Tag-Line: “You might be home but are not home alone.”
Release Date: 2016.
Director: Chris Peckover.
Producers: Shane Abbess, Lorenzo De Maio and Steven Matusko.
Written By: Zack Kahn and Chris Peckover.
Cast: Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, Ed Oxenbould, Aleks Mikic, Dacre Montgomery, Patrick Warburton and Virginia Madsen.
Running Time: 1 hour and 19 minutes.
Horror movies are all about scares that give you the creeps…in a good way. Some like Maniac, The Human Centipede and I Spit on Your Grave are just downright creepy though. Those films make you so uncomfortable that it is usually a good idea to take a long hot shower afterwards to wash away that disturbing and grimy feeling that lingers on after the final credits.
You can now add Better Watch Out to that infamous list of disturbing films that most normal people only watch once out of simple curiosity and then usually immediately regret that they have.
In the review that follows, I will be spoiling the biggest plot twist of the film because it is impossible to discuss what makes Better Watch Out so grungy without doing so.
If you wish, take a powder, check out the film and come back later if you like.
For those of you who are still here, let’s motor on.
Better Watch Out bills itself as a Home Alone parody. Pushing that misbegotten idea home, the tag-line on the movie poster reads: “You might be home but are not home alone”. That though is where any resemblance between Better Watch Out and an actual comedy ends. Coddled mama’s boy Luke (Levi Miller) and nerdy Garrett (Ed Oxenbould) are best friends obsessed with John Hughes’ portrait of child endangerment and parental neglect, especially all of Kevin McCallister’s far-out traps and tricks.
Luke is also infatuated with his babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge). And we are not talking cute, adorable puppy love here. Luke would probably stash a drugged and gagged Ashley in the trunk of his parents’ car and take her to the remote family cabin in the woods if he was old enough to drive, that is.
With Luke’s parents out for a holiday gathering of some sort, Ashley is hired to babysit him. Luke is not on his best behaviour from the start. He insists on watching horror movies so he can try to cuddle close, tries to kiss Ashley, breaks open a bottle of champagne. He is Damien from The Omen.
The rowdy hijinks come to an end though when it appears that someone is stalking Ashley and Luke. Cue the harassing phone calls and shadowy figures in the backyard.
The big twist is that Luke and Garrett have faked the entire scenario Home Alone style in a bid to scare Ashley into seeing Luke as her hero so maybe he can…get some?
Yes, folks. Better Watch Out is the worst courting attempt ever in the history of the free world.
When Ashley rips into the two dopes for being the stupid idiots they are, Luke knocks her out, ties her up and so begins the utter cringefest with Ashley and other innocent victims being terrorized, assaulted and some even murdered by psychopathic Luke and Garrett his reluctant but obedient follower.
Like the legions of Saw imitators that spawned the dreadful torture horror genre in the early 2000’s, Better Watch Out’s only goal is to spew out one unsettling scene after the next with no real method to the madness. At one point, I even began to question why I was wading through this sludge? The best that I could come up with was it is like driving by the scene of an accident. You don’t want to look, you know you shouldn’t look but you just cannot help yourself.
Perhaps the most troubling scene is Luke squeezing Ashley’s breasts while Garrett eggs him on. Ashley is tied to a chair and unable to stop him. There is just something about watching a tween committing assault, murder and sexual assaulting that is creepy and vile.
There comes that word again: CREEPY. But there is no better word to describe Better Watch Out. There’s something creepy about watching kids giggle and laugh as they commit horrific act after horrific act as if they were lighting off fireworks in the school parking lot or gluing someone’s locker door shut.
Although the young cast all do a remarkable job in their roles, the subject matter and tone are so solemn and severe that it is like watching the core cast of a Disney Channel show snap and start gruesomely killing the supporting characters with fiendish glee. There is a reason why besides Children of the Corn, The Bad Seed, Macaulay Culkin’s The Good Son and maybe a handful of others not many of these films have ever been made and that’s because watching kids bully, torture and kill people isn’t a whole lot of fun to watch under any circumstance and neither is Better Watch Out.
Better Watch Out is like that mysterious dish at your company’s Christmas pot luck lunch. Nobody is sure what it is and feels too awkward to ask but all it takes is one polite spoonful and you know you never want to experience that again so you discretely scrape it off your plate and into the trash where it belongs.
Swinging paint can to the face.
Hung in a tree.
Shotgun blast to the chest.
Garrett: She’s, like, twice your age. I really don’t think it’s gonna happen.
Luke: A thousand-and-one uses for duct tape.
Deandra Lerner: Now don’t stay up late and watch scary movies, okay? It’ll give you nightmares again.
Pints of Blood