Better Watch Out
Christmas horror films faded out by the time the 80s came of age. We’re treated nowadays with feeble efforts that scream of straight-to-DVD, but they’re still an endangered sub-genre. Enter director Chris Peckover, who attempts to recreate the Christmas horror movie experience with his latest feature Better Watch Out.
12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller) is being watched by his 17-year-old babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge), who he tries to awkwardly seduce. Before long, they hear an intruder in the house. Luke is determined to prove that he’s a man and not a little boy.
The script, written by Peckover and Zack Kahn, has a reasonable structure with an eloquent sense of narrative progression (unlike a lot of lamentable horror movies) and there are surprising twists and turns along the way. But the rest is full of flat humour and babbled clichés, making the audience wonder if Kahn and Peckover are trying to satirise horror cinema. There are sly visual references to Scream, Halloween, and even Home Alone – but if they were trying to be clever, it’s behind a thick curtain; it feels like funless plagiarism, without the benefit of an original vision.
Peckover does his best with the lukewarm material, which is neither scary nor funny (both essential at Christmas), by creating an uncomfortable atmosphere as well as building up (some) dark tension. But he’s not good enough to cover up the inadequacies of the script. No director would be. The performances are fine but nothing special, and the actors seem hindered by the bland dialogue – making the villain far less intimidating (more of a violent annoyance than a nerve-shredding monster).
Better Watch Out is a horror picture that tries harder to be clever than scary. It’s filled with embarrassing laddish humour, met only with awkward squirms or disappointed silences from the audience. If an excited viewer was hoping for a good Christmas horror this year, Better Watch Out is not the remedy. Go back to Gremlins instead.
Better Watch Out is released nationwide on 8th December 2017.
Watch the trailer for Better Watch Out here: