Cinema Review: Better Watch Out | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, October 26th, 2020  

Better Watch Out

Studio: Well Go USA
Directed by Chris Peckover

Oct 05, 2017 Web Exclusive
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It’s hard to dive into the devilishly clever Better Watch Out simply because the strength of the film is how little you know about it going in. While it’s by no means anything new or ground-breaking to the Horror-Christmas genre, it’s incredibly fun and surprisingly shocking to watch. As the story sets you up with the basic horror conventions from the babysitter in peril to horny teens obsessing about sex, Better Watch Out continually subverts expectations by distorting the line between holiday glee and unsettling terror. Fans of genre classics such as Gremlins and Black Christmas will be delighted to add this to their list of holiday viewings. Much like a present, it’s best to not spoil the surprise wrapped within this cheerful slasher.

The plot itself reads like a basic home invasion thriller with our babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) trying to keep herself and the young, love-lorn Luke (Levi Miller) safe when unwelcome intruders break into house during the holidays. Chris Peckover and Zack Kahn’s script manages to give these characters just enough screen time within the first half of the film before all hell breaks loose. With a strong cast of young teenagers (Ed Oxenbould charms as Zack’s loyal best friend Jeremy), the turn of events creates genuine fear as the audience begins to understand the dire nature of this unpredictable situation. Ashley’s genuine dumbfounded behaviour and scrappy survivalist instincts create an interesting foil for our sadistic villain who under estimates not only her intelligence, but her resourcefulness.

What appears to be just a prank gone wrong quickly develops into something much more sinister. As current and ex-boyfriends begin to be lured into the snow-globe home, Peckover manages to find balance between cartoonish and grim all while maintaining the family-friendly aesthetic. While the film briefly ventures into dangerous territory by taking itself a bit too seriously at our halfway point, it manages to quickly find it’s footing again, opting for a kitschy tone. Although it contains nods to Christmas classics like Home Alone, be warned that what follows is a rather grim outcome for one of our players.

I’ll stop here as this really is a film that benefits from the audience going in only knowing the bare bones of the story. Not only does Better Watch Out defy expectations, but it surpasses them. Peckover’s direction doesn’t rely on genre clichés such as jump scares or strangers behind dark corners, but creates tension and sadistic cheer all within the confines of the brightly lit, glossy Christmas suburban home. The stylistic choices of having all the horror unfold in the home adds to the tension as it breaks conventions by showing that even traditionally safe spaces can’t provide shelter.

While audiences might struggle to suspend disbelief with the brains vs. brawn villain of this story, as it’s a big character to pull off in the 89min runtime, Better Watch Out is still frightening and wickedly entertaining to watch unravel. 

Author rating: 7.5/10

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Average reader rating: 10/10


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