Starring: Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, Ed Oxenbould
Director: Chris Peckover
Running Time: 89 mins
Better Watch Out is an American film about a babysitter and a teenage boy who find their house under attack at Christmas, although the attackers are not who they expect.
It’s a shame, because Better Watch Out has all the hallmarks of a film that really would have worked had it not been for one key flaw: the attacker himself. A film with a great premise and good twists throughout, not to mention a good, sarcastic sense of holiday cheer, Better Watch Out is an entertaining idea, and has its moments, but it all falls down simply because it’s not a tense and frightening enough thriller, making for a much duller watch than really should have been the case.
The home invasion genre is one of my most unexpected favourites. Although many films that go down the supernatural, horror-oriented route often fall flat, those that keep things simple and thriller-esque are more often than not exceptional watches (take Wait Until Dark, Hush and Gerald’s Game to a lesser extent for examples).
And that’s what disappointed me most about Better Watch Out. It is undoubtedly a thriller-oriented home invasion movie, only moving towards the horror side of the spectrum in some of its more gruesome and bloody moments. However, it’s a film with a great story and a good few twists on the genre that mean it really should have worked just as well as those earlier examples.
At times, it does work to a certain degree. While it’s not a consistently nail-biting thriller, there are moments of great excitement and unpredictability, particularly in the opening and final acts, when so much in the plot gets turned on its head (not to mention the ingenious ending, which perfectly captures all of the movie’s best elements of drama, dark comedy and sheer thrills).
What’s more is that, although it may sound a little clichéd, the sarcastic Christmas setting adds another level of fun. Although Better Watch Out is generally not a comedy movie, its black comedy is heightened by the Christmas setting, and the odd reference to the situation at hand unfolding during the festive season is pretty entertaining to see too.
However, the reason that I just couldn’t grab onto Better Watch Out was because the main villain, the attacker himself, just wasn’t frightening enough. Although the movie starts off in fairly strong fashion as a more serious take on the opening scene of Scream, once we come face-to-face with our attacker, things all take a turn for the worse.
While I liked the idea of the relationship between the attacker and the inhabitants of the house, the performance that the actor gave was so watered-down and simply annoying, rather than the threatening and psychotic madman that should have been, that I really couldn’t feel fully engrossed by the terror unfolding before me.
And that has a huge impact across the whole movie, as the attacker plays a big role in the events inside the house, and yet never manages to bring the dread or threat really necessary to make this an exciting film. Instead, we watch for 90 minutes as a very irritating and unconvincing performance makes all of the supposedly maniacal and psychotic crimes of his just stupid and nasty, failing to portray the true drama properly, which was a real shame.
Overall, I was disappointed by Better Watch Out. It has all the hallmarks of a film that really could have been great, with excellent thrills from time to time and a strongly dark atmosphere, however the performance of the attacker is the nail in the coffin that makes the film a simply dull and often very annoying movie, not the tense and threatening home invasion thriller it was meant to be, which is why I’m giving it a 6.7.