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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.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) babysitters currently unable to reason with their charges.






The twisted holiday horror/comedy Better Watch Out (formally titled Safe Neighborhood) arrives October 6th on VOD and presents the story of pretty babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) having to protect her two tween charges (Levi Miller and Ed Oxenbould) from intruders with bad intentions…but who needs protecting from who? Flick is directed by Chris Peckover from a script by he and Zach Kahn. Check out the RED BAND trailer below…

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THE VISIT (2015)

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Found footage flick has fifteen year old Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her thirteen year old brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) traveling to stay a week with the grandparents they never met. Their mother (Kathryn Hahn) had a fight with her parents before they were born and has not spoken to them since. Becca is a wannabe filmmaker and decides to document this first meeting. They arrive at the grandparents’ rural farmhouse and everything seems fine…at first. Soon Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie) seem to be exhibiting odd behavior, especially grandma at night. It is at first explained away by Pop having a slight case of dementia and Nana having a condition called Sundown Syndrome. But as the longer the kids stay, the weirder and more disturbing behavior they encounter. Something is very wrong with their grandparents and it is something far worse than simple ailments of the elderly.

As written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, this darkly humored horror is a mixed bag. On the plus side, there are some very creepy moments, as the kids sneak peeks outside their room door at night and see grandma doing some bat-crap crazy stuff. Their is also some very odd behavior in the day, such as grandpa’s habit of stockpiling his dirty Depends in a shed. There are also some sequences that bring about nervous giggles, as there are some very successful darkly comic moments, too. The downside is that after awhile we start to get tired of this routine. The behavior never leads to anything truly shocking or scary as, to be honest…we are kind of expecting what comes when we finally get it. Not only is Shyamalan a bit too renown for having a ‘twist’ in his flicks, but the big reveal is pretty much along the lines of what we were expecting. It’s no surprise. We know what Becca will discover, long before she does. There is some nice tension as we watch the kids spend their final night with Nana and Pop Pop, now that the cat is out of the old bag, but even that never really becomes nail-biting despite a violent conclusion to this ‘family’ reunion. Again, it ends the way we expect it to. Also, the film never really feels like found footage. The shots are too good and everything, including the creepy antics, always feels staged and not captured. Even with that, there is the now traditional ‘why are you still filming’ moments, especially in the last act. Finally, the character of Tyler is one of the most annoying teens captured on film in some time. He’s a germ phobic kid who fancies himself a gangsta rapper and also has decided to use female pop stars’ names in the place of curses…what? His dialog bits are an endurance test, especially when he starts rapping and Shyamalan, for some reason, has the grating youngster rap about his experience with his ‘grandparents’ over the end credits. It’s an endurance test to sit through and kills any mood the climax had previously created. This character almost singlehandedly sinks the movie. He’s that annoying.

The cast of unknowns are for the most part solid. Young Olivia DeJonge is likable and a good heroine and she is believable as a teen with artistic aspirations. Not sure what to say about Ed Oexenbould. His character is like visual fingernails on a chalkboard, so it’s hard to say if he is that bad, or based on how the character was intended by Shyamalan, was he that good? He has the worst dialog, which isn’t the actor’s fault. Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie are perfect as the, at first, kindly grandparents then really disturbing and creepy when Nana and Pop Pop start to get their crazy on. The two are fun and deliver goosebumps and chills appropriately and make this work as well as it does. Kathryn Hahn has limited screen time, yet somehow does convey the sense of a woman who believably had such a traumatic disagreement with her parents.

Overall, I have mixed feeling about this. There are some truly creepy moments and some uncomfortably funny ones too. The cast, for the most part, do a good job with the characters. The film stumbles by heading exactly where we are expecting it to go and over-utilizing one of the most annoying kid characters in recent memory. The film also never really feels like actual footage and the grandparents behavior gimmick starts to get tiresome at a point when it should kick into overdrive. There should have been more tension in the last act, but instead it was predictable. Worth a look, but with moderate expectations.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 depends.
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