Better Watch Out (2017)

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Critic Consensus: Carried by its charismatic young cast, Better Watch Out is an adorably sinister holiday horror film.

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This holiday season, you may be home, but you're not alone... In this fresh and gleefully twisted spin on home-invasion horror, babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) must defend her young charges (Levi Miller, Ed Oxenbould ) when intruders break into the house one snowy night--or so she thinks.

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Critic Reviews for Better Watch Out

All Critics (57) | Top Critics (10)

Starts out as one kind of unpleasant, then switches gears to a higher level of unearned nastiness.

Oct 6, 2017 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

[Better Watch Out] is a silly-to-serious film that's sure to enter the canon of Christmas movies for people who prefer a bit of arsenic laced into Santa's cookies.

Oct 5, 2017 | Full Review…

If you want to gift yourself a holiday film that decks the halls with blood, this is one to put under the tree.

Oct 5, 2017 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

A consistently surprising and unusually well-acted thriller, which says pertinent things about suburbia, holiday entertainment and toxic masculinity.

Oct 5, 2017 | Full Review…

It's scary and fun, if your idea of fun involves occasional gore and torture, things like that. Plus: Christmas decorations!

Oct 5, 2017 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

Just another depressing, nihilistic horror flick.

Oct 4, 2017 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Better Watch Out

I feel like I've made it clear, in a few reviews now, that I hate kids. Perhaps hate is too strong a word, but I just find most of them annoying and I don't want them anywhere near me if they're being annoying. I've never advocated child abuse, and I never will, as I feel that kids will, naturally, do stupid and/or say stupid things because they're kids, and I've always felt that it's incorrect to hit your child because they do or say something stupid. Some people might say that that might discipline or correct their behavior, but if your first response to hit your kid whenever they do something stupid or you disapprove of, then you probably shouldn't be a parent in the first place. There's a reason you're the adult there and you should act like it. With that said, however, there's another thing entirely when the kid in question is a murderous psychopath, then you're perfectly within your rights to do something about it. That's why I feel that this is the perfect movie for people who hate kids because it proves our point that some of these fuckers are gonna grow up to be murderers. It's the Reefer Madness of our generation, except instead of it being a morality tale against the dangers of Mary Juana, it is a film telling us about the dangers of children and what we can do to stop them. In all seriousness though, I suppose my horror fest also had to include the home invasion thriller (which I forgot) even though, in this case, it's more of an inverse home invasion, given that the villain of the movie, Luke, lives in the house where the majority of the events take place. And, on top of that, it also works as an evil kid horror movie which, as some of you may know, is my least favorite horror subgenre. The reason I say this is that, at the very least, a good chunk of these movies actually attempt to make the kid in question scary, by attempting to look mean or whatever. And, honestly, it just doesn't work, because kids naturally just aren't that scary. There's only a few movies, in my opinion, where this has worked. The Omen is one of them. The Exorcist, mostly because of the incredible make-up and the intense possession scenes. Let The Right One In, because the girl in that movie was effectively creepy and detached. Those are the three that come to mind immediately, but I'm sure there's others that I'm just missing at the moment. I guess you could add this movie onto that list. The reason I say this is that this is not a movie where Luke, a 12-year-old boy, is possessed by a demon or another supernatural being and he attempts to act scary by looking mean. I say this because, in my opinion, while this is still a horror movie through and through, its world and the characters within it feel believable. Like 'real-life' turned up to 11. I mean there's obvious issues with this, but there's something believable about this. Because psychopaths start to show these tendencies very early on. It's just that Luke, in this case, decided to act on his tendencies in a more extreme manner. And, to top it all off, Levi Miller, who plays Luke, is tremendous in this movie. I remember reading someone tweet about how great the actor who played Joffrey on Game of Thrones was. The reason this person said this (and I wish I could remember who it was, but it might have been Scott Weinberg) was something along the lines as to how difficult it has to be to make someone that young (though Jack Gleeson was six years older at the time of Joffrey's death than Levi Miller is right now) that completely and utterly loathsome and not have it feel like a caricature. The movie certainly has its comedic moments, but one thins is for sure and that is that the writing and Levi Miller's performance make sure that you take the character very seriously. I gotta say, and this is not even something that I'm gonna hold against the movie, because no one should blame the movie for what the marketing team (ie: not the actual filmmakers) put out as a trailer. I thought this was gonna be 'kid' version of You're Next. Where the home invaders themselves turn out being the hunted when the person they're trying to rob ends up being deadlier than them. Yet this movie was something entirely different. And I mean that in the most complimentary of ways, since I genuinely wasn't expecting what I got. I certainly knew that Luke was gonna be a little psychopathic, but I felt that it was gonna be more like something went off when put into this situation, where a group of strangers invade his home and threaten his life and the life of the babysitter, his crush. But nope, it's nothing like that. The film starts out normally, as if it was an normal home invasion. Halfway or so through the film, it is revealed that Luke and his only friend, Garrett, set everything up in order for Luke to 'protect' Ashley, the babysitter, from the invaders in order to impress her, maybe, get a piece of DAT ASS. Ashley finds out the truth and she, obviously, chastises Luke for his stupid stunt. Luke, however, doesn't take this rejection well and he slaps Ashley, causing her to fall down the stairs. Basically, you could say, that this is when the movie really begins. I'm not gonna sit here and say that, outside of it being a child doing the...holding people hostage, physically attacking them and, later, murdering some of them, that there's here that's all that different from the normal home invasion movie. There really isn't. Again, it is fresh enough take given that Luke is such an interesting character, but the home invasion stuff isn't exactly out of this world. I do think, however, that the movie is held together thanks in large part to the fact that, surprisingly, this is a character-driven movie. What I mean by that is that while the movie is certainly about Luke's psychopathy pushed to the extreme, it's also about the relationships between each character. Between Luke and Ashley. Between Ashley and her boyfriend. Between Luke and Garrett and how Garrett allows himself to be used and manipulated for Luke's purposes. Hell, it's even about Luke and his relationship with his mother, who appears for, like, 10% of the movie. In the end, it's all about Luke, feeling that his mother just stopped holding him, and him wanting to feel his mother's embrace again. Yes, Luke ***SPOILER ALERT*** held his babysitter hostage, killed her boyfriend, her ex, Garrett and Ashley (or so he believed) and then he set up the scene to frame Ashley's ex all to feel his mother's comforting embrace again. That's some fucked up Oedipal shit going on here. So, psychologically speaking, this is a movie that has more on its mind than meets the eye. Because who knows how much of this psychopathy was brought on by his mother. Of course not to say that she's to blame for this, but it's interesting to explore. And yet, for some reason or another, I never felt that this was anything more than just a good movie. I don't know why it was, but it wasn't what I would call a very good movie. It's very good at being good, if that makes sense, but it doesn't take that next step in my opinion. The script is good and the cast is great, but there's something that's missing and I can't quite put my finger on it. That's not to say that you shouldn't watch this because, again, I would say that this was still quite a good movie, it's just not great. I don't really know what else to say about this, though. Levi Miller is tremendous here and the movie has some pleasant surprises up its sleeves in spite of adherence to the home invasion thriller blueprint. Casting a kid as the villain is new, yes, but the content of invasion itself is exactly the same. Regardless, I would still recommend this and, in spite of not giving it a higher rating, this is the second best movie I've seen in this October horror fest.

Jesse Ortega
Jesse Ortega

Super Reviewer

Better Watch Out is a dark and twisted take on the classic John Hughes style holiday comedy. While Ashley is babysitting a home intruder breaks in and stalks her, but things soon take an unexpected twist and become more deadly and disturbing than she first thought. Olivia DeJonge and Levi Miller both give strong performances. Miller in particular makes for a really interesting villain; a psychotic Ferris Bueller who's ten steps ahead of everyone and is able to roll with unexpected complications. The violence is surprisingly graphic, yet kind of has a satiric edge to it. Still, at times it does tend to get a little overly cruel and mean spirited. While it pushes the envelope a bit too far at times, Better Watch Out is devilishly entertaining with a wicked sense of humor.

Dann Michalski
Dann Michalski

Super Reviewer

½

To be perfectly honest, it's very rare that a film is able to keep a secret from its audience without them guessing it earlier. Nearly everything has been done numerous times throughout cinema, so the element of surprise is sadly lost throughout the majority of film these days. Better Watch Out is a film that finds a way to differentiate itself from the predictable, becoming one of the most enjoyable horror films I've seen in a while. Although I'm going to pretty much praise this movie from start to finish, it's not for everyone. In fact, this movie will probably only please a very small audience, so this is going to dive into the movie itself and what makes it good, rather than gushing about how awesome it may be, which will inevitably let quite a few people down. Here are my thoughts on why Better Watch Out is a great addition to the horror genre, and why many viewers should be wary before viewing. We've seen films about kids who think their babysitters are beautiful and have an insanely large crush on them. It makes for some good comedy, so I'm surprised that more films haven't used that as a plot point, but that's not really what this movie is about. Quite honestly, the plot itself is a spoiler, so I'll keep it simple by saying that young Luke is left home alone with his babysitter and before you know it, everything you think you know is false and things really start to hit the fan quickly. Better Watch Out maintains a pace that will satisfy many viewers, but the plot of this movie will most likely anger certain audience members. I found myself cringing at certain elements, wondering how I could possibly be enjoying what was unfolding in front of my eyes, but this movie is made in such a way that just ends up being applaudable. Most people who view horror films are ready for anything, or at least should be. In terms of restricted horror movies, you should be well aware that there will be some scenes involving some pretty risqué scenery. From children swearing, to visible murder, Better Watch Out (although very restrained) goes for quite a few gutsy actions. Like all horror films, you should be ready for anything, but in terms of what's shown on-screen, this movie really doesn't overdo it in terms of gore. There are films that rely on gore to sell the movie, but Better Watch Out only shows it when the story requires it to, which was a nice change of pace in comparison with the majority of horror films nowadays. With the combination of restrained gore and the addition of solid cast, I can see horror fans getting a kick out of this movie. Starring Olivia DeJonge and Levi Miller, these to performers played off of each other in a fantastic way. I found myself believing most of everything they were saying to each other, even if there are admittedly some pretty cheesy lines of dialogue (but I think that was intentional). Levi Miller's portrayal of Luke is something that will always annoy me because the character himself is crazy, to say the least. Although these two leads were great, the standout to me was Ed Oxenbould. The best friend of Luke and the much more mature one of the two young boys, his character is truly the one to connect to when having to follow these lead characters. This film is strange when it comes to its characters though, because the ones you truly care about are the ones that hardly get any screen time. I don't think I've said that about another movie all year, so at least it went for something different. In the end, Better Watch Out is a little too cheeky to be called a horror classic in the years to come, but I can see a cult following for this film continuously building through the years. I had a blast watching this movie from start to finish. You may hate yourself for sitting through certain things and just having to be okay with it, but this is something very different than anything that a mainstream horror film would have the guts to do. If you're up for anything and can follow characters whether or not you have to accept that they're either good or bad people, then I can't recommend this movie enough. It's a fun watch on either Halloween or Christmas, so that's another plus. This is a really solid horror flick that goes from zero to ten in a matter of seconds and it's a great result as a final product.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

HAPPY HANEKE - My Review of BETTER WATCH OUT (2 Stars) Having been born a Jew, I'm no expert on Christmas. Hell, I'm no expert on anything Jewish either, having never studied or practiced the religion I was born into, so don't count on my expertise when it comes to holiday themed films. I've never been a fan of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE or MIRACLE ON 34th STREET. The sound of sleigh bells and the red/green color combo send me on a retreat to the nearest deli for anything on rye, and I'm a bad Jew! My love for these movies begins and end with A CHRISTMAS STORY, because, well...leg lamps and frozen tongues. Now, the home invasion thriller...that's a genre I can really get behind. Nothing chills me to the bone more than a person standing outside a door in the middle of the night (THE STRANGERS), a blind woman facing off against intruders (WAIT UNTIL DARK), or two polite teens slowly but surely terrorizing a family (FUNNY GAMES). That last one, by the great Michael Haneke, turned this type of film on its ears, commenting on the audience's participation in violence and subverting its expectations. Enter BETTER WATCH OUT, a Christmas thriller, from director Chris Peckover and co-writer Zack Kahn, which aims to subvert the genre with its unlikely marriage of HOME ALONE to FUNNY GAMES. Twelve-year-old Luke (Levi Miller from PAN) gets left at home for the evening by his parents (fun cameos by Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton). His cute, smart babysitter, Ashley (Olivia DeJonge of THE VISIT) will take care of him, but Luke has such a crush on Ashley that goes far beyond "watching Netflix and chill". Egged on by his best friend Garrett (a scene-stealing Ed Oxenbould), Luke intends to put the moves on his prey, who's five years his senior. Like any popular young woman, Ashley barely knows Luke's alive as she tends to her phone with texts and calls from her boyfriend and her ex. She's an astute multi-tacker and a pretty good critical thinker. As Luke starts to put the moves on Ashley, an intruder disrupts his plans, leading to a night of terror. I won't spoil what comes next, because this film has a pretty great twist, showing it has more on its mind than strangers disrupting suburban bliss. BETTER WATCH OUT explores smug male entitlement, even as early as a scene where Warburton puts the moves on the babysitter. From there we get male rage, male sociopathy, and male...well, males are just bad if you haven't heard! We ruin everything! For me, however, BETTER WATCH OUT, for all of its ambitions, doesn't quite land. Maybe because it feels like FUNNY GAMES without the true sense of dread. It feels more like a genre exercise rather than a singular triumph. As the tension mounts, our main characters talk and scream too much for people who are trying to hide from a killer. Peckover clearly loves film and knows his jump scares and creep-outs. It's swiftly moving, twisty-turny, colorful, violent, and wickedly fun at times. It makes you question everything that's good and wholesome about the holidays, but its shiny tone keeps you from feeling the impact when things get bloody. Luke comes across as an even more enterprising main character than little Kevin McAllister as he sets one life-threatening booby trap after another, but in the end, it all feels a tad toothless. I kept wanting the post-twist footage to look darker and grittier, but Peckover maintains the same overfit palette throughout. It's almost like a Hallmark movie with a body count. A shot of blood mixing together with yellow paint got a laugh, because it looks like catsup and mustard instead of the real thing. The film looks like it was shot in a studio (which it was, in Australia), giving it a similar gloss to that of KRAMPUS. It's intentional and entertaining, but I didn't feel the dread as I did with FUNNY GAMES. It's Soundstage Realness. Had he instead opted for true terror in an increasingly real-looking environment, the filmmakers would have had a solid Holiday horror classic on its hands. Instead, it's going to please fans of the genre, but it's not going to make the list that I check twice. It has all the elements of an effective thriller, and it truly is trying to say something about the male ego, but it just didn't get under my skin. I'm probably just a Bitter Betty here, and I fully expect to be called a Scrooge. To that I say, "Bah humbug off my lawn!"

Glenn Gaylord
Glenn Gaylord

Super Reviewer

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