The Caretaker (2012)
Mark White (Dr. Ford Grainger), Colin MacPherson (Lester), Cint Dowdell (Guy), Anna Burgess (Annie), Lee Mason (Ron)
“So here’s my deal. You protect me from your kind during the day and I’ll protect you from mine at night.” – Dr. Ford Grainger
The Caretaker, like Daybreakers, is an Australian post-apocalyptic film where vampires have taken over the world. The film begins on the eve of the world’s end. We see the last few hours of normalcy from three different perspectives.
First, we meet Ford Grainger. Ford is a doctor who has become infected with vampirism and has realized that the infected are fiercely territorial. Seeing the writing on the wall, Ford has gone out to the country to the home of a man who is trying to get his mother committed. The man is Lester, a creepy old bachelor who is a few personality quirks away from being Norman Bates. Lester’s mother is also infected and informs Grainger that “this nest” (meaning her house) is hers. Ford convinces Lester that his mother needs to be observed overnight. While Lester is sleeping, Ford makes his way downstairs and beheads the mother with an axe.
Meanwhile, sentient mannequin Guy and his shrill and terrible fiance Annie are making their way out to the countryside to go camping. Annie stood Guy up at the altar and they’re working on their relationship. Unfortunately, Guy is a conspiracy nut layabout and Annie is a total shrew. Annie is concerned for her family who are texting her about the deteriorating situation in Melbourne. In the middle of the night, Annie gets an alarming text and makes Guy get up and drive them toward a town where they can find out what’s going on.
Last of all, there is Ron. Ron is a divorcee who is hosting a sort of seminar at a local pub where he preaches about the toll that divorce takes on men and how it should be illegal. This scene never informs the plot in any way other than to tell us that Ron’s a bit of an asshole and a lot chauvinistic. Later in the evening, vampires swarm the pub and Ron manages to escape mostly by sheer dumb luck.
The next morning our characters meet up at Lester’s home. After discussing the events of the previous night and comparing notes they go downstairs to find Lester’s dismembered mother and a fully vampirized Ford. After demonstrating how unstoppably powerful he is, Ford makes a deal with the humans. Ford will protect the humans during the night if they will keep him safe during the day.
After the set-up (which, it is worth noting, takes up 50 minutes of the film’s 90-minute runtime) the movie becomes a character study. The problem with making the story a character study is, even though they’re reasonably fleshed out, none of our characters are sympathetic or pleasant to be around.
Ford is the least detestable by far but he has nothing to do after he makes the change. Vampire Ford roars at other vampires during the violent scenes and rambles about death and the drive to live in a lyrical style like a cut-rate poet. He’s more of a plot device than an actual character.
Guy is basically decent as cardboard cut-outs go. He never does anything particularly interesting and his plot purpose is being Annie’s romantic interest so he’s the bland and underwritten girlfriend character in any other movie. Basically, all he does is argue with Annie, break up with Annie, become Ron’s MRA Padawan, then get back together with Annie. He’s a block of wood with a face drawn on.
Annie is a very interesting character, she is arguably the most interesting character in the movie. The entire arc of the film is essentially hers and where she ends up is a genuinely entertaining destination. Unfortunately, the road to that destination is driven by a hateful, mean, shrieking witch who only becomes sympathetic far, far after she’s meant to be. For most of the movie, she seems to be there mainly to validate Ron’s thoughts on women.
Ron’s a dick.
Lester is probably the most well-drawn character. As I mentioned above, the man is a creeper. When he meets Ford he talks about his ex-wife, who it turns out is a blond mannequin he keeps in his bedroom. He tells Ford, “As a 20-year-old I lusted after 20-year-old girls. As a 57-year-old I still lust after 20-year-old girls. You could say there’s something ageless about me.” Upon being alone with Annie for the first time he asks, “How old are you, about 20?” Lester, of course, latches on to Annie and tries to manipulate his way into Guy’s spot as her lover. Of course, Annie has no interest in an old weirdo who lives alone with his mother. Lester does not like this and looks for other means.
Across the board, the acting is fairly mediocre. No one is bad by any standards but everyone is a bit stiff in their delivery. Colin MacPherson manages to be the most naturalistic of the bunch as Lester but even he seems a bit false.
Full disclosure, I’ve actually reviewed this movie on this site before. Back in my DVD reviewing days I did The Caretaker. While the 2-star score I gave it may be a tad harsh, I don’t disagree with most of what I wrote back in 2013. The movie isn’t awful but it’s also not really deserving of much praise.
The concept of a devil’s bargain between two opposing species in a post-apocalyptic world is gold. Similarly, the fact that it’s the humans who end up betraying the vampire rather than vice versa is a nice touch. I even like that they went with fully intelligent vampires who are so tough that humans don’t really stand a chance against them. Unfortunately, an interesting concept is all that’s really there. There’s some token bloodletting and a few light gore moments, the vampire make-up is good, the cinematography and sound design all work fine (though I do take umbrage with the piano soundtrack which stops being atmospheric and becomes dull very quickly.) We just don’t have any characters to latch onto, the plot is empty and features very little actual conflict.
Also, how does vampirism work in this world? People bitten by vampires just die and a character who has sex with an infected person remains unchanged. Is the virus only communicable through mosquitos? Why are vampires so territorial and why are some more reasonable than others? Ron and Guy stumble onto a den but rather than make a deal with them, the vampire within only tries to eat them. Also, why does Ron want to feed Annie to Ford so bad? Ford never even brings up having the humans feed him, yet Ron insists they sacrifice Annie to keep up their half of the bargain.
The Caretaker is undercooked and never really manages to feel like a completed story. The ending is good and there are other good scenes splashed throughout the runtime. Unfortunately, the movie is a bore and while there’s very little to offend, there’s even less to enjoy.
The Caretaker is available on DVD.
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