This quickie takes a mid-point left turn, segueing from traditional babysitter-stalking slasher into Omen-inspired Satanism, cannibalism and that currently-overworked chained-up-and-abused business. Though it literally tips its hat a little too early, it is anchored by a warm, sympathetic performance from Sarah Thompson as a rare, non-caricature Christian heroine. Much of the first reel parallels The House of the Devil, down to tiny details about campus life and the heroine’s need to land a babysitting gig – but then the films go in very different ways.
It opens grimly as if it’s going to be yet another Hostel ripoff, with a chained girl in her underwear having butcher’s cutting marks put on her body and being killed with a ball-peen hammer-blow. Then, Angie (Thompson), a girl with a devout mother (Nana Visitor), turns up at her new college and quietly appalled at her drugged-out, pierced, slobbish room-mate (Julian Schmitz). She meets cute with a guy (Matt Dallas) who isn’t stalking her, and takes a gig as babysitter for a folksy farm couple (Bruce Thomas, Kristen Dalton) who live out in the middle of nowhere in order to pay for a bed. In When a Stranger Calls manner, Angie is nagged by weird phone calls, the oddly creepy behaviour of her young charge Sam (Kai Caster) and the presence of a hulking, scarred bald home invader (Monty Bane) with a peculiar knife – she fights the menace off, only to discover that he’s a priest and that the reason little Sam always wears a cowboy hat is that he’s ‘the son of the Devil’. Sam also feeds exclusively on girlflesh. The exasperated parents get home, annoyed that they’re going to have to up stakes and move again, and set about butchering Sam’s next meal (Christie Schoen, who also works as a set caterer – which is grimly ironic in the circumstances). Angie is tied up and forced to watch the gory process, not to mention listen to Dad’s chatty, matter-of-fact explanation of the ins and outs of serving the kid’s special dietary needs. The Sheriff (Bill Moseley, playing normal for a change) shows up and is little help, though Angie does get hold of his gun and overkill her tormentors in satisfying fashion. As in most Antichrist movies, the creepy kid survives – but the hero and heroine go on the road as Christian demon-busters.
Co-directors Jonas Barnes (who also wrote) and Michael Manasseri handle the suspense, the humour and the splat reasonably – it’s not especially original in any of the sub-genres it essays, but is well-enough done to hold the interest and spring regular scares. The most effective touch comes before the splatter when the heroine is doing her best to see off the man she thinks is a mad killer and protect the boy, while the child is acting in a credible, annoying, disobedient manner which makes things worse. Stephen King once extrapolated from the end of Rosemary’s Baby to assume little Adrian Woodhouse would be the only kid on his Little League team to need a custom baseball cap – this aside could have inspired the treatment of Sam Stanton, who goes around dressed in an old-fashioned cowboy outfit because the big hat covers his horn-buds.