Caregiver (2007)

Rating: B

Dir: Dennis Devine
Star: Osa Wallander, Rebeka Montoya, Elisa Eliot, Kali Hawk

When Paige Hopkins (Wallander) begins working at a halfway house for dysfunctional teenage girls, she seems all sweetness and light. But it becomes clear that she may be far more troubled than any of her charges, with her history easily a match for any of them when it comes to abuse. Slowly, the saccharine veneer begins to crack at the edges, and as the unravelling accelerates, she becomes a threat to all those who cross her. Things come to a head when one inmate comes to realise the truth, and threatens to expose her to the authorities. Meanwhile, Paige’s past has made an unwelcome return, imperilling her from a different direction.

This is probably more psychological thriller than horror film, with blood restrained between the opening sequence and the climax. But it’s no less effective for this, thanks to a great performance by Wallander, who looks like Nicole Kidman’s evil sister. She can switch from an angel to a demon in the blink of an eye, and while the fakeness of her good side is entirely obvious – I presume deliberately – to the audience, it’s still very convincing. The writer used to work in a place like the one shown, and this might be why much of the dialogue and situations ring true, albeit in exaggerated form, naturally. My main problem is a couple of the subplots don’t quite work: there’s a suicide early on, which is creepy to watch (a naked girl slicing her wrists in the shower), but we hardly know her, so it has little impact, and nothing much results either. Overall, though, it’s a very solid piece of work, that knows its limitations, and works effectively within them.