Better Watch Out (also known as Safe Neighbourhood) is a 2017 horror film directed by Chris Peckover. Starring Levi Miller, Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould, what starts off as a familiar & solid enough Christmas slasher turns into a fun, silly horror romp with gleeful amounts of gore.
17-year-old Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) is babysitting 12-year old Luke (Levi Miller). She is every teenage babysitter ever, a walking cliché of boyfriends & ignorance towards the odd-behaviour of Luke. Odd in the sense that he won’t stop trying to hit on her. She initially plays it off as silly fun but as the night goes on he becomes more uncontrollable made worse by the arrival of Garrett (Ed Oxenbould), Luke’s friend.
That becomes less of an issue though when strange things start to happen & brick is found with the words ‘Leave and U die’ written on it. Garrett goes outside to check & is seemingly shot & killed forcing Ashley & Luke to hide.
It’s here that Ashley sees a masked person walking around the house with a shotgun.
At this stage of the movie it’s hard to be too invested as it plays off like a standard slasher/home invasion horror. The best that can be said is that the acting is quality & the movie looks great, really Christmassy.
However just when you think you know where the movie is headed it takes a sharp left turn. Ashley recognises the mask & realises that it’s Garrett underneath it. She confronts him, rips it off revealing that both him & Luke were in cahoots. The plan being for them to scare Ashley & Luke to rescue her resulting in her ‘rewarding’ him.
She is furious…obviously & makes sure Luke knows exactly what she thinks of him. Enraged, he hits her knocking her down the stairs. When she wakes up, she is bound & gagged in a chair.
Luke wants to play a game now.
Better Watch Out takes its time to get going but when it does it’s a very well thought out movie. One that is lifted to greatness thanks to the excellent acting & many inventive takes on classic Christmas stuff. One that really stands out is the recreation of the swinging paint pot scene from Home Alone, an utterly horrific moment in the movie.
Luke is such a little shit. A kid that thinks he is far older then he is. He talks in such condescending tones, constantly teasing Ashley while ordering Garrett around. He is a psychopath & the moments where he loses his cool shows the true kid inside. Levi Miller is a revelation, incredibly watchable, creating a character that you desperately want to see get his comeuppance.
Once in peril, Olivia DeJonge as Ashley really comes into her own. Her defiance makes her instantly more appealing then she was during the first third of the movie. She plays off Levi Miller so well, with a lot of their scenes really upping the tension & leaving you with an uncomfortable feeling.
While Ed Oxenbould’s Garrett is great as the unwilling accomplice who ends up desperately wanting a way out when it’s far too late.
Better Watch Out delivers on most fronts. When the gore does fly it’s brutal & extremely graphic but never stops being realistic. The film captures the holiday season feel thanks to the snow outside & the overly decorated house.
Even the ending is very satisfying & will leave you with a wry smile. It’s just a pity that the first 20-30 minutes are so ‘nothing’ even if it is used to set up the rest of the film.
One of the finest Christmas horrors out there, definitely check it out…just stick with it.
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Better Watch Out
The Final Score - 8/10