DIE! SITTER! DIE! : RUPERT
Firstly I’d just like to say thank you to Co-Directors, Lee and Sam Boxleitner for allowing me early access to their 26 minute Horror/Thriller Short, “Die! Sitter! Die!” aka “Rupert”. Rupert was shot as a proof of concept for a full length feature anthology which would be centered around various babysitters having to survive the night. Die Sitter Die features Alison (Caitlin Reilly), a young woman taking a babysitting job because she’s neck-deep in debt. She neglects her boyfriend (played by Demille-Cole Heard) and works three other jobs trying to make ends meet but with overdue study fees and a $12,000 invoice for her mother’s cancer treatment, it’s not enough. Shortly after arriving at the house Alison realizes she’s in for one hell of a night and all is not what it seems in this dignified, 1920’s Pasadena mansion. The film also stars Lee Boxleitner. This review will remain spoiler free (for the most part).
I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a good babysitter orientated story, so while Rupert grounds itself in quite a familiar setting it still manages enough surprises to separate itself from its counterparts. It begins with some intense music and a busy opening title sequence which I really enjoyed. The beautiful and spacious house makes for an aesthetically pleasing look, which allows the Boxleitner brothers to shoot everything on quite a grand scale. The camera work and shot choices are very well crafted. The film opens using some close-ups to introduce us to an extremely overwhelmed Alison, then eventually switches to some gorgeous wide shots as her boyfriend arrives. Once she gets to the babysitting gig there’s a multitude of effective tracking shots throughout the mansion, helping to convey the sheer size and unfamiliarity of the premises. The audio levels are strong and the style of natural lighting particularly inside the house, fits the age of the property and the desired effect. A distinct use of red reflections during the sequence in the basement was also a nice touch. The soundtrack consists mostly of synth and bass with an emphasis on some real low-frequency changes during some of the more suspenseful scenes. It’s never front and centre though or really manipulating the emotional drive, although there’s still some creepy light keyboard music comparable to what you’d hear in the paranormal sub genre.
The performances were great and the strained dynamic between Alison and her overlooked boyfriend was believable given her predicament. Reilly makes Alison very relatable, finding the balance in her personality traits to make you get behind her. She’s frustrated with her lot in life and does what we all do and lashes out but that has to be conveyed sensitively for it to work. Because at the same time she’s going above and beyond for the one thing she has in her life and that warrants understanding and compassion. Doing my best to avoid spoilers, just let me say Co-director Lee Boxleitner is the surprise packet here. I had no idea he was going to be able to gauge a real level of fear or deliver that standard of intensity, especially because his character is so outlandish. Die Sitter Die is more about the dialogue and the build up and less about action but saying that, the blood and gore effects we do get to see look stellar. There’s one very violent outburst that could set the tone for this anthology (if it gets made). In closing, the three cast members two in particular, really had to get hands on with some of the grotesque specifics the script required and I commend them on doing so.
Majority of the interplay between Alison and Rupert either created suspense or progressed towards the climax, but a sequence of counting down for hide and seek didn’t work so well. It’s always predictable because we know the tormentor is never going to give the hunted any time, it’s all part of the game and the audience knows that. I didn’t feel the suspense and the dialogue was rather lack luster through that section. My only other complaints are in the initial discussion of the babysitting job. The first is a continuity point. Alison calls the number to see if the job is still available and says she’s able to do 5 until midnight, it immediately cuts from that scene to her arrival at the mansion. I would have preferred to have seen some time passed before arriving (maybe one more scene between her and the boyfriend), or even change the job to 7pm start time or something, it just seemed rushed and her boyfriend didn’t know she was doing the job until after they got in the car, So where was he originally taking her? Secondly she arrives to find a note on the door that says something like “Was running late had to leave, go ahead and help yourself to whatever you like” etc etc. For spoiler sake I can’t mention the particulars of that plot point but it clearly foreshadows things to come. Surely Alison would have thought it was a little strange, wouldn’t she? Maybe redial the number and check in just to make sure everything is okay before entering the home. If you owned a house that extravagant would you let someone you hadn’t met inside if you weren’t there?
Die! Sitter! Die! or “Rupert” was a highly entertaining, quite out there Horror film from a couple of very talented filmmakers. Lee and Sam wrote a disturbing story, got a small and capable cast together and managed to lock down a stunning location. On top of that, the camera work, audio and lighting were intense and a vital part of the reason this comes together so well. There’s some cool music and some practical effects on display too. There’s just a few hiccups in the writing of some of the setup details and moments that aren’t necessarily as tense as they could have been but all in all this is a great short. I hope to see it getting some good exposure in order to help these guys bring their full length feature to life. Well done!
My rating for “Die! Sitter! Die!” is 7.5/10