Eh. Chris Peckover’s Better Watch Out tried hard. It really did. It’s not bad at all, but it comes up short as the “instant holiday classic home-invasion movie” that I’ve seen it being described as. What I would describe as a slightly-better-than-mediocre cross between Home Alone and Funny Games, Better Watch Out is a story about two douchebag preteen boys (Levi Miller and Ed Oxenbould) who are trying to get the weirdo, precocious boy of the pair Luke (Levi Miller) hooked up with their cute babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) that is a few years older than them- (why do middle school-aged boys need a babysitter to begin with?)– when they begin to suspect they are being targeted by home invaders…or so they think (*insert eyeroll emoji*).
I had heard and read mediocre-to-positive reviews, so I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece necessarily, but I was very curious about the so-called “twist” that other reviewers kept discussing about within the film. A genuine twist in a horror film (that you really don’t see coming) is hard to come by, so I was truly interested in seeing what all the fuss was about. Unfortunately for me, I guessed correctly the aforementioned “twist” about 5 minutes into watching, and within 30 minutes into the movie, I was proven correct. Nothing shocking or spectacular here.
Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I knew essentially nothing about it- the plot, the character archetypes, the “home invasion” aspect of it…and ESPECIALLY, if I hadn’t watched the trailer. Ugh. If you haven’t already seen it, and you want to actually be shocked at the “twist,” DON’T WATCH THE GODDAMN REDBAND TRAILER. I saw the redband trailer and had my suspicions, especially when creepy kid Luke is shown holding a baseball bat covered in blood, and smiles at the other kid while he says, “Isn’t this fun?”
Another marketing eff-up on the studio’s part: Watch Out is being marketed as a horror-comedy, which I would have to disagree with. Aside from a few quips from Ed Oxenbould’s character as the stereotypical, smartass, “best friend” role, there isn’t much to laugh at here- it’s just a fucked up Christmas horror movie that shows children doing ridiculous things. Scream is a horror-comedy, if you want to call it that. So is The Cabin in the Woods. Hell, so is Gremlins! But I didn’t find myself laughing at Better Watch Out much at all; I mostly just cringed…cringed at the behavior of these two asshole boys, as well as cringed at Levi Miller’s acting. Without giving too much away yet, his character Luke had the most layers, and I didn’t think this kid actor totally delivered on his part. He was decent, but not as great as he could have been in this role. You also may recognize Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould from M. Night Shyamalan’s 2015 film The Visit, where they played the two charismatic siblings that visit their grandparents on a trip that goes awry. To be honest, I thought these two had a lot more interesting roles and way more to work with in The Visit than Better Watch Out (that’s not their faults though.)
Spoilers from here on out:
For those who have seen this already, as we saw, the big “twist” is that, approximately 30 minutes into the movie, we find out that there were no “intruders” after all during this “home invasion”– it was the two douchebag boys scheming to make babysitter Ashley “wet” by scaring her into the arms of creepy kid Luke who has a crush on her (insert eyeroll emoji again). Within the first 5 minutes of the film, we see the two boys in Luke’s room talking about how horror movies, and how scaring girls in general, “make girls wet” and that they had to “stick to the plan” in order to fulfill Luke’s fantasy about Ashley taking his little, creepy virginity. I’m pretty sure anyone with half a brain could suspect that all the “home invasion” hijinks that kept happening during the first half hour were planned by children. No self-respecting adult criminal is going to grab a lawn rock and write “U leave, U die” on it before making their way into a huge, gorgeous house to rob- they’re just going to go in there and get the job done. We find out that creepy kid Luke is actually a bonafide preteen psychopath, and he has concocted this entire, elaborate Home Alone-esque scheme- which includes calling over Ashley’s current boyfriend and her ex, to kill them with flying paint buckets and ropes and pulleys and such- because he’s so messed up in the head, that he actually believes 18-year-old (or so) Ashley will jump into his arms, and he’ll get away scot-free with all this criminal shit he is pulling during this doomed evening.
The question is, is Better Watch Out worth watching? Yes, it’s worth one watch. I rented it on Amazon.com for $1, and I would not have been pleased if I had spent a penny more than that. I do give it credit- this film really does try to do something a little different- but the problem is, it is too blatantly obvious about its attempted differences, to the point where you can pretty much guess where it is going very early on into the plot. The marketing/advertising team should be fired, because it gave half the damn movie away in the trailer, as well as marketing it as something that it kinda is, but kinda isn’t. The movies that it so obviously gained inspiration from, Home Alone and Funny Games, did this shit before, and quite frankly, they did it better than this. It’s not very memorable, and I would be shocked if you liked it THAT MUCH to make it one of your annual holiday-horror movie staples. But alas, that’s just my opinion!