Release: October 6, 2017

Genre: Horror (home invasion)

Director: Chris Peckover

Screenplay: Chris Peckover and Zack Kahn

Starring: Olivia DeJonge as Ashley, Levi Miller as Luke Lerner, Ed Oxenbould as Garrett, Aleks Mikic as Ricky, Dacre Montgomery as Jeremy, Patrick Warburton as Robert Lerner, and Virginia Madsen as Deandra Lerner

Spoiler trelA:Alert reliopS

While babysitting Luke and thwarting his awkward sexual advances, Ashley hears a noise and fears someone may be in the house. They hear a knock on the front door, and it is Luke’s idiot friend Garrett. The three go upstairs to investigate a noise that Ashley heard and find a broken window and a brick lying on the floor emblazoned with the worlds “if you leave, you die.” Garrett attempts to flee and is shot. When Luke and Ashley hear someone trying to get into the house, they go upstairs to grab Mr. Lerner’s pistol. Eventually, they find themselves cowering in the closet hiding from a home masked home invader wielding a shotgun. Ashley notices that the mask he is wearing belongs to Luke and immediately realizes that it is Garrett. Ashley berates Luke for being a creepy, immature twat, so he pushes her down the stairs. When she comes to, she is tied to a chair in the kitchen. Luke forces Ashley, at gun point, to play a game of truth or dare. Ashley’s boyfriend Ricky, with whom she is having a bit of a tiff, shows up to apologize to her. When Luke attempts to get rid of him, he barges his way inside to search for her. After Luke attempts to knock him out with a baseball bat, Ricky gives him the beating his parents clearly should have years ago, but is then forced at gun point to stop by Garrett. Luke knocks out Ricky and ties him to a chair. After some more shenanigans by the prepubescent hostage taker, Ricky’s chair is dragged into the foyer so that Luke can use Ricky to re-enact the paint can scene from Home Alone. This, of course, leads to Ricky’s death. Ashley manages to free herself from her duct tape restraints by using a jagged shard of glass, and she attempts to flee. She is subdued once again and this time restrained with duct tape and christmas lights. Christmas lights, for more…. festive hostage taking. Ashley’s ex boyfriend, Jeremy, who was called over by Luke earlier in the film, arrives. While Luke is outside killing Jeremy and staging it as a suicide, Garrett attempts to free Ashley. Luke witnesses this and flies into a blind rage and shoots Garrett with a shotgun. He then stabs Ashley in the neck, stages the scene and goes upstairs and climbs into bed just as mommy and daddy are arriving home. When the Lerners enter the house and see the scene they call the police. To Luke’s dismay, Ashley is still alive. As he stands in his window starting at her being wheeled into the ambulance, she flips him off. The film ends with a mid credits scene of Luke feigning concern for Ashley to his mother and asking to go to the hospital to see her.

What better way to kick off the home stretch of the holiday season than with a review of a christmas themed horror film? Better Watch Out is an Australian home invasion film set in a nondescript American suburb and starring a mostly Australian cast doing some pretty convincing American accents. If there is one thing I can praise about the film it is the acting. The performances are good pretty much all around, especially Levi Miller as sociopathic spoiled brat Luke. That being said, the film suffers in most other areas. The camera work leaves something to be desired. Whenever a character takes a spill that is supposed to be painful, the camera follows it in such a way that it seems as though it isn’t happening, as if the person in question is simply gingerly lying down for a nap. I think the film makers thought this sort of camera effect was slick and stylish, but it is not. It’s a detriment. Then there is the gore, or rather the distinct lack thereof. Like slasher flicks, home invasion is another sub-genre that really is sold by the gore. It’s a tiny box in terms of story telling and action. Most of the films tend to run together plot wise and so it is up to the visceral moments to set them apart. Unfortunately, the makers of Better Watch Out didn’t get that message. So most of the time when something that should be unsettling is taking place, the camera is pointed elsewhere. Take, for instance, the paint can scene I mentioned in the synopsis. The camera follows the paint can from such an angle that you never see it make contact with Ricky’s head. You’re simply left with Luke giddily exclaiming something to the effect of “dude, did you see that? His head just exploded.” No, I didn’t see it because the film makers didn’t do their job. Garrett’s savage murder at the hands of Luke occurs in such a manner that you don’t actually see anything. No gore, no reactions of revulsion from other characters. Nothing. Even Ashley’s stabbing, the moment the movie has been building to though much of its run time, is depicted in such a way that you don’t really see anything.

What we have here is an instance of talented young actors whose performances are wasted on the source material. There is nothing redeeming about this film. At many points in the film, i found myself thinking that they must have pitched this as “Funny Games, but with teenagers” and I found myself repeatedly thinking about how much I would rather be watching that film. I have just three things to say about this film: skip, skip, skip.

Score: 2/10

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