Films like Better Watch Out certainly like to make my job harder. They are difficult to review because of all the twists and turns and not wanting to spoil the experience for the viewer. I assume the reason why you are here though, is looking to find out if this film is worth your time and money. I’ll keep spoilers to a minimum, but if you totally want to abstain scroll down to the final thoughts which will be spoiler free. Also I’ll recommend not viewing the trailer. While it doesn’t give everything away, you’ll see a lot of scenes which are better in natural context.
Better Watch Out is an Australian horror comedy that hit the festival circuits last year, it was originally titled Safe Neighborhood. It reconnects Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould who played siblings in M. Night’s The Visit. Throw in some Levi Miller, best known for big budget bomb Pan and you have an interesting cast of up and coming Australian actors. The acting is one of the strongest points of the film, minus some Aussie accent slippages throughout.
The film follows Luke (Miller) a 12 year old who still requires a babysitter. His parents Patrick Warburton (if you don’t know the name of face, you know his voice) and Virginia Madsen hire 17 year old Ashley (DeJonge). She has been babysitting Luke for years, but will be moving away in two days. Luke schemes with his friend Garrett (Oxenbould) about how he can seduce Ashley and make her swoon on their last night together. They eat pizza and watch a horror movie that of course advises not to do certain things when a murderer is afoot. Of course, when strange things start happening and an intruder appears, they forget that advice.
Who can these mysterious intruders be? Maybe one of Ashley’s exes or even the current boyfriend who she has been fighting with? The film has the marketing of being an “R” rated home alone. I can see why they would go that route since the film has many homages to the classic. However many savvy horror enthusiasts will figure out the early twist before it happens. Slight spoilers from here on out. Young Luke has concocted a plan to scare Ashley with his cohort Garrett and take advantage of her, since she will never truly love him. The fun part about this film is seeing what parts Luke has planned out and what he does when things don’t go accordingly.
The tension brought out between Luke and Garrett was well done. As we learn that Luke always wanted to get more extreme while Garrett thought this was only going to be a simple “roofie” job. The dynamic between everyone really sold the movie. The kills were fun and added some extra flavor. The “R” rating has to be mostly for language, because there wasn’t really much gore at all. Some horror fans will be disappointed in that aspect. One of the kills not only happens off-screen, but then the body is shown multiple times. Each time the audiences view is obstructed by something. I wouldn’t have minded the off-screen kill but the teasing afterwards was no fun.
Just one other thing I’d like to note is the cinematography. Carl Robertson is the one listed and I haven’t seen any of his other work, but I might keep an eye out. With horror films oftentimes not getting the budget I feel the production aspects sometimes take a back seat. With Better Watch Out, I was pleasantly surprised by a lot of interesting framing shots and camera work. I think it actually gave more emotion to many of the scenes and increased the audience reaction.
Better Watch Out Final Thoughts 4/5
I went in blind to Better Watch Out and am somewhat glad I did. I didn’t touch much on the comedy aspect above because that can be so subjective. The film had many of the audience laughing throughout. Plus, many of the people clapped at the end; so take that for what it is worth. This film has some interesting characters, solid acting, and great camera work. It is not quite the extreme Home Alone as portrayed, but fun nonetheless. I can even see this as having some fun replay value even after knowing the twist. I think many will add to their yearly holiday horror rotation. It is still out in limited theaters, for those not near one, luckily the Blu-ray comes out next week. You can pre-order on Amazon and it comes with a nice shiny slipcover for those of us that like them.