Director Joe Cornet and writer Craig Hamann deserve credit. It’s tough to come up with an inventive haunted house movie at this point. Night of the Caregiver stands out from similar films because of its demonic twist. It also features a familiar name to horror fans, Eileen Dietz, who played the demon who possesses Regan (Linda Blair) in The Exorcist. The female leads, Dietz especially, elevate the film beyond all of the straight to VOD haunted house knockoffs.
The feature also stars Natalie Denise Sperl as Juliet Rowe, who takes on a part-time job as a caregiver for Dietz’s character, Lillian Gresham. The banter between the two is a heck of a lot of fun. From the moment Lillian says she has “heart cancer,” it’s clear something is up with her and she’s not being totally truthful with Juliet. The back and forth between the two makes for an enjoyable watch, and through and through, it seems like Dietz had a heck of a good time in the role. She’s playful, secretive, and at times, menacing. You start to wonder if Juliet is Lillan’s prey.
However, the film doesn’t spell everything out immediately, instead taking its time in revealing all of its secrets, including the demon’s true identity. The creature is shown in the film’s opening but only fully explored in the second half. It’s worth the wait.
The cast is rounded out by Eric Roberts, who plays parapsychologist Dr. King, and Cornet, who plays Detective Roman Eckhart. Anna Oris also stars as Pamela, Juliet’s partner. However, this is really a two-woman show between Dietz and Sperl. They consume most of the runtime. The movie could have utilized the other characters slightly more. For instance, Dr. King and Detective Eckhart have an intriguing initial conversation about faith, doubt, and belief in the paranormal, and I wanted to see more of that. It would have given the film a bit more weight. There’s also a storyline regarding Detective Eckhart’s mother and the paranormal, but not enough is done with this. It feels shoehorned into the narrative, especially in the last 30 minutes.
In terms of the setting, most of the feature occurs in Lillian’s house. Old homes are always creepy, and that’s the case here. The longer Juliet stays, the more her grip on reality slips. She sees menacing spiders, the demon with huge claws, and other frights. The house starts to feel like a character, feasting upon Juliet’s psychological state. This eerie atmosphere uplifts what easily could have been a cheesy B-movie.
Let’s be grateful that we get to see Dietz in another horror film. She’s absolutely wonderful here, and Sperl isn’t a bad leading lady, either. The film is a bit hamstrung by some flat characterization, but its atmosphere and the performances by its leading ladies make up for that. Overall, Night of the Caregiver is a spooky good time with a few cool nods to The Exorcist.
Night of the Caregiver releases in theaters and VOD on August 15.