In horror films, if you hire a babysitter or nanny, there is a good chance they will turn out to be evil – whether they be a woman seeking revenge, as in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, or something more supernatural, like William Friedkin’s The Guardian – but regardless of the nature of the film’s childcare services, we know things will most likely not go well for the family. Today, we will look at Joel Novoa’s 2017 horror film The Nanny – which has a little bit of the revenge plot as well as supernatural elements to it – and we will see how effective one can be on a low budget.
The film’s protagonist is a young girl named Noa (Jadin Harris), who is quite protective of her little brother Michael (Christian Ganiere). When Noa and Michael’s overworked mother, Anna (Schuyler Fisk) hires a nanny to take care of them, it is up to Noa to prove that Leonor (Jaime Murray) – the seemingly ideal nanny – is not who, or even what, she seems to be.
With a brief running time of 80 minutes, it is quite clear from the outset that this movie had bitten off more than it could chew – giving us a cold open prologue that never gets properly explained is one of many examples of this – but the film fails mostly from cramming in too many moments of expository dialogue that never feels organic, as well as seeming rushed. We are told that Michael is hearing voices – ones that tell him to do horrible things – but after the school informs Anna of this, as well as showing her Michael’s disturbingly bloody drawings, her only response is to hire a nanny. Doesn’t this town have a child psychologist? This kid probably needs some serious mental therapy, but instead of seeking professional help, the mom ops for a live-in babysitter.
The mysterious Leonor is able to use some sort of “mental whammy” on Anna to secure her position as the kid’s nanny – and even mentally messes with Frank (Nick Gomez), the deputy sheriff, to further divert suspicion – but Leonor taking over the household is too rushed, even if the explanation is as lame as, “A wizard did it.” We get cryptic clues throughout the film as to what Leonor’s true nature is – a creature of the Fae who wants her children back – but all of the film’s hinting of a “larger world” leaves the viewer wishing to see a bit more of that world, and not just the half-dozen people that seem to be the town’s only residents. When the film re-introduces the character of David (Nicholas Brendon), who in the prologue we saw lose his daughter to some creature in the woods, we think the story is going to possibly show David saving his missing daughter, but instead it took a delightfully dark turn that I did not expect. The Nanny really had me on board for awhile – the basic premise was quite intriguing – but unfortunately, director Joel Novoa had no time to properly explore any of the characters he sets up, and thus none of them come across as relatable or even believable. For example, Noa inexplicably goes out into the night to meet up with David, a man she doesn’t know from Adam. I know kids can be stupid at times, but this moment was ludicrous.
The mythology of the Faerie Courts is just rife with possibilities – if you’ve seen Guillermo del Toro Pan’s Labyrinth, you know what I mean – but with what was basically a direct-to-video budget, that’s a harder thing to pull off. Jaime Murray does a decent job as the mysterious nanny – giving creepy stares whenever required – but when we see her glued on wings, it takes us right out of the moment, and the film never quite wins us back.
The film’s twists and turns take the “Evil Nanny” genre in what could have been an interesting direction – once again, if time and money hadn’t been a factor – but what we are left with is something that looks a little bit like a pilot episode for a new show on the WB, resulting in a film that is rather forgettable. There are some positive aspects to this movie – both Jaimie Murray and Jadin Harris are quite good – but the whole production is hamstrung by squandered possibilities. The Nanny is not a terrible example of the genre, it does have a couple nice moments with the fae, but clearly the subject matter was somewhat beyond the reach of the filmmaker’s abilities and or budget.