Now before I begin, I should point out that The Sitter is a horror short. Released in 1977, the movie runs around 20 minutes in length and is effectively one long sequence, rather than a fully fleshed out feature film.

So why have I chosen it for today’s unseen movie?

Well, I’ve picked The Sitter because a.) I’ve not watched it before, and b.) it is a precursor to When a Stranger Calls – another film I have yet to see, but will be watching shortly.

You may recall, back when I worked my way through 90 films from the 1990s, one of the movies I watched was When a Stranger Calls Back – the 1993 horror sequel to When A Stranger Calls. During the course of the post I mentioned how I had never seen the original, so would endeavour to watch it at some point in the future.

Well, I still aim to watch When a Stranger Calls, but before I do, I felt it necessary to watch The Sitter – the short that inspired the two films.

So, here goes…

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*Clicks play*

15secs – This film is very ’70s. The music, the clothes – everything screams ’70s.

1mins – A girl has arrived at the home of a pair of arseholes rich couple. She is going to be babysitting their kids while they go out to dinner and be complete dicks.

4mins 50secs – The babysitter has just received a rather strange phone call. The caller simply said “have you checked the children?”.

Image: ©Columbia Pictures

Initial observations:

OK, so within the first five minutes this short is establishing a number of things:

  • The babysitter is a young, vulnerable adult
  • With the exception of the children (who are not shown) she is alone in the house
  • A stranger has been able to get inside the house, via the telephone

Hmm… so, this is the exact same premise that opened When a Stranger Calls Back (and presumably, When a Stranger Calls).

12mins 20secs – “Why haven’t you checked the children?”

Image: ©Columbia Pictures

The caller has altered his question slightly and in doing so it is clear he is becoming impatient. This is adding to the tension, it’s just a shame the ’70s ‘musac’ that is playing over the scene is impacting the suspense of the situation.

Further observations:

The caller is calling from inside the house! This would have been a huge shock, if I wasn’t already familiar with this premise.

I wonder how well this played to audiences the first time around? Did many people see this short?

19mins – The caller is never shown on screen, but by the end of the film it is revealed that the children are dead… and have been for hours. Blimey, that’s dark!

*Clicks stop*

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It is very clear to me why The Sitter was expanded beyond it’s 20 minute format and turned into a feature film. The idea of an unseen stranger terrorising a babysitter has so much potential for a horror movie, which is why the idea was also re-used in Halloween and Scream.

BUT…

I’m not entirely sure The Sitter works as well as it should.

The Sitter has all the right ingredients for a good horror, yet it lacks the suspense that it needs. It’s simply not scary.

I’m now very intrigued to see what When a Stranger Calls manages to do with this premise to make it work. I guess I’ll find out very soon (yes, I will be watching it next).

But for now, I liked The Sitter, it just needed a little more oomph. Oh and it needed a much better soundtrack too.

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