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Better Watch Out (FrightFest 2017)

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Better Watch Out

Better Watch OutStarring Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, Ed Oxenbould, Patrick Warburton, Virginia Madsen

Directed by Chris Peckover


Well the weather outside is frightful… but inside, things are even worse in Chris Peckover’s Christmas-themed shocker Better Watch Out.

Tasked with babysitting local teen, Luke (Miller), while his parents go out for dinner, Ashley (DeJonge) winds up having the worst night of her life when the home comes under siege by an unknown invader. Joined by Luke’s smart-mouthed best friend Garrett (Oxenbould), the trio attempt to figure a way out of the situation – but not everything is as it seems, and in a startlingly unexpected turn the night is flipped entirely on its head.

The less you know about Better Watch Out going in, the better. In setting up what appears to be standard home invasion fare, director Peckover does a superb job of slowly pulling the wool over the audience’s eyes – focusing on Luke’s hilariously immature attempts at being a bad boy so he can woo Ashley.

Considering himself old enough to begin a romantic entanglement, Luke is determined to make a success of this last shot before Ashley moves out of the neighbourhood. Unfortunately for him, different concerns quickly take over the frame before the night goes to hell, and his perspective switches completely. For such a young actor, Miller is nothing short of remarkable in what he manages to pull off as Better Watch Out becomes more and more twisted with each revelation.

DeJonge excels as Ashley, too, managing to switch from protector to victim to determined survivor as she’s put through the wringer. Matching the twists and turns is Oxenbould, whose initially cheeky and carefree demeanour is gradually picked apart by ever darker tests of conscience and grit.

The film looks excellent – crisp visuals and plenty of holiday atmosphere abound – and Peckover does a sterling job of generating tension once the horror gets under way. He also isn’t afraid to shy away from some truly brutal shocks, not just for the audience, but for his characters too – yet his sense of restraint is admirable, with sparse but effective gore placed second to suggestion and emotional impact.

Better Watch Out is smart, funny, superbly constructed and undeniably nasty in places – though it’s unlikely to become perennial Christmas viewing owing to the fact that once its secrets are revealed, the impact will be inescapably lessened on repeat viewings.

But don’t let that stop you from giving it the attention it deserves.

A quick shout-out should go to Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton in their small roles as Luke’s parents. The latter player is especially entertaining as the Christmas-loving father, a certain tie-based gag early on helping to get the audience’s guard down before the unpleasantness begins.

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User Rating 3.47 (17 votes)

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