Review: Better Watch Out puts a yuletide twist on the home invasion genre.

So the synopsis for this film is somewhat misleading. That’s not a terrible thing altogether as the synopsis was your standard “home invasion horror” set up. What you actually get with Better Watch Out is something closer to American Psycho or Nightcrawler.

Synopsis: “On a quiet suburban street, a babysitter must defend a twelve-year-old boy from intruders, only to discover it’s far from a normal home invasion.”

From here on out there’s going to be a lot of plot details that will probably spoil the movie for some, so if you’re already considering watching this one just stop reading now.

Normally in these kinds of movies it’s pretty straight-forward. Some babysitter has to defend the kids in her charge from some psychotic attacker. The home invasion genre has been done to death but there are a couple of movies (The Purge, Hush) that have added an extra dimension to it. With Better Watch Out, director Chris Peckover turned the soon-to-be-slaughtered lamb into a petulant, sociopathic, killer wolf. Instead of defending his home against an invading killer, it turns out this kid (Luke) is the invading killer. He sets the whole thing up to try and make himself look more mature and heroic in hopes he will “score” with babysitter (and longtime crush) Ashley.

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Levi Miller in Better Watch Out

It’s basically a really psychotic version of “nice guy syndrome” and throws in a jab at the hackneyed damsel in distress nonsense as well. When his plan to trick her is exposed he goes from what we thought was a “misguided teen” into a full-on Patrick Bateman fantasy (but IRL) replete with murderous glee. Luke manipulates his best friend, tortures both Ashley and her ex’s and orchestrates an entire murder/suicide coverstory to leave him absolved of any wrong-doing.

In short, he’s one sick puppy.

Both Levi Miller (Luke) and Olivia DeJonge (Ashley) play the cat-and-mouse game unfolding within Better Watch Out with performances that sometimes plays into and sometimes subverts the traditional roles established in this genre. At times Luke is cold, methodical and calculating and then flips into spoiled, brattish pre-teen mode. The contrast plays with the modern trend that sociopathic killers are also “cool guys” – there is no anti-hero or bad ass behind those morally devoid eyes, just a pouting child who wants his way.

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Ashley in Better Watch Out.

It takes Ashley a while to become a strong enough affront to Luke’s barbarity. As the night unfolds her many foiled attempts at escape or retaliation showcase that she’s no push over, but also completely outmatched by Luke’s level of preparedness for the evening. When she finally devises a way to get the better of him it is…not as satisfying for the audience as one would expect. We spend a great deal of time seeing how smart, clever, sadistic Luke truly is, but when the moment of comeuppance is upon us – it lacks the fulfilling symmetry you’d expect for the level of hate the film builds up for the antagonist. We get 90 minutes establishing this kid is the most annoying, whiny, psychotic 1%’er ever and you want to see him get flayed (literally and figuratively) and the resolution is more of an “oh…ah-ha…” moment.

On the one hand, it does fit with the film’s attempt at subverting the genre – wherein the villain is usually dispatched via vigilante justice (a much more cinematic and viscerally gratifying conclusion) but the route the film does take for its moment of comeuppance feels a bit underwhelming in that we don’t actually see the villain get his just desserts. The reckoning is implied and in a film that spent so much time and energy depicting the viciousness of the killer to leave the moment of retribution unseen makes the story feel somewhat unfinished. The ending, which will be frustrating to some viewers, doesn’t undo this brutal, darkly comic and clever take on the home invasion genre but it does leave you wondering if they purposefully did this in hopes of getting a sequel.

Check out Better Watch Out and let us know what you thought on Twitter @Official_FAN