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Monday, December 24, 2018

Better Watch Out (2016)




The Twelve Days of Christmas horror marathon is winding down and I thought the last couple on the list would be new to me. Better Watch Out was recommended when I started talking about doing this and when I found it on Shudder, I knew it would have to be included.

Christmas is right around the corner and everyone is getting festive, stockings have been hung and decorations setup. We meet Ashley as she is driving and speaking to her Mom on the phone. Her family is moving to Pittsburgh and she should be home packing but is instead going to babysit Luke for the last time. They establish that she has been watching him for years and while he is now almost thirteen, she still sees him as a child. After some hilarious dialogue with the parents, played by Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton, they are left on their own. Things get creepy when Luke tries to “make a move” on Ashley and fails miserably. But that isn’t what the movie is really about.

During the awkward attempts at romance some creepy stuff is happening. Ashley keeps finding the back door open. There are strange noises in the house. A pizza gets delivered when they forgot to order it! Then there are the phone calls where someone is on the other end but refuses to speak. When the pair realize that someone is in the house, they try and call for help, but the phones are dead, and the internet is down! Before you can say Ho Ho Ho there are armed men stalking around the house looking for them. But why? Does it have to do with Ashley’s creepy ex-boyfriend or perhaps her new one that is upset she is moving? Maybe it is Luke’s best friend Garrett who is a bad influence on him and likes to steal medication from Luke’s Mom. Or maybe there is something completely different going on.

Okay it is the last one. Better Watch Out starts off as a home invasion movie and even references Home Alone in a line of dialogue. I was ready for a movie like that and the first third plays out like I expected it too. But then it takes a huge left turn and becomes something completely different. Now I’ve debated whether I should spoil anything here because the absolute best part of Better Watch Out is the WTF moment that happens where everything changes. Normally I’d toss in a spoiler warning and be on my way. That just doesn’t seem adequate here. So I’m going to review the movie without giving anything away. That should be fun…

That duct tape isn't very festive... just sayin'
The acting is solid with our two leads being played by Olivia DeJonge and Levi Miller, Ashley and Luke respectively. They are both young but are very talented. I totally bought the characters and considering how crazy things get that is amazing. While Warburton and Madsen are barely in the movie, they have some killer dialogue and add a lot of humor to the scenes they are in. The story is clever, not only in how it shifts gears and surprises the audience, but also in how well constructed the plot is. Things get crazy, but there is a method to the madness that by the end seems plausible. Speaking of the ending I will say that where I thought it was headed had me a bit pissed off. But then there is one final twist and I was all smiles.

There aren’t many kills in Better Watch Out and what we do get happens off-screen. If you are looking for a body count and lots of gore this isn’t the one for you. I will say that each kill initially seems sort of random, but again there is a plan that makes sense by the time the credits roll. While we only get four kills they are all important to the story and carry some impact, especially the last one.

This is a fun movie that kept my interest. My only concern is that once you have seen it, I don’t know that it warrants a second viewing. This one is all about the story and how clever it is presented that once you know the twists much of the fun is gone. That is why I didn’t go too far in my plot synopsis because I want people to watch and enjoy Better Watch Out like I did. As of the writing of this review it is streaming on Shudder. You can sign up for a month for less than it would cost to rent or purchase a digital copy and you get access to the service for an entire month. Check it out and sign up for Shudder! It is a win win scenario.


© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer



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