‘Better Watch Out’ Review: Dir. Chris Peckover [Alternative Christmas]

Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) should be packing for her imminent move, but puts it to one side in order to babysit 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller) one last time. His parents (Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton) are off to a Christmas Party and Luke sees this as an opportunity to finally profess his love for Ashley. However, all plans of seduction are thrown out of the window when a brick comes through the window reading ‘You Leave, You Die’. As Ashley fights  to keep herself and Luke safe, it soon becomes clear that this isn’t your typical home invasion.

DeJonge is brilliant as heroine Ashley, she’s a strong and powerful female that will not breakdown for her captors. She retains her fiery nature throughout, and in no way shape or form, can she be classed as a victim. A character that really uses her brain, she is the version of the final girl that you can really get behind. Brilliant as she may be, Better Watch Out belongs to Levi Miller. His character goes on an incredible journey, and Miller does a phenomenal job with the role. When we first meet Luke he’s a timid creature, all hunched shoulders and mumbling words. As the story progresses he becomes stronger, more daring. He stands straighter, taller, his physicality completely morphing. It’s amazing to see someone so young able to play a part so intricate so perfectly.

There’s a lot of darkness within Better Watch Out, think Funny Games and you get an idea, yet the film doesn’t feel heavy. There’s a lot of fun to be found; an odd amount of humour to relieve the tension. Things could all too easy have gone down the torture porn route, but Peckover sidesteps the issue and alleviates the darkness with some much needed light. This is achieved through setting the story at Christmas. The Christmas setting adds a quirky kitsch vibe that slices through the tension. The holiday isn’t rammed down your throat though. It may be a horror film set at Christmas, but, as with all the truly great Christmas films (Die Hard, Gremlins, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), it acts as a backdrop to the story, rather than being the focus of the story. This is not a Christmas horror film, just a horrible story that happens to take place during the holidays.

Better Watch Out, without wishing to give away too much, really isn’t your usual genre film. Director Chris Peckover takes the typical tropes of the home invasion film and flips them all, the result is a film filled with surprises. No small feat within this particular genre. A Christmas-set twisted thriller that keeps you guessing, Better Watch Out is a future stand-out. Fun, frightening and festive, add this to your ‘to watch out for’ list now.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Better Watch Out is available to own on Digital HD and DVD now.

This review first appeared on THN.