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By Mike Watt | October 9, 2013

Once upon a time, a group of tween friends formed a babysitting club to make extra money for “chips and gum.” One Halloween night, Bianca and April brave the cold for trick ’r treating and are attacked by a man in a white mask. While he kidnaps April, Bianca runs for her life. April is never seen again and the rest of the club ostracize Bianca, who has lived with the guilt and shame throughout high school.

Seven years later, Halloween night, the girls are facing adulthood, they’ve grown up and grown apart. In a semi-last hurrah Angela attempts to get the old gang back together for an intimate party. At the same time, the girls are being hunted and murdered one by one, pictures of their mutilated corpses sent to Angela’s phone (who believes the images to be part of elaborately gory costumes). By the end of the night, only the brassy Arlene and the timid Lucky have shown up for the get-together, while Bianca, haunted and alone, searches the town for the white-masked man.

“Babysitter Massacre” is Henrique Couto’s latest release through Independent Entertainment (the latest label from the constantly-evolving Camp Motion Pictures/Bloody Earth-formerly e.i. Entertainment). It comes on the heels of his unique tragedy, “Bleeding Through,” and the intricate resisting-coming-of-age comedy/drama, “Depression: The Movie.”

A direct homage to the tireless subgenre of ‘80s slashers, particularly “Sorority House Massacre 2” which is name-checked in the dialogue, “Babysitter Massacre” offers up all you need to know in its title and really delivers to the intended audience. The movie gives us hatchet murdering, fingernail ripping, hammer horror, and of course a plethora of butcher knife trauma. In addition, “Babysitter Massacre” gives everyone more than the required amount of female nudity—there’s a full-frontal bathtub scene within the first 90 seconds—and the whole cast seemed completely game (or, at the very least, not at gunpoint). As if lifted directly from Cinemax Late Night, “nudity” is almost its own character.

While the majority of the film is spent checking off slasher list items, Couto manages to sneak in some of his trademark subversion by trying to create a quartet of central characters who might be actual people were there not a murder agenda to keep to. As the three lingerie-clad partiers,  Clark (as Arlene) and particularly Durian (as Lucky) and Ryan (as Angela), keep a relaxed chemistry despite some clumsy exposition. Marylee Osborne, as Bianca, is given the show-stopping moments, conveying a lot of vulnerable survivor’s guilt beneath her leather and pierced exterior, leading to a surprising conclusion (having nothing to do with the identity of the killer, but rather the emotion presented in the final sequences).

With “Babysitter Massacre” comes the usual low-budget caveats regarding confusing structure, performances, etc., you should know what you’re getting into by now. That being said, Couto and company work hard to include “real” moments in the script and there’s a standout in the first act. It’s a small scene between Angela and her single mother (played with gusto by Amy Diederich), about grief and moving on, that gives the movie a little added promise of other character gems to follow.

While they may be few and far between due to the pace, these are the hints that Couto continues to mature as a writer and a director no matter what genre serves as his base. As a photographer as well, judging from the beautiful opening early-morning shot of the girls’ neighborhood. Cheers also to Buzz Amato and Rick Hinkle for an atmospheric (and occasionally ironic) score.

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