Better Watch Out, 2017
Directed by Chris Peckover
Starring Levi Miller, Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Aleks Mikic, Darcre Montgomery, Patrick Warbuton, Virginia Madsen
On a quiet suburban street, a babysitter must defend a twelve-year-old boy from intruders, only to discover it’s far from a normal home invasion.
You remember that scene in Home Alone where Kevin throws a paint can over the balcony and it smashes Harry and Marv in the face? You know how that has become somewhat of a conversation among film fans as to whether or not it would kill the Wet Bandits rather than knock them down the stairs comically? Well, Better Watch Out begins with that conversation and goes from there. It’s Hardcore Home Alone. A Christmas belter that is sure to become a festive favourite among horror fans.
This is where this writer would usually give you an overview of the plot of Better Watch Out, but the film asks so many questions along the way that you’re better off not knowing anything. However I will give you the elevator pitch: It’s about a kid and his babysitter at Christmas and someone is trying to get in. That sort of makes it sound like an updated version of the Tales From The Crypt story “All Throughout The House”, but trust me it’s more than that.
Olivia DeJonge stars as the cute and innocent babysitter Ashley, who is about to move herself into a new life; removing herself from past relationships and saying goodbye to the people she’s known all her life. Playing a role like Ashley may seem like an easy task – just look pretty be scared – but it really isn’t. DeJonge, however, makes it look effortless. She’s so good in Better Watch Out that if she had been around during the boom of slasher movies during the early 80s and late 90s, she could have been a bonafide scream queen. She is alongside Levi Miller as Luke (killing it in the name department), a typical 13-year old who is in love with his babysitter. “She’s only five years older than me” he says at one point, hoping that this festive evening alone will be one where he pops his cherry. Miller is the possible highlight of the movie, and brings so much to the table it’s almost unnerving. The cast is rounded out brilliantly by Ed Oxenbould as the kid’s best friend Garrett, Aleks Mikic as the douchey boyfriend Ricky and special guest stars Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton as Luke’s parents.
There was question from those attending FrightFest as to whether Better Watch Out actually needed to be set at Christmas or if it was just a gimmick. Like Die Hard, does the season actually tie into the film in any way shape or form? But, unlike Die Hard, Better Watch Out makes use of its seasonal setting. It gives the movie this almost kitchy vibe, with Luke’s parent’s house overly decorated with garish Christmas trash. The contrast of the happiness of Santa and the craziness of the story is actually quite wonderful.
What really sells Better Watch Out is its sharp script by Zack Kahn who weaves this utterly mad and bonkers tale. It’s funny when it needs to be, tense when it wants to be and creepy throughout. There is so much set-up and payoff that will mean repeat viewings will be a lot of fun to pick out all of the subtle winks to the audience. First-time director Chris Peckover shows experience beyond his years, and is definitely a talent to keep and eye on in the future.
To say anything more could ruin the fun of Better Watch Out, so this writer will simply sign off with nothing but praise. A fantastic movie from start to end with great performances, a brilliant script and charming direction. A must-see. Better Watch Out? Better Watch It.
Coming to SHUDDER in Early 2018
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth, the co-host of The Flickering Myth Podcast and the author of Lights, Camera, GAME OVER!: How Video Game Movies Get Made. You can follow him on Twitter @ThisisLukeOwen.