Robert (Patrick Warburton) and Deandra (Virginia Madsen) are heading out to a Christmas party but still think that their 12-year-old son Luke (Levi Miller) needs a babysitter. Instead of protesting that he's about to be thirteen and can stay on his own; Luke who has had a crush on his babysitter Ashley (Olivia Dejonge) since he was eight sees this as a chance to declare his feelings for the 17 year old. Besides Ashley is moving away making this his last opportunity to make his move. Luke spectacled best friend Garrett (Ed Oxenbould) is in on the plan to scare Ashley. Luke could then act like the hero and save her that in the pre teens eyes will have Ashley fall into his arms.
However, strange noises start to be heard at the house, doors that were closed appear to open on their own and a brick comes hurtling through an upstairs window. A pizza arrives without being ordered then Luke and Ashley are faced with a masked man sporting a shotgun doing a room to room search of the house.
Director Chris Peckhover who confesses a love for John Hughes films in general and Home Alone in particularly decides to take that wholesome Christmas time feeling and turn it on its ear. He has mixed the mid-western feel of a Hughes film with the unexpected killer twists of Scream to create a real player in the home invasion horror market. Pack on top of this that the events occur at Christmas time gives the film potential of regular views each holiday season.
Levi Miller has a lot to do as Luke. He's a tween split between the desire to be seen as a grown up but still wanting to have the best parts of being a kid. His pal Garrett makes fun of his fetus noise machine that he uses every night to fall asleep. He has recently started sleepwalking that is a concern for his mom. But he tries to impress Ashley by popping and guzzling out of a bottle of champagne then pledges to protect her from the intruder rummaging around upstairs. Olivia Dejonge has a very physical role to handle as Ashley. She is the main target of the killer. Has to deal with her fear of Spiders on more than one occasion while still trying to assert her authority as the babysitter as events spiral out of control. Patrick Warburton and Virginia Madsen shine in their limited scenes as Luke's parents. They have a great exchange discussion Roberts gay icon Christmas ornaments that Deandra will not allow on the tree. Warburton flirts openly with Ashley as he shows off his Christmas ties over the scolding from his wife and her request that he not embarrass her again tonight as he did last year.
Better Watch Out is a strong new entry into the home invasion horror market. The Christmas time setting will give the production extra appeal. Peckhover's film has the violent acts but although the outcome is clear the majority of the moments of truth take place off camera. The narrative has a critical moment part way through that takes the story in a different and unforeseen direction making the viewer want to go back for a rematch to link together all of the clues in the first act that set up the turn. It's suspenseful, scary horror film with a signature killing and several slices of humour mixed in making it one that I can definitely recommend.
*** 1/2 Out of 4.
Better Watch Out | Chris Peckover | Australia / U.S.A. | 2017 | 85 Minutes.
Tags: Christmas, Carolers, Babysitter, Pizza Deliver, Intruder, Sleepwalking, Shot Gun, Tripwire, Paint Can, Suicide Note.