Ter­ror, ten­sion and tasty twists

Strathearn Herald - - THE TICKET -

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

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