Better Watch Out finds high school student Ashley preparing to move of town in a couple of days. She takes a babysitting gig to distract herself from the harsh reality of the eminent relocation. But when Ashley and her charge realize they are the victims of a violent home invasion, all bets are off and she must fight with all of her strength if she’s to stand a chance of surviving the night.
The film deftly juxtaposes the magic of the Christmas season with ultra violence in a smart and understated way. Much of the carnage occurs off camera and thus tricks the audience into thinking they are seeing more than they actually are. The film isn’t devoid of the red stuff, but director Chris Peckover (Undocumented) certainly knows how to use it for maximum effect, without inundating the viewer or cheapening the experience.
Better Watch Out is an intelligent film that plays with the viewer’s expectations. Peckover sets the stage for a standard home invasion film and promptly subverts audience expectations by delivering something even more sinister than what we’d initially bargained for. To say anything more than that would be a disservice to potential viewers.
One of the things I really dug about Better Watch Out was its depiction of a strong and capable female lead. Yes, Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) is a woman in peril. But only in the sense that she’s trapped in a horror movie. She makes intelligent decisions and holds her own against an unhinged adversary. Ashley is resourceful and intelligent. She uses her surroundings to her advantage and refuses to succumb to defeat without a hell of a fight.
This is really a character driven film all around. The three leads are all smartly scripted and three-dimensional. We understand (to some extent) why they act the way they do and why they make the decisions they make. Levi Miller is brilliant as Luke. His performance is multifaceted and truly fascinating.
It’s interesting to see Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould re-team. The pair previously played siblings in The Visit. They have a definite familiarity but I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t something you could see with all of the members of the cast.
Better Watch Out is a low budget film that doesn’t feel particularly low budget. The set design and the production values are reminiscent of a far more expensive outing. Chris Peckover has really impressed me with his latest effort and I’m left curious as to what he will do next. For a second opinion on the film, be sure to check out Joey Keogh’s take right here.
The home video release isn’t particularly rife with special features but it does contain a great behind-the-scenes featurette that is well worth delving into after you’ve watched the film. You can pick up Better Watch Out on Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack starting today. And I would strongly suggest doing so. This film is not to be missed.
WICKED RATING: 8/10
Director(s): Chris Peckover
Writer(s): Chris Peckover, Zack Kahn
Stars: Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, Patrick Warburton, Dacre Montgomery
Release: December 5, 2017 (Home Video)
Studio/ Production Co: Storm Vision Entertainment
Length: 85 minutes
Sub-Genre: Christmas horror