Ashley travels to the suburban home of the Lerners to baby-sit their 12-year-old son Luke at Christmastime. She must soon defend herself and the young boy when unwelcome intruders announce their arrival.
Better Watch Out is a psychological thriller/horror. Another film that is based around Christmas time to try to provide the world with alternative choices in Christmas film, this is not a family-friendly wholesome choice by any means. Best described as a dark, twisted home invasion that tips it's hat to Home Alone, Better Watch Out provides a variety of twists that will leave you scratching your head.
Taking place within the confines of a single property, you would expect this Australian-shot 90-minute film to feel claustrophobic, and to an extent, it is (which helps to build suspension and tension), but to an even greater extent, the layout of the house and the camera angles give the illusion of space and connectedness that prevents the film from feeling monotonous and repetitive.
Going into a horror, you expect to receive shocks but remain in the dark as to when the horror will begin. So until you know the terror has begun, you find yourself taking note of every quick movement, every loud noise, every "red flag". Director Chris Peckover does a brilliant job stretching this portion of the film out, teasing the audience with false starts leaving you questioning what is relevant or not in respect to the overall plot.
The initial twist caught me off-guard, and the Peckover did a great job working the script to keep me guessing as the film progressed. With a film that only primarily consists of 7 cast members, to keep the direction of the film open for so long is a challenge that is well navigated. The film will leave you questioning the effects of our dependence on technology, and the imbalance between knowledge & intelligence with emotional maturity.
Cast-wise Olivia de Jonge does a brilliant job as the protagonist, caught between a rock and a hard place, and spending much of the film tied up with her mouth taped, she does an amazing job conveying emotion through her eyes. The young actors Levi Miller and Ed Oxenbould show incredible maturity in their acting while still maintaining the youthfulness necessary for their parts. Their trust in each other is one of the important facets of the film.
There is not much more I can mention without giving away the plot, so I will mention the extras. The DVD only includes one extra; the "Making Of" feature. Now unlike many films that have a two-to-three minute featurette that has already been online for months that was used as a teaser prior to the film's theatrical release, the "Making Of" included in the special features is actually a full blown 50-minute piece looking at the choice in casting, collaborative writing with the cast, shooting winter "snow" scenes in the heat of Australia, and stunts, among other things. It gives a much greater appreciation for the film when you see how much work was put into it. One thing I loved was learning that Olivia de Jonge did five takes with a real tarantula-sized spider crawling across her face, despite her fear of spiders, to save the studio an exorbitant amount of money to try create CGI spiders.
So this isn't a 90-minute film. It's a 140-minute film+featurette, which is integral to achieving the full attraction of the film. There are so many aspects that you look over in a horror/thriller because your eyes aren't on the details, but there is a definite satisfaction gained by understanding the efforts put in after you have seen the finished product.
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"Character - the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life - is the source from which self respect springs."
Joan Didion (1934 - ), 'Slouching Towards Bethlehem'