BETTER WATCH OUT (2016)
Holiday set flick has pretty babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) going to babysit for twelve year-old Luke (Levi Miller), who has had a crush on her since they first met. As the evening progresses, it seems someone is stalking the house. Ashley goes into protective mode, but as things start to appear that they are not what they seem, Ashley finds she may need more protection from those already inside the house than anyone trying to get in.
Christmas chiller is directed by Chris Peckover from a script he wrote with Zach Kahn and despite a twisted sense of humor, it has a mean streak at it’s core. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, unless you’ve dated DeJonge’s baby-sitter, as diabolical Luke is eliminating any competition. The film starts out with a sense of whimsy, but once we find that Luke has sinister plans for the pretty Ashley and anyone who has recently dated her, then the movie takes on a more appropriate dark edge. The whimsy does still remain at times, though restrained a bit more than the first act and as the tone of the material has changed, that is just fine. The Christmas setting does keep the flick from getting too dark and Peckover knows enough to keep the violence from getting too vicious. This prevents the flick from ever becoming a outright torture show, despite poor Ashley being confined to a chair with tape over her mouth for most of the second half, as Luke becomes a pontificating and smug villain complete with sidekick (Ed Oexenbould). While it is twisted fun, the humor and darker elements don’t always mix as well as they should and Ashley seems to be a little too calm at times, for a teenager tied up at the mercy of a quite deranged tween. Even when the blood starts to spill, she seems to remain quite composed, despite this not being the traditional, harmless “tie up the babysitter” hi-jinx. It might have made this a bit more intense if she was a little more scared at first, though it is entertaining to watch her try to outwit her captors and escape.
The cast are good, especially for young actors handling this kind of material. Olivia DeJonge makes a feisty and very likable heroine as Ashley. She’s sweet, but has a strength to her that would make her good final girl material, if this was a straight-up horror. While it might have served the film better for her to show a little more fear at first, her defiant stance and maintaining a cool head during her ordeal makes for an endearing character as conveyed by the actress. Levi Miller is fun as the twisted and deviously smart Luke. He does a good job taking Luke from love-struck teenager, to deranged homicidal maniac gradually over the course of the film as the character slowly reveals his true nature and intentions. While he never goes over-the-top, he does chew the scenery as well as a twelve year-old villain can. Ed Oexenbould is amusing as Luke’s in-over-his-head sidekick Garrett, who has no idea just how demented his friend is. Rounding out the cast are vets Virgina Madsen and Patrick Warburton as Luke’s parents and Dacre Montgomery and Aleks Mikic are Jeremy and Ricky, two of Ashley’s ex’s who feel Luke’s wrath.
Overall, this is sort of a holiday version of The Loved Ones, with the roles reversed and a lot less physical torment. Like that film it has a twisted sense of humor to it and the Christmas setting does ad a touch of whimsy to the proceedings. Not everything works, but it succeeds far more than not. A twisted and fun holiday thriller with a good cast.
3 babysitters currently unable to reason with their charges.