In this fresh and gleefully twisted spin on home-invasion horror, babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) must defend her young charges (Levi Miller, Ed Oxenbould ) when intruders break into the house one snowy night – or so she thinks.
“Better Watch Out” is very misleading in its advertising. It gives the impression that you are about to watch a teenage babysitter and the young kid she is watching for the evening, battle some very scary people who break into the house after the adults are gone. Typically, any of my reviews avoid spoilers as they can sometimes be the best part of a movie but it is practically impossible to do so here because the biggest twist comes early on, and without mentioning it, there is no way to talk about the rest of the film so if you don’t want to know what happens in “Better Watch Out,” stop reading, watch the movie, and then come back.
Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) has been the Lerners’ babysitter for many years but now she is preparing to go to college, out of state, and she agrees to babysit Luke (Levi Miller) one last time, after all, the money will help her with the move. Before Ashley arrives, Luke tells his best friend Garrett (Ed Oxenbould), that he has the hots for Ashley and tonight, he is going to make his big move. Garrett laughs it off, reminding Luke that she is seventeen and he is only twelve. Undeterred, Luke moves forward with his plan.
As soon as Ashley arrives, and Luke’s parents leave for a Christmas party, he tries to make his move on her but she is having none of it. She tells Luke that she likes him, and if she were his age, she would date him but he is underage and she already has a boyfriend. Luke doesn’t take the rejection too well and starts drinking alcohol from his parents’ liquor cabinet. Unimpressed, Ashley takes the bottle from him but then suddenly, a window smashing can be heard. When they see the silhouettes of men standing outside the back door, Ashley grabs Luke and they run upstairs to hide. While concealed in the closet, they can see through the blinders a tall, bulky man making his way into the room but then unexpectedly, Ashley recognizes the mask that he is wearing belongs to Luke and she storms out of the closet. We discover it is Garrett, wearing a disguise and she realizes that it was a setup, where Luke would save the night, ward off the bad guys, and she would fall into his arms, head-over-heels in love with him.
She is beyond pissed and is ready to leave when Luke knocks her down the stairs unconscious. When she comes to, she is strapped to a chair in the living room. Luke enters the picture and we slowly realize that he is a psychopath, that he has loved her for years and will not let her go until she loves him. As the evening progresses, Luke is able to trick her boyfriend Ricky (Aleks Mikic) and her ex, Jeremy (Dacre Montgomery), into coming over, using her cell phone, and in a very “Home Alone”-esque manner, kills them off, utilizing everyday household items, including a tin of paint and a lawnmower. By the end of the night, he has murdered everyone in the house, including his best friend Garrett, and Ashley but he is able to wrap everything up nice and neatly to make it look like a home invasion, all while he was asleep upstairs.
Of course, when his parents come home and discover the bloody carnage, they race upstairs to find Luke “asleep.” He pretends like he heard nothing and they keep him in his room so that he won’t have to witness any bloodshed but just when it looks like he has gotten away with his plan, a paramedic announces that one of the bodies is still alive, and they whisk them away to the hospital, leaving Luke staring out his bedroom window at the ambulance as it sails away into the night. While the premise is intriguing, it is just too implausible, in every manner. The fact that a 12-year-old can walk around a house, carrying a gun, and can kill whomever he wants, whenever he wants, is just not the least bit realistic. Granted, while there are undoubtedly a lot of twisted youths in the world, Luke walks around convinced that he has already gotten away with his plan and you just never buy that this 12-year-old is that smart. If Luke had been older, maybe in his late teens, I might have gone with the premise a little more but a pre-teen planning and scheming what most adults could probably not even comprehend is just too far-fetched. It felt like the writers were trying to embody the emotions and feelings of a child but instead of coming down to that level, they gave Luke the understanding of an adult and that is apparent very early on.
When we first meet Luke and Garrett, they act like most 12-year-olds, talking about school, girls, and puberty, but once Luke’s plan is foiled by Ashley, it’s as if he rips off his child personification only to reveal that he has always been an adult, pretending to be a child, and that simply does not work. The acting by the cast is fine, although Luke does tend to ramble on in parts and you occasionally find yourself looking at your watch but in the end, the story is so over-the-top and unrealistic, it takes you out of the film entirely. If after discovering Luke’s plan, the trio heard noises coming from downstairs and quickly surmised that they were really being invaded, that would have made for a far more interesting movie but as it is, it feels like a cross between “Home Alone” and “Black Christmas,” two fine movies on their own merits but not a good combination.
Available on Blu-ray & DVD Tuesday, December 5th