Chris Peckover’s “Better Watch Out” is absolutely nothing like I thought it’d be. That might be a criticism by some when the movie makes its way to VOD this year, but walking in to it blind, I was stunned to find something different but still rather entertaining. “Better Watch Out” just might end up being a Christmas classic somewhere down the road, as it’s a pitch black comedy, and unusual horror thriller that derives great pleasure in its sheer sadism. I’m not usually a fan of horror movies filled with such a mean streak, but “Better Watch Out” is shockingly clever, and very slick in how it builds up its villain slowly and makes the menace in the movie more and more terrifying.
Although the unlikely villain is someone that could be outmatched physically, it’d be a tough sell beating them intellectually, which makes them oh so much more menacing the more “Better Watch Out” develops. Originally known as “Safe Neighborhood,” Chris Peckover’s thriller is a small but great genre entry that centers on a young babysitter named Ashley. Ashley is brilliantly played by Olivia DeJonge, who is tasked with babysitting young Luke for Christmas night. Luke is a rebellious twelve year old who has had a huge crush on Ashley for years, and takes the opportunity to try to confess his feelings for her. Ashley however is resistant, especially as she finds herself dealing with a difficult boyfriend who is calling her repeatedly on the phone.
Director Chris Peckover really plays with audience expectations and derives tension very well, especially when Ashley realizes someone is stalking the house. After repeatedly finding the back door open and hearing strange noises, Ashley realizes someone is trying to break in to the house. It’s now up to her to protect Luke, who is still quite insistent on confessing his love to her. “Better Watch Out” is just such a great horror thriller completely out of left field and it’s one I’m so hesitant to spoil for audiences. It’s very tough to discuss the movie without completely giving away the entire narrative, but suffice to stay, the film is remarkably twisted, and even uses the element of “Home Alone” as a sick turn of events. The performances all around are spectacular, especially by Levi Miller who presents a memorable turn as young Luke.
Miller is just a storm of personality and develops well over the course of the movie. Meanwhile Olivia DeJonge is fantastic as babysitter Ashley thrust in to a pretty unusual situation and has no idea how to comprehend this insanity. There’s even a great supporting performance from Ed Oxenbould who re-unites with DeJonge (They co-starred in “The Visit”), as well as great walk ons by Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton. “Better Watch Out” is easily the surprise of the year, it’s a twisted black as coal horror comedy and one I hope fans discover when it’s made accessible. Avoid spoilers, avoid trailers, and go in to “Better Watch Out” completely blind. You’ll thank me later.
Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.
In theaters and On Demand October 6th.