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John’s Horror Corner: Better Watch Out (2016), an easy-going home invasion Christmas and a horror-comedy.

December 30, 2018

MY CALL: This was a nice little thing to watch. It wasn’t sensational or particularly recommendable, but… it’s fine, it’s light and it’s fun. It also makes for an excellent horror movie for people who generally aren’t very fond of horror. MOVIES LIKE Better Watch Out: The closest choice would be Krampus (2015) or The Babysitter (2017). For more Christmas horror try Black Christmas (1974, 2006 remake), A Christmas Horror Story (2015), Silent Night Deadly Night (1984), Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) and Gremlins (1984).

Not unlike The Babysitter (2017), when we meet our horny yet kind-hearted preteen Luke (Levi Miller; Pan) he’s professing his chances with his crush and babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge; The Visit) to his best friend Garrett (Ed Oxenbould; The Visit). Despite their obvious innocence, these boys talk a big game in his bedroom festooned with boyish toys—it’s kinda’ cute and really on point when I reflect on my own fantasies.

Luke’s parents Robert (Patrick Warburton; Bad Milo, Scream 3) and Deandra (Virginia Madsen; Candyman, The Haunting in Connecticut, Zombie High) are cynical, peevish and his mother is downright mean. In vocal revolt of Robert’s favorite Christmas ornaments she harangues him about college-bro fellatio on fishing trips.

Shortly after Luke’s parents leave for a Christmas party, some funny things start happening. The back door is found open, a strange phone call, a pizza delivery when they never ordered anything… it’s pretty blatant smoke signaling that someone is toying with them or even already in the house. Skip forward a few scenes and home invaders are in the house! Just one thing—it’s not gonna’ go down they way you might expect.

The gore is non-existent and the violence is largely weak, but this movie definitely had its moments. A highlight of mine was the pencil stab to the face, and the Home Alone (1990) paint can gag homage was the brand of feisty I enjoy. And although I really wish that paint can execution wasn’t off-screen, it remained effective.

The cast was solid (with good but far from great writing and line delivery) and everyone did a satisfying enough job. However, something simply must be said aloud… Whether we consider the comic relief of the parents, the preteen libido banter, the “cool babysitter” dynamic, or even the acting and execution and writing, The Babysitter (2017) hands down did all these things better. Way better. And while this may be a sweet, fun, entertaining film. It’s just a holiday-themed relief pitcher to The Babysitter (2017) when it comes to my recommendations. I had my share of laughs, but never very hard; and sure this was stimulating, but never exciting or thrilling (for me, at least).

I’m not trying to discourage anyone. Put simply, director Chris Peckover (Undocumented) made a good movie, and its greatest strength was the depiction of friendly sociopathy and its atmosphere of generally “light” malevolence. I was hoping for more, but I still got something nice. This should serve as the double-feature warm-up movie I’d watch before watching the evening’s feature presentation of The Babysitter (2017) or Krampus (2015), depending on the theme of the evening.

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