Better Watch Out (2016) | Directed by Chris Peckover
Australia | USA | Colour | 89 Minutes
Written by Zack Kahn, Chris Peckover | Starring Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, Ed Oxenbould
A home invasion at Christmas is what I expected when I first heard about this film, but what I watched was different… The home invasion elements are there, and as it’s based during Christmas, it reminded me of Home Alone; the trip-wire outside being an obvious reference. But Better Watch Out is even more disturbing than I imagined; a story about a child obsessed with his babysitter who is planning to leave town after Christmas.
Levi Miller as 12-year-old Luke is the star of the film and flips between a range of emotions at ease. This makes him Luke more unnerving than if he was pure evil. In some scenes, he seems a lost child desperate for attention, but in others, he is a bored millennial causing mayhem for fun. I could never anticipate which way the story was going, even after the massive plot twist that occurs after the first half-hour. Does he just want sex? Is he after revenge, or just friendship? The uncertainty is both a positive and negative; unpredictable but jarring at times.
Horror elements are frequent in Better Watch Out; from spiders and several escape attempts to the dark colour scheme. There’s plenty of jump scares and a healthy splattering of gore too; the tin cans from the landing being one of the most shocking scenes. Most of the characters are believable, if perhaps stereotypical, and the main three – Luke, Garrett (Ed Oxenbould), and Ashely (Olivia DeJonge) – don’t put a foot wrong. However, Ashely’s previous boyfriend, Jeremy (Dacre Montgomery), seems too much of an arsehole to have dated her.
Overall, I’d recommend this well-acted, surprisingly dark horror for Christmas. It’s much more than a home invasion film for sure.