Perhaps it’s hypocritical, but whereas I’m totally against stores putting out Christmas merchandise before Halloween, I’m all for horror movies that center around the Yuletide holiday. I tend to enjoy Christmas horror films, and while Better Watch Out isn’t the greatest gift under the tree, it makes for one hell of a stocking stuffer.
Playing like a cross between Home Alone and Funny Games, Better Watch Out centers around Luke, a 12-year-old kid who’s head over heels for his babysitter, Ashley. When Luke, Ashley, and Garrett- Luke’s best friend- become the targets of a home invasion, Ashley is revealed to be the victim of a particularly twisted scenario.
I’ve been dying to see this film since the incredible red band trailer was released, and after checking out the actual movie, I admire the trailer even more. Though the red band footage painted a clear picture in regard to the tone and certain aspects of the film that we should expect, it didn’t divulge a few demented details that allowed Better Watch Out to truly become something special. While I won’t get into spoilers, I’ll note that I was genuinely surprised by a certain plot thread.
This film is a blast from start to finish. Director Chris Peckover has crafted a film that revels in sick joy and demented humor, and fans of that horror brand will be talking about Better Watch Out for quite some time. Though some of the credit for that belongs to the moments of situational horror and uncomfortable comedy (the paint can scene from Home Alone gets a realistic update), the majority of it goes to the tremendous cast at Peckover’s disposal.
Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould reunite as Ashley and Garrett after starring as brother and sister in M. Night Shyamalan‘s The Visit. To discuss their characters would be too close to spoiler territory, so I’ll simply say that both were great here. Levi Miller, who stars as Luke, is especially noteworthy, as the actor seems to be having a blast with the sadistic elements of the character. Veteran actors Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton also appear in the film as Luke’s parents, who hilariously clash over the Christmas holiday near the beginning of the film, and both are fantastic in their limited screen time.
There aren’t many flaws in Better Watch Out that are worth mentioning, save for one detail that stood out to me throughout the first half of Peckover’s film. There are several instances of the dialogue being pretty bad and coming across totally forced. Though that becomes a non-issue in the latter half of the film, it’s painfully obvious in the moments of normalcy. There are times, too, that the tonal shifts can be a bit jarring, but for the most part, they are balanced well.
I had high hopes for Better Watch Out, and the Christmas horror flick managed to exceed those expectations. While it certainly won’t win over non-genre fans, horror aficionados will definitely want to add the film to their holiday collection.
Better Watch Out is now available to rent on VOD.