In between Get Out, It, Annabelle: Creation, and It Comes at Night, it has been a pretty solid year for the horror genre. And with Christmas not far now, Better Watch Out tops off the year with a festive horror flick!

Luke (Levi Miller) is a pampered 12-year-old boy; when his parents are off to a Christmas party, they leave the charming babysitter, Ashley (Olivia DeJonge), to look after him - Luke has a huge crush on her and decides tonight is the night to tell her. Alcohol is consumed, a horror film is thrown on and as the pair settle in for a quiet night, Luke hopes to cuddle up with Ashley. But then a pizza mysteriously arrives at the door. Then a brick is thrown their window. The phone goes but there is no one there. And an uninvited guest makes an appearance. But, as the youngsters fight to protect one another, it quickly becomes apparent that this isn't any normal home invasion and they're in for a long night of spills, chills and thrills as things only go from bad to worse.

The game is quickly set afoot early on in the film, and what follows is 88 minutes of brash, deliciously dark and fun Christmas horror. Better Watch Out is a rollicking good time from start to finish. This is Home Alone meets The Strangers, and more twisted still - you can just imagine director Chris Peckover with a big devilish grin on his face as we watch this. Yet, despite the malicious edge to the story, Better Watch Out is a film that is light on its feet. Peckover could have easily made something truly sinister here, but he opts for the jovial route and has made such a fun affair. There is plenty of dark, jet black comedy on offer throughout to relieve some of the tension and the way that Peckover plays with the characters here makes it quirky and somehow... charming? The Christmas setting also assists in alleviating that dark atmosphere a little; this is very much so a Christmas film, as much as it is a home invasion horror-thriller. It mostly sits in the background rather than at the forefront of the story but it does play for some good laughs and moments. The festivity is certainly infectious too, and the film feels fitting to watch at this time of year.
The cast are all stellar too. Levi Miller is superb here, he brings a nice sinister menace and unpredictability to his character. The Visit's Ed Oxenbould also stars as Luke's best friend Garrett and he, too, is great; it's also nice to see him re-team with his co-star from M. Night Shyamalan's 2015 scare-fest, Olivia DeJonge here. She is the real star. The young actress is brilliant in what is quite an emotionally demanding role; she's tough and doesn't give in or ever break down without putting up a fight - a very nice and welcomed change from the typical horror 'damsel in distress' trope. She's an easy character to back and root for, using her brains and wit to fight the home invaders. The young cast are truly superb, and there are some nice cameos from Patrcik Warburton, Virginia Madsen, and Stranger Things 2 standout Dacre Montgomery. The characters aren't too developed, mostly pretty bland but they work for what the film demands of them. There aren't too many stakes, though, as a result, but it's still entertaining to watch the back-and-forth between these characters given the rich, fun dynamic they all have.

Better Watch Out isn't perfect. The characters are fine but they don't have a huge amount of depth to them when you scratch beneath the surface. Also, the first act has a lot of fake-out 'jump scares' that just feel a little uninspired; overall, though, the film's lack of 'scares' works in favour of it - opting for a more suspenseful approach. Peckover orchestrates the tension well, but the film's balance of humour with tension means that some of the more atmospheric, claustrophobic moments can feel a little lacklustre and not quite as impactful as it could have had the moment cooked a little longer. Of course, the film has its typical genre conventions and tropes too. It does, however, bring a fair bit of surprise to the table but for a film that does so, it feels like squandered potential when it does cave into the more formulaic beats. At the end of the day, though, Better Watch Out is pretty solid stuff. It's thrilling and chilling and absolutely delightful to watch. It blends horror with festivity to create a holiday film that will have you grinning from ear to ear because of how dark, brash and twisted it can get. Remember to lock the house door at night.

Better Watch Out brings the chills and spills, blending festivity with horror to make something massively enjoyable and deliciously twisted that will have you wincing - and grinning!

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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