Terror, tension and tasty twists
Better Watch Out (15) Another week, another Christmas movie – but we’re a world away from The Man Who Invented Christmas here.
A horror tinged with a sprinkling of comedy, Better Watch Out tells the story of babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) and her efforts to protect 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller) from aggressive intruders.
Coming across like a mix between Black Christmas and Home Alone, Chris Peckover’s second movie – following on from little-seen 2010 horror Undocumented – is a pleasant, nasty little surprise.
A riot from start to finish, it’s one of the finest festive-themed fright flicks to hit cinemas in a long time.
The script, co-penned by Peckover and debut movie scribe Zack Kahn, is clever and unpredictable as it takes us off in several unexpected directions.
The less you know going in the better as Better Watch Out is more than just your typical home invasion movie.
Rarely has a horror scream queen been put through quite as much as DeJonge suffers throughout this delightfully devilish 90 minutes.
The Australian, best known for her turn in The Visit, is more than up to the task as she embodies Ashley with the requisite amount of bravery, determination and survival instincts.
Miller (Pan) does fine work in a challenging role and Ed Oxenbould (Garrett), Aleks Mikic (Ricky) and Stranger Things’ Dacre Montgomery ( Jeremy) all put in eye-catching performances as hugely different personalities crucial to the development of the story.
All of the predominately young cast have charisma to burn and really embrace the absurdity of the situations they find themselves in, without harming the credibility of the film’s propensity to shock and scare.
Events unfold in real time which lends a sense of urgency and the tight framing and locations really emphasise how trapped our antagonists are.
A lot of familiar horror tropes are trotted out, but Peckover plays with our expectations and keeps two or three steps ahead of his audience.
His movie won’t be for everyone, though. It’s very mean-spirited and the violence makes what Macaulay Culkin put Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern through in the Home Alone flicks look like a walk in the park.
And while there are jump scares and lots of uneasy moments, the outrageousness of several plot elements mean fans of truly terrifying horror may be left feeling a little disappointed.
But it all comes together for a sizzling finale that gives every character a fitting send-off – and drops a tiny hint at the potential for more to come.
Better Watch Out 2, then? Quite possibly, however it’s hard to see how any sequel could match this creepy Christmas cracker’s originality and demented twists and turns.
Festive fears Miller and DeJonge come under attack