New this week in select theaters, On Demand, and digital download from Well GO USA Entertainment!
aka SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD
Directed by Chris Peckover
Written by Zack Kahn (screenplay & story), Chris Peckover (screenplay)
Starring Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, Ed Oxenbould, Virginia Madsen, Patrick Warburton, Dacre Montgomery, Aleks Mikic, Tara Jade Borg, Brendan Clearkin, Tricia Mary Hennessy
Find out more about this film @betterwatchoutmovie and on Facebook here
Christmas comes a little early this year in one of the best yuletide horror films you’re going to catch this year and most every year with BETTER WATCH OUT, which toured the festival circuit as SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD.
The less one knows about this film going in, the more you’re going to enjoy it as BETTER WATCH OUT is at its best when it plays with expectations of what has come before it. The film at first seems like a John Hughes style film with a pair of oblivious but likable bickering parents in Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton going out for a Christmas Party and leaving their 12 year old son Luke (Levi Miller) with a 17 year old babysitter Ashley (THE VISIT’s Olivia DeJonge). Luke has a huge crush on Ashley and with Ashley getting ready to move to another city over the holiday, he sees tonight as his last chance to profess his love for her. Along for the ride is lovable third wheel Garrett (Ed Oxenbould also from THE VISIT), bumbling around and providing comic relief and a distraction for Luke to have alone time with Ashley. The thing is, Ashley already has a boyfriend and an ex waiting in the wings, so when things start going bump in the night while Ashley and Luke watch horror movies, we are lead to believe that one of them is stalking her. I won’t go into any more details but everything you know about family Christmas movies is turned over and spanked from here on out.
BETTER WATCH OUT takes Amblin, where lovable, yet swearing and scampy kids are put into peril to a whole ‘nother messed up level. This film goes places one would never expect and part of the fun is seeing this demented shit happen in what starts out seeming like a typical Christmas fun-time movie. The comedy is spot on in the beginning, with kids doing the darndest things, but as soon as shit starts going sideways, the comedy continues, yet takes on a much darker tone. In both phases of this film, the comedy works as I found myself laughing and wincing all at once at the calamities that befall all of those in the house. This is a funny film to the core, but funny in the darkest, blackest sense.
All of the acting involved it top tier with Olivia DeJonge the true standout as Ashley. The stuff she has to go against in this film is physically and mentally challenging and we are on her shoulder the whole way through experiencing every surprise with her. Levi Miller is also quite good here as Luke who plays a pretty complex character with different levels by the end of this film. While his voice squeaks when he gets riled up, it’s fitting for his character who is forced to grow up before his time with the events that unfold in the house. And Ed Oxenbould who’s rap performance in THE VISIT ruined his character for me, has much more sense in his comic timing here and when things get serious, he does a great job as well. These three kids carry the film and while kid actors often make me wince, the innocence, likability, and depth these actors exude is what makes this movie work so well.
BETTER WATCH OUT hits the ground running with non-stop humor and interesting situations. Once the hammer drops and you understand what kind of film this is, it takes on a whole other dark tone. It captures the somewhat real life family dynamic of a John Hughes and takes it into a whole other realm of disaster as the dominoes fall. Again, I’m being vague on purpose with BETTER WATCH OUT. Go in knowing nothing and you’ll laugh and be shocked as much as I was. Christmas has a new classic horror movie in BETTER WATCH OUT!