As I got caught up watching Season 2 of The Mandalorian and working on football picks, I fell asleep at the wheel with the advent calendar. So, for anyone that was relying on me for nightly movie recommendations, my apologies. Since Home Alone was about a home invasion scenario, this is a good place to switch gears and get back to the Christmas-horror genre with Better Watch Out.
Directed by Chris Peckover
Written By Chris Peckover and Zack Kahn
Starring: Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, and Ed Oxenbould
Taking the adolescent/teenage babysitter adventure and mixing it with home invasion horror, a regular evening of babysitting turns into a fight for survival. Right when you think you have it pinned down, the intensity ratchets up and things get flipped upside down. In a world where so many stories get recycled, it was nice to see a fresh take on an old idea.
Chris Peckover did a great job pacing and parceling out the fear elements in the story. The script he wrote with Zack Kahn doesn’t take itself too seriously and is keenly self-aware, but it’s that acknowledgment that allows the movie to be scary in its own unique way. It’s not the edge-of-your-seat, white-knuckler that some its slasher compatriots aim to be but that’s not trying to be that either. There’s a very dark sense of humor that permeates the script and provides its unique identity.
Olivia DeJonge stars as the babysitter, Ashley, who’s tasked with watching over the adolescent boy who’s predictably in love with her. She’s good in the lead but it’s Levi Miller as the boy, Luke, who gives the standout performance. There’s a lot of levels to his portrayal, mostly in the final ⅔ of the movie and it wasn’t easy to pull them all off. Ed Oxenbould also does a nice job as the extra-dorky friend. Between the three of them, they brought much more to the experience than I anticipated.
There are many different colors on the spectrum of Xmas horror and Better Watch Out managed to find a distinct hue among them. I should add that this movie also has an awesome soundtrack. You can stream it right now on Shudder, Tubi, Crackle, and Amazon or rent it through video-on-demand services.
Don’t forget to lock the doors & Happy Holidays!