by Walter Chaw
The Babysitter Murders ****/**** (d. Ryan Spindell) For certain artists working in the short-film format, I don't have any idea how or why it is they haven't been called up to the big leagues yet. This speaks as much to my prejudice, obviously: there's nothing wrong with the short form. In literature, many of my favourite writers are best in the short form. In film, though, there's so little real opportunity for distribution that it seems a particular shame when guys like Ryan Spindell have only produced shorts. I'm not complaining (his work is excellent), merely hoping he has the means to continue. Spindell's latest, The Babysitter Murders, is so expertly composited that it would be kind of a shame to dissect it at all. Sufficed to say that it unearths a new place to take Wes Craven's Scream meta funhouse, and does it without a hint of smugness or show-off-y insecurity. It's beautifully paced, conceived, and executed. Look at a cooking scene early on, set to "Fast & Sweet" by Mondo Boys feat. Kestrin Pantera--the way it's shot and edited, the way Elie Smolkin's camera stalks and Eric Ekman cuts it all together. The movie's premise--a babysitter alone on a stormy night when a psycho escapes from an asylum--is as rote as they come, but Spindell, as he did with The Root of the Problem and dentists, finds something new to say. The performances are to a one pitch-perfect and the gore is appropriately horrifying; it's a film balanced in that space between hilarity for its excess and hilarity for its brilliance. I'm out of superlatives. Spindell is one of the finest voices working in genre right now, carving out a niche that's neither self-serious nor self-abnegating. He's full of joy, this one, and his movies are treasures.