Better Watch Out (2016) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Better Watch Out (2016) Review

Horrorific content by jessicagomez on December 25th, 2021 | Movie Review | Home Invasion, Survival, Christmas, Christmas Thriller

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When a teenager takes her final babysitting job, she’s thrust into a nightmare home invasion with a strange twist.

Have you ever watched Home Alone and thought, this would be cool if Kevin McCallister went a bit further and actually killed some people? Chris Peckover clearly did when he gifted us Better Watch Out, a warped home invasion film where things aren’t quite as they seem. Starring Olivia DeJonge (from The Visit), Levi MillerPatrick Warburton (from Bad Milo) and Virginia Madsen (from The Haunting).

You might be home but you're not alone

Better Watch Out Review

Seventeen-year-old Ashley is moving to a new town during the holidays. She takes one final babysitting job for mature but delusional 12-year-old Luke, who has been pining for her and sees this as his final chance to make his move. Luke’s loser stoner friend Garrett doesn’t think he has a chance, but he’s ultimately a follower desperate for friends, and follows Luke’s lead as he attempts to prove he can be a knight in shining armor.

Virginia Madsen returns to horror in a small role as Luke’s mom, and Patrick Warburton is as always a goofball as Luke’s dad. Though there’s an underlying comedic element, everyone in this movie is creepy, including Luke’s parents. It started to lean into babysitter porn vibes between the lingering parents and the sex-obsessed preteens, but the notion is quickly abandoned for a more nefarious plot when the parents leave for the night, and Ashley and Luke must defend themselves against home invaders with an agenda.

The Home Alone references are rife, and there are plenty of Black Christmas homages - it’s holiday horror, after all - and a sprinkle of When A Stranger Calls, but the film takes its own unusual, psychopathic turns. First, a pizza guy conspicuously shows up even though Ashley forgot to order it - very House of the Devil - though this doesn’t serve the plot and feels like a loose end. Then we’ve got some calls that hang up, and a few meta occurrences, such as Ashley and Luke running to the attic to evade intruders when Ashley just made fun of it in a horror movie they were watching. I like meta references, but this wasn’t as well executed as the likes of Scream, and seemed a bit derivative at times. Then in the second act there’s a twist, if you can call it that, because there were plenty of clues. Then there’s a second twist, so to speak, when what seems to be the original plan devolves into something else entirely, revealing the true nature of one of the characters. The males in the film read like horny, possessive Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future - can any of them be trusted? Who is smart enough to figure out how to get out of this mess?

Acting from all parties was spot on, and made you root for people who otherwise weren’t very likeable. The kill scenes had true horror at heart, and the acts themselves were pretty gnarly and even gut-wrenching - but shied away from showing actual death. I’m not a fan of gore but it felt like a lot got left on the cutting room floor in order to sell it in the mainstream, which seemed like an interesting choice given that the subject matter was unconventional and at times could be upsetting.

Worth Watching?

Better Watch Out is veritable Christmas horror without including any mythology, and it was fun at times, while other times felt bleak. Much like the predicament of the characters, when you think you’ve got it figured out, you don’t. It’s not going to scare you, but it’s probably enough to creep you out. Happy holidays!

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