Better Watch Out
Dir. Chris Peckover (2016) A babysitter must defend a young boy from intruders, but she quickly discovers this isn’t your everyday home invasion.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Dark comedy is oh-so-hard to do, especially when you decide to do a horror-themed remake of a John Hughes classic like Home Alone. And yet, writer Zach Kahn and writer/director Chris Peckover decided to do just that with their holiday-themed film Better Watch Out, one of my favorite Christmas horror films that I unfortunately didn’t get around to watching until last year. While I won’t give anything way with this review (because this is a movie that’s better left unspoiled and is also legitimately surprising), this is one that is well worth a watch for anyone who is into horror, comedy, or Christmas movies.
There are some legitimate scares throughout, with much of the movie playing to the standard home invasion tropes popularized by movies like The Strangers and other classics of the genre. There’s also plenty of Christmas festivity, inserting the film firmly into the Christmas horror genre. However, it subverts of these expectations expertly, flexing the impressive casting of Levi Miller and his surprising talent to create an incredibly memorable film that will have you talking for days afterwards. It’s disturbing, running the risk of turning a bit too dark before pulling itself back from the brink by using humor and a love for yuletide imagery. Most of all, though, it’s smart, covering all its bases while continuing to surprise its audience well into the third act. Peckover and cinematographer Carl Robertson do a phenomenal job of framing the film, providing shot-after-shot of scenes that seem to tell a specific story (and often one that we’ve seen a hundred times before) before delivering an about face for the ages after the first act. It’s exceptionally rare that a film surprises me, but I can honestly say that I did not see this one coming. To call Levi Miller’s performance incredible would be an understatement, a tour-de-force by a young actor who you’re going to be seeing a lot more from in the future. DeJonge is great as well, and even Ed Oxenbould, who plays Luke’s friend Garrett and also co-starred with DeJonge in The Visit, does a fantastic job with his role. When the dust settles, the loose ends are wrapped up, everything that initially may seem unrealistic is explained, and Peckover’s Christmas horror film becomes destined to be a cult classic. Check it out.
Who this movie is for: Horror comedy lovers, Holiday horror fans, Bottom line: There are hundreds of Christmas horror movies, but few have the lasting impact on its audience as Better Watch Out. In what is bound to become a holiday classic, Peckover has made a fantastic film that is a delight for the horror audience and turns the home invasion genre on its head. If you haven’t seen it before, I urge you to check it out on Shudder this holiday season. This is yet another entry that will find its way into your Christmas movie rotation. Give it a watch today, and check out our interview with director Chris Peckover!