Here For Blood had its international première at the Glasgow FrightFest 2023.
Here For Blood begins with young student Elise (Holly Jade Balmer) jogging to her suburban home, only to discover her girlfriend bleeding out in the shower, and a masked man waiting nearby who stabs her multiple times in the chest. This bloody prologue, and of course the title (originally Last The Night), place us firmly in the horror genre – and very soon a subgenre will emerge. For in director Daniel Turres’ second collaboration with writer James Roberts after Terry’s Car Gets Stolen (2021), the now missing Elise’s fellow student Phoebe (Joelle Farrow) is due to spend a night minding ten-year-old Grace (Maya Misaljevic) on the eve of a crucial exam. So this is to join a recent run of babysitter horrors that includes like Michael Thelin’s Emelie (2015), McG’s The Babysitter (2017), Chris Peckover’s Better Watch Out (2017), and especially like Abiel Bruhn and John Rocco’s The Night Sitter (2018) and Kohl Glass’ Babysitter Must Die (2020).
Yet there is also a difference. For while the babysitter in all those films is female, Phoebe, who is overworked, exhausted and desperately in need of time off to study, asks her boyfriend Tom O’Bannon (Shawn Roberts) to take over the gig. After all, as Phoebe’s friend Christine (Samantha Helt), puts it, “All he has to do is keep the kid alive for a couple of hours.” When presented with the task, though, Tom himself immediately sees the downside of substituting for his girlfriend. “Guys don’t babysit, girls do,” he tells Phoebe, “A guy can babysit but the people are going to assume he’s a creep or something.” And far from being a metrosexual hipster like Christine’s boyfriend Mike (Kelly Penner), Tom is a hulking, hyper-masculine pro wrestler, more brawn than brain, though with a heart as big as his body.
Tom’s improbable assignment as replacement babysitter will turn out to be a piece of good fortune for both Phoebe and young Grace – for once the little girl’s mother Barb (Tara Spencer-Nairn) and stepfather Gill (Michael Therriault) have left the isolated house, six masked men (Marqus Bobesich, Jesse Buck, Jimmy Limb, Marc André Boulanger, Channing Decker, Glen Michael Grant) move in with obscure, occult designs on Grace (and Phoebe), and only tough, punch-happy Tom – “I like violence,” he will later say, when offered a chance to avoid it – stands between his young ward and the knife-wielding assailants. There will be blood.
“Babe, I’m starting to think these aren’t sex perverts,” Tom will, with hilarious understatement, tell Phoebe after she has arrived at the house with Christine and Mike and realised that they are under vicious siege. For much as Tom is no ordinary babysitter, this is no ordinary home invasion – and in a film where genre proves as slippery as gender, our Herculean hero will soon be facing wave after wave of supernatural intruders in an ever more surreal scenario evoking Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II (1987), Shinichi Fukazawa’s Bloody Muscle Body Builder in Hell (2012) and a whole lot of Lovecraft. Meanwhile, for all his unquestionable strength and bravery, this muscle-bound he-man will repeatedly be rescued from death by the interventions of women, even as the sexes, fixed by convention, of sacrificial victims will also be slyly reversed.
As the threat keeps getting stranger, Turres and Roberts lean hard into the absurdity, bringing an unhinged energy and dark humour to everything. Tom deadpans his way through it all, with a beer can in hand over much of the duration, eventually to be replaced with an axe – and for all the icky practical effects and geysers of gore, Here For Blood remains an amiable, good-natured affair throughout. Needless to say, there is a lot of wrestling, and the viewer can only agree with Tom when, covered in injuries and drenched in blood, he asserts: “I’m a damn good babysitter.” Though their relationship may at first seem incongruous, ultimately it is clear that Phoebe has found herself a keeper, and that Tom – in a scenario where parents easily fall short of their responsibilities – has proven himself tenacious, highly committed, and genuine father material.
strap: Daniel Turres’ besieged babysitter horror comedy pits a pro wrestler against a Lovecraftian cult while confounding both gender and genre
© Anton Bitel