Better Watch Out follows a 13-year old and his babysitter on a December evening around the holidays. When an intruder makes himself known, the two attempt to avoid the burglar as he makes his way through the house. But there may be more to this odd home invasion than meets the eye.
Better Watch Out Review
Perhaps the best way to review Better Watch Out is to mention the movies it reminds me of. There is a fine line between homage/satire and riding coattails, but Better Watch Out falls on the side of effective reverence than the latter. The movies it recalls, whether purposefully or incidentally, make for a great blend of black comedy/horror entertainment. It works well here, and the movie list tells the story best:
The Babysitter - The recent Netflix horror comedy, which was grossly praised by us, shares some similarities in tone and approach with Better Watch Out. Movies have a knack for coming in pairs, and I would consider these two a bit of a pair, even though they're a "year" apart. The black comedy and hot babysitter dynamic play out in opposite directions at times, but the value of entertainment provided by both is of the higher quality.
Home Alone - More of a direct reference in the script on multiple occasions, this film has its moments of satirizing one of Christmas' most endearing family films. Our lead has his qualms with the 90's classic, and while demonstrating his discontent with its realism gives us the best sequence in the film. Better Watch Out, in some ways, is what Home Alone would've been like with a little more realistic physics and a more disturbed Macaulay Culkin. Speaking of Culkin...
The Good Son/We Need to Talk About Kevin - It's important to appreciate the disturbingly effective performance of Levi Miller as the lead in Better Watch Out. In many ways it reminded me of the underrated role Culkin played in The Good Son. The inherently violent and sociopathic behavior that is beneath a meek, humbled facade is exactly what you picture out of a budding serial killer.
Funny Games/Knock Knock - Funny Games and Knock Knock are emotionally charged and intense while the bound victims are tortured in countless ways. Some of Better Watch Out follows this formula, feeding off the fear of being confined and forced to endure whatever their captor decides. Funny Games is the penultimate of this concept and is not undone here, but it was my first thought during a couple of sequences in this film.
Elephant/Zero Day - These two films seem like an odd choice to recall while watching a black comedy Christmas movie, but there's something to be said towards the commentary surrounding the dynamic between Levi Miller's Luke and Ed Oxenbould's Garrett. As the events of the evening escalate, the caste of Luke and Garrett's friendship is exposed. It reminded me of the dynamic that was thoroughly examined between the two Columbine shooters. This element isn't put to comedic effect here. This portion of the film comes across more as a warning to the way a subservient personality can become attached to and manipulated by a sociopathic, malevolent force that provides a false confidence. It's a portion of the film that is worth exploring in its own right.
From the hilarious to the horrific to the introspective, Better Watch Out crosses a broader spectrum of the genre than did The Babysitter. It had brief moments of mayhem, levity and brutality, but it blended together into a cohesive tale that was equal parts superficially entertaining and engagingly pensive. It was worth the watch.
Horror Qualifier: 7/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 6/10