Director and co-writer Chris Peckover’s sets Better Watch Out up on a quiet, snowy night in an idyllic suburban neighborhood, only to upend it all with thrills and chills to spare. This review will be brief, because there’s a lot of twisted pleasures to be had here and knowing as little as possible will make for a much more effective watch.
“…transitions into its own brand of dark humor and violent flourishes. This movie is never boring.”
We have seen the setting many times before. Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) is asked to babysit 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller) and his friend Garrett (Ed Oxenbould), while Luke’s parents (Patrick Warburton and Virginia Madsen) are out one night. Ashley is glad to help out – she has been watching Luke for years – but is a bit distracted with her some boyfriend drama. Luke, just shy of 13, has himself convinced he is madly in love with Ashley and now that he is almost a teenager, decides to let her know how he really feels. Luke’s plans are thwarted when the house is intruded upon by a shotgun-wielding stranger.
And this is where we stop talking about Better Watch Out.
As the film opens, Peckover and co-writer Zack Kahn have fun playing with genre tropes without ever making their movie feel like a retread. As the movie progresses, the screenplay transitions into its own brand of dark humor and violent flourishes. This movie is never boring.
“Director and co-writer Chris Peckover’s sets Better Watch Out up on a quiet, snowy night in an idyllic suburban neighborhood, only to upend it all with thrills and chills to spare.”
The young cast are all great, particularly Miller, coming off the disastrous Pan a few years ago. Hidden behind a squeaky voice and skinny jeans, Miller finds a balance of childlike innocence and balances it with a dash of privilege. If Pan put him on the map and got him this job, then one good thing came from that otherwise painful movie.
Now that we are entrenched in fall movie season, it’s never too early for the first Christmas movie. Better Watch Out is receiving a limited theatrical release, as well as a video on demand run, so gather some friends and enjoy this dark, delightfully nasty lump of coal.
Better Watch Out (2017) Directed by Chris Peckover. Written by Chris Peckover and Zack Kahn. Starring Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, Ed Oxenbould, Patrick Warburton and Virginia Madsen.