans protect the in-house vampire from the vigilante hunters stakes by day as he naps, he in turn will protect the group from nocturnal blood suckers by night. But as crumbling relationships within the house cause emotions to swell will the treaty be severely compromised...?

Director Tom Conyer’s independent effort is certainly a movie that will be enjoyed by a more mature audience. The emphasis tends to be on the characters personal journeys and wavering unions as oppose to all out violence. Described by the director as having an ‘ensemble’ feel, the protagonists refreshingly didn’t fall into easily definable hero and villain categories. Through the crisis, layers of their public facades are steadily stripped away as they face the reality of their lives irreversibly changing forever.

Such weighting towards that style of narrative still allowed for some high octane sequences to keep the pace moving. Although I found the majority of the gore was cleverly kept out of shot and there was a notable employment of CG, fans of the ‘squib’ will get their gun blasting splattered fix!

Due to the majority of the movie being draped in the natural Australian daylight it was saturated with colour as oppose to more traditional gothic night time aesthetic. The picture does however also contain a subtlety dated look in its vineyard setting and it’s this element of antiquity that adds to the atmosphere.

I also have to mention, the movie is beautifully photographed. The cinematic framing melded with the tense violin and piano based score that I alluded to earlier wasn’t just limited to the opening frames. They both relentlessly combined to make this a fine looking movie loaded with tension, even if the music was a little over prominent at times.

The MVD disc has a sharp picture that captures the directors’ vision admirably and also has a 2.0 Stereo Mix or a 5.1 surround option.

The DVD has an EXTRAS section that is comprised of a feature length commentary track with director Tom Conyers and producer Mark White, who incidentally plays Dr Grainger in the picture. It proved an intriguing listen as the duo intricately talks us through various aspects of the movie. It’s a nice mix of technical and creative discourse that provides some detailed background and quite rightly their collective pride of how the movie turned out.

An 18 minute "Making Of.." documentary is a generic gathering of onset interviews with cast and crew, while the director guides our attention to the reasoning behind the movies ‘look’.

A rather ridiculous three minute skit entitled the ‘The Lester Rap’ is basically some ill-advised tomfoolery by the cast to a hip hop soundtrack which serves no purpose whatsoever as it has nothing to do with the movie at all! A couple of trailers complete the Bonus Material.

THE CARETAKER may not exactly be ground breaking, but did attempt some originality and was competently made. Conjuring some empathy for the monsters of the picture while portraying them as, well... monstrous as opposed to glamorous, was a bold stance that for the most part worked. If films with good production whose engaging suspense arrives courtesy of carefully thought out character development interests you, Conyer’s flick may well be for you.

Review by Marc Lissenburg

Region 1 NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
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