It’s not very often that the horror genre churns out plot which blindsides you. ‘Better Watch Out’, listed as a home invasion movie, does just this, with a change of direction within its plot so effective it can instantly be added to every horror fan’s ‘must watch’ list, yet so simple I can’t believe no-one thought of it before!
(Trying hard to avoid spoilers) The plot follows a babysitter, her charge, and a home invasion at the hands of armed, mask assailants. Fearing for their lives, a tense game of cat and mouse ensues, however, once the initial threat seems nullified the true threat presents itself. The film’s tagline ‘Home, but not alone’ hints to a degree at the film’s protagonist, and once revealed the babysitter must rely on all her wits if she is to survive the night.
Part slasher, part thriller ‘Better Watch Out’ follows in recent tradition of 15-rated, accessible Christmas horror flicks. Trading sleazy Santas and grisly dispatches for high production values and a polished script, ‘Better Watch Out’ is meticulous in its attention to detail from its nerve shredding first act to its development of characters as the evening progresses.
The writers are clearly acutely aware of the genre favourites, leaning on several typical but effective tropes to kick things off combining a few decent jump scares, coupled with your standard home invasion tension ploys to draw you in. In the films first third a careful balance between character development and set-pieces sees the film properly setup for when it takes that left field direction I spoke about in my opener; indeed, on a second watch you will likely further appreciate just how well this film, or more so its characters are constructed, once you know where the film is heading.
Once ‘Better Watch Out’ reveals its true intentions the film only gets stronger, utilising the same trope-borrowing that saw its opening scenes make the impact they needed, although I’ve got to say, despite the interesting plot switch, there isn’t a lot here you’ve not seen before, but it is done very well.
The plot demands a lot from a small, young cast, but they play their respective parts with conviction. Its interesting to see each character fulfilling their own little plot arcs, whilst remaining true to their own characters, and whilst there are some of the typical ‘dumb-slasher’ characters, the remainder do enough to be memorable, especially the films antagonist.
As I’ve already stated, the films 15-certificate does mean that the violence and other exploitative content is often a lot more suggested than it is shown, but that doesn’t mean you will be left feeling short changed. Whilst the films real strength lies in its tension, twisting plot and efficient writing, there are some stand out scenes which pack enough of a punch to feel sufficiently brutal. The effects on these scenes are nicely done to, and despite the constrictive nature of the films plot and location, a couple of the more violent set pieces are nicely imaginative.
Overall, I don’t really want to say any more about the film for fear of ruining its surprises. If you are in the mood for something festive, had your fill of the ample slashers available, then check this out. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly festive themed – albeit set at Christmas, but it certainly is inventive enough in its plot to make it worth your time, and good enough to keep bringing it out the Christmas after (when perhaps you’ve forgotten the twist!)