Better Watch Out review: Making a bloody mess of Christmas
This delightfully nasty and entertaining take on Home Alone is a seasonal gift
Olivia DeJonge in Better Watch Out
Film Title: Better Watch Out
Director: Chris Peckover
Starring: Levi Miller, Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Patrick Warburton, Virginia Madsen, Dacre Montgomery
Running Time: 89 min
In keeping with the same fruitful, demented genre that gifted us Black Christmas, Rare Exports, and the Silent Night, Deadly Night sequence, Better Watch Out is a delightfully nasty seasonal inversion, replete with carollers, decorations, themed jumpers and booze. And more, besides.
Chris Peckover’s cunning Christmas horror seemingly traps 12-year-old Lukas (Levi Miller) and his 17-year-old baby-sitter, Ashley (The Visit’s Olivia DeJonge) in a home invasion movie, only to transform into a pleasingly zeitgeisty dissection of male entitlement. The film was originally called Safe Neighbourhood; a better title might have been It Came From Friendzone.
And the night starts so well, too. It’s the Christmas holidays and Lukas’ ghastly squabbling parents (Warburton and Madsen, having a ball) head out to a dinner party, leaving Lukas, his geeky best pal Garrett (Ed Oxenbould, title star of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) and Ashley to mind the palatial, suburban residence. Ashley is the kind of indulgent, cool minder who will allow her changes to take swigs of alcohol.
Lukas, it transpires, has certain ludicrous expectations of the evening. His creepy pre-adolescent overtures are met with a swift and bemused response. And that’s when they find the brick with a note attached: “Leave and U die”.
Director and co-writer Peckover switches quickly between ratcheting tensions, sinister motivations and the most reliable tropes of contemporary horror (disabled phones and Wifi, gullible boyfriends). Miller, the former star of Pan, is excellent and unnerving as the film increasingly becomes a kind of horny Home Alone. (Stay tuned for a particularly sadistic homage to Macaulay Culkin’s anti-burglar deterrents).
DeJonge brings grit to a character that, on paper, lacks the resourcefulness of the most compelling Final Girls. Dacre Montgomery (Power Rangers, Stranger Things) steals his scene as Ashley’s lunk-headed ex.
It’s no Christmas Evil (the granddaddy of Santa slasher flicks), but the consistently entertaining and queasily decked Better Watch Out definitely makes our naughty list.