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Stars: Lee Mason, Mark White, Colin MacPherson, Anna Burgess, Kerri-Anne Baker and Clint Dowdell.
Writer / Director: Tom Conyers

REVELATIONS FILM FESTIVAL Screening - Sat July 14, 11.10pm.

Rating: 2/5

Clearly inspired by the small-town setting and big genre vision of The Spierig Brothers’ 2003 surprise horror hit Undead, Tom Conyers’ bloodsucker-uprising flick The Caretaker looses sight of the inherent sense of fun that made that dusty Ozploitation shocker such a hoot. Instead, we get a pretty dour bunch of unlikable stereotypes trapped in an overwrought melodrama with lofty ambitions it never attains.

There is little wrong with the film from a production perspective, despite what is clearly a low-budget labour of love for the Melbourne-based filmmaker (he also EP’s and edits his debut feature). Images captured by cinematographer Matt Wood are crisp and often inventively framed; flavoursome set design, especially a sequence shot in a creepy cellar that doubles as a vamp lair, exhibits quality artistry. Gorehounds, despite having seen it all before, may still find merit in some of the more graphic stagings of vampire action.

Conceptually, the premise has merit. The group of misfits in a remote rural enclave taking a stand against an evil uprising is an old one (Romero’s Night of the Living Dead being the most obvious in this case), but of more interest is the device that posits a vampire-warrior type (a commanding Mark White) as their protector in a dark alliance that threatens to collapse as the pressure to survive mounts. Subplots, though, are meagre; the final reel twist, unconvincing and confusing.

The film’s greatest liability is the pretentious ambitions of the script, especially in a first act that sets in motion an underlying anger towards women that permeates the film. We meet anti-hero Ron (Lee Mason) as he delivers an impassioned, bitter diatribe (to a pub full of blokey best mates) against the unfairness of the modern divorce laws; the words exude an all-too-convincing mean-spiritedness (the speech recalls Tom Cruise’s pro-male empowerment rant in Magnolia).

Additionally, the sole female protagonist in the film, Annie (Anna Kate Burgess), is a snide princess who early on chides her loving partner, Guy (Clint Dowdell) despite his best efforts at romance. Her character’s devolution from a selfish shrew into a simpering victim does neither Burgess nor the film’s credibility any favours. Noteworthy also is that the film’s nastiest vampire baddies are almost exclusively women.

Conyers exhibits some deft touches with his lensing and pacing only to be undermined by his bloated and bitter script. One senses his time will come under a stronger producer’s guiding influence, working with a more seasoned and disciplined writer’s screenplay.

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