BETTER WATCH OUT! (2016)
Director: Chris Peckover
Writers: Zack Kahn, Chris Peckover
Stars: Levi Miller, Olivia DeJonge, Ex Oxenbould, Virginia Madsen, Patrick Warburton, Dacre Montgomery
BETTER WATCH OUT!, from director CHRIS PECKOVER, makes it clear from jump: it is NOT here to make your “Yuletide gay.” In fact, it’s about as far from straight (as in ‘straight-and-narrow’) as any effed-up holiday slasher freak-out can get.
Written by ZACK KAHN with Peckover (based on Kahn’s story), BETTER takes cruel delight in tickling your yen for a nice little ’80’s sex comedy throwback, with maybe just a bit of slice-and-dice thrown in, but THEN it pulls off its headband, leotards and knee socks to reveal the monstrously demonic surprises lurking beneath the horny/stupid façade.
Much like the Netflix original movie, THE BABYSITTER, the premise here begins with an uneventful sense of faux-innocence. The Lerners, Robert and Deandra, (hysterical cameos by PATRICK WARBURTON and VIRGINIA MADSEN), are getting ready to go out. Doted-on son Luke (a jaw-dropping performance by LEVI MILLER) is kind of old for a babysitter, but still not old enough in their estimation, we assume, to be trusted to stay in the house alone.
Luke doesn’t really mind at all, though. The babysitter in question, Ashley (OLIVIA DEJONGE), has been looking after Luke for the Lerners practically forever. And unbeknownst to her or her parents, Luke’s raging hormones have somehow convinced his brain, that he and the curvaceous Ashley are about to leave “the babysitter/friend zone” to head for, shall we say, the ‘nether regions’ of their relationship?
All of Luke’s attempts at initiating “l’amour du jour” aren’t just passes that aren’t intercepted by Ashley, but soundly rejected, as any good babysitter would do. It becomes a moot point, anyway, as the ‘festivities’ are interrupted by Luke’s best friend, Garrett (ED OXENBOULD), who increases the “’80’s dork vibe” by about a thousand percent.
But then, things get dark really, really fast, when it appears that a pesky ex-boyfriend of Ashley’s isn’t taking ‘no’ for an answer anymore than Luke is…except now, said ex has decided to go all BLACK CHRISTMAS on her, and anyone who might be standing in the way. Meaning Luke and Garrett.
Or is that what’s really going on?
A helluva possible spoiler to drop here, but one that is absolutely necessary…As far as the twist here goes, and it is a pants-wetter of a left turn – let’s just say that Michael Haneke would be proud. And so would Mervyn LeRoy, for that matter!
Peckover’s taut direction shows that he knows what a gift he’s been given in Kahn’s cleverly devious script, keeping the audience constantly on its toes, as the horror conventions you think are something you recognize, take left turns, fake-outs and sudden dead ends into places you would NEVER think a Christmas-themed horror film would go. In fact, there is one sequence (another mild spoiler here, folks!) – and people who have already seen it can attest to this – that will ruin your impression of HOME ALONE for life. After seeing it, Macaulay Culkin’s antics will never be the same for you again. I guarantee it!
BETTER would make a great companion piece to the very similar MERCY CHRISTMAS, as they both seek to fuck the living shit out of stereotypical Christmas traditions and conventions, and both succeed extremely well! All of the performances here are right on target, with Miller’s (a face not familiar to American viewers, save for a quickie part on SUPERGIRL, and the not-too-well-received remake of A WRINKLE IN TIME) being the best of the lot. And as a special treat (another small spoiler here), STRANGER THINGS’ DACRE MONTGOMERY (Max’s evil stepbrother, Billy) makes an appearance – but don’t worry! I won’t say who he plays here; just that it’s a quick but effective cameo.
All-in-all, BETTER WATCH OUT!, for my taste gets a strong three-out-of-five stars, and then only because I felt like the like-minded MERCY CHRISTMAS rates half a star better for execution (literally). Still, they’d make one hell of a Christmas horror ‘double-feature’…which I think will be in order for the next time the holidays come around!