Better Watch Out is a little gem available on Amazon Prime for a buck to rent that I decided to try out on Christmas day. With the marketing material, it would seem that this would be the perfect new horror movie to watch on the holiday, but it is a bit misleading. Aside from the house being decked out with Christmas decorations, and a slight bit of tension with some outside decorations falling at an inopportune moment, it doesn’t live up to it’s Christmas scene. Which is disappointing but not terrible because the film still delivers.
When you press play you’ll think you’re just watching a babysitter home invasion film. Reminiscent of the great urban legend, while even poking fun at some of the best slashers in the genre like Halloween and Scream. In a moment you have our protagonist Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) asking the perp outside how many fingers she’s holding up (it was the number of the bird). Another you have her and this babysat (Luke, a 12-year-old sporting a major boner for his sitter who is “only 5 years older than me!”) cowering in a closet. But then, things change from typical home intruder film.
SPOILERS to follow, it’ll be impossible to review without the twist that happens about 20 minutes in.
As we have Ashley and Luke (Levi Miller) trembling in a closet, you see the dawn of realization on Ashley’s face, she bursts out of the door yelling at the intruder to take off his facemask. Beneath it, happens to be Luke’s best friend (introduced earlier), Garrett (Ed Oxenbound). (Quick side note, Oxenbound, and DeJonge had been paired up previous “invasion” movie The Visit.)
At the beginning of the film, Luke speaks about his “plan” to seduce his babysitter to Garrett. At the time we are under the impression that it is just to drink booze and watch a scary movie together. When he tries to plant one on her, she totally rejects him in a blissful moment of true awkwardness. Turns out, he had a plan with Garrett to create a fake home invasion scenario to show Ashley that he isn’t a child and that he can save her in a high-tension situation. After Ashley finds him out, she and Garrett soon find out that Luke had much more than a small home invasion plot set out for the night.
I won’t get into more detail about that because then the whole film would be pointless for you to watch. But I think, in this case, I’ve divulged just enough to pique your interest in taking the time to watch this little indie horror film.
What makes this film stand out amongst other invasion and evasive films is the character of Luke. At the beginning, you believe he is part of team protagonist, a shy little boy who has eyes for only Ashley and at the end of the movie he is nothing but. It’s almost like watching the young years of Norman Bates, Kevin McCallister, and Princess Morbucks combined together. In true Generation Z fashion, the kid manipulates himself to get whatever he wants. He plans the whole night out to make him the only “man” Ashley needs. His logic and capableness are what makes this film stand out and resound with you. The scariness doesn’t come from the jump scares or fear of being prey in your own (or neighbor’s) home. It comes from seeing Hanniable before he becomes a cannibal. It comes from seeing Kevin McCallister as a teenager who thinks’s he deserves what he wants no matter what before he morphs into Jigsaw. (It’s a fan theory and a sick one.) It’s seeing a smarter Princess Morbucks with a mother who says yes no matter what because she fears her not because she’s avoiding a tantrum. It’s seeing Norman Bates as Generation Z with a flare of home traps instead of a kitchen knifes.
The movie is damn scary. But not for the reasons you expected. Which is why you should check it out, but maybe not just for Christmas time, it would be a great film all winter long.
SLEEPER HIT RATING: 4 out of 5 attentive eyes.