Christmas came early in Montreal as “Better Watch Out” made its Canadian premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Chris Peckover, having written and directed “Undocumented” (2010), jumps into his second big director’s role, having also co-written “Better Watch Out” with Zack Kahn, and oh boy do they form a dynamic duo. You will NOT be disappointed by this film.
Luke (Levi Miller; “Pan,” Red Dog: True Blue,” “Jasper Jones”) is in love with his babysitter, Ashley (Olivia DeJonge; M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Visit,” “Scare Campaign,” “The Sisterhood of Night”), as were most us when we were young boys, overflowing with hormones. As he confesses to his best friend, Garrett (Ed Oxenbould; also starring in “The Visit,” “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” “Julian”): tonight is the night he’s gonna attempt to get physical with the older girl. Against his companion’s advice, Luke is determined to go forward with his plan, and as soon as his parents have exited the house for a night out, he begins to drink champagne and offers to watch a movie to sit as closely as he can to his crush. Unfortunately for him, a dangerous individual is attempting to get into the home, threatening their lives, and his “date night” is about to take a whole different turn.
To say too much about “Better Watch Out” would be ruining it, but what I can tell you is that Chris Peckover and Zack Kahn worked up a delightful scenario. Sprinkled with twists and turns, glazed with laugh-out-loud dialogue, and garnished with suspense that you could cut with a knife like a yule log (see what I did there?), the script could not have been written better. From opening to end credits, you will be entertained for various reasons; some less predictable than others.
On his own, Chris Peckover also does an incredible job at directing. Gripping camera angles, riveting moments of insecurity, sometimes innovative, sometimes violent kills, and a murder scene that could only be described as a hardcore version of “Home Alone” prove that Mr. Peckover’s directing is very promising for the future of horror cinema.
Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould are back together in another feature film after “The Visit,” in which I adored their interpretation of sister and brother. They, in addition to the young Levi Miller, perform brilliantly well as the main youthful trio. Furthermore, they are well supported with a cast including Patrick Warburton (“Ted,” “Family Guy’s” Joe Swanson, CBS’ “Rules of Engagement”), Virginia Madsen (“Candyman,” “The Number 23,” “The Haunting in Connecticut”), and Dacre Montgomery (2017 remake of “Power Rangers,” “Stranger Things”) who all play (too) brief, but delicious, roles. Speaking of acting, my only blemish on the film are the minor performance details of one of the main actors/actress (not telling you who, though; might give something away). Although this individual did perform beautifully, there was just a little ‘je-ne-sais-quoi’ missing to really make me believe the intensity that should’ve been demonstrated by this character. Being such an important character in the scenario, that slight flaw did cost half a star in my overall grading of this otherwise fantastic movie.
So deck the halls, lock the doors, and arm yourself with something sharp or firepowered, because “Better Watch Out” will definitely stay in your mind as a charmingly, unexpectedly entertaining film that’ll have you second-guessing your knowledge about the typical “home invasion” genre. I reward it with 4 stars out of 5.