Fantasia Film Festival Movie Review: BETTER WATCH OUT

BETTER WATCH OUT is the latest film from director Chris Peckover and it’s easily one of the best Christmas horror films to come out in recent years. The film, co-written by Peckover and Zack Kahn, stars Levi Miller (Pan), Ed Oxenbould (The Visit), Olivia DeJonge (The Visit), Virginia Madsen (Candyman), and Patrick Warburton (Ted).

The film, which takes place during the Christmas season, centers around Ashley (DeJonge), a babysitter responsible for watching 12-year-old Luke (Miller) one last time before she moves away. During the evening, an unknown assailant breaks into the house terrorizing Ashley and Luke; however, not all is what it seems as this home invasion takes a surprising and cruel turn. This is one of those films that you may think you know how the ending is going to play out, but halfway through becomes a whole different beast.

Piggybacking off that last sentence, I went into this film thinking it would be a run-of-the-mill, yet enjoyable, home invasion movie. The fact that a major plot twist unfolded halfway through the film completely caught me off guard and allowed the movie to become something better than I could have expected. I liked that BETTER WATCH OUT didn’t follow all of the same tropes seen in this style of genre films as it’s a testament to the talent of Peckover and Kahn. They were able to craft a story that was unlike that of their contemporaries in the same sub-genre.

In regards to the acting, I was impressed with the talent of the three leads; Olivia DeJonge, Levi MIller, and Ed Oxenbould. I had been familiar with DeJonge and Oxenbould from the 2015 film, The Visit, which I loved, so I was happy to see them once again working together, especially Oxenbould as he has shown to be great comic relief. However, the real breakout star was Levi Miller. He was captivating to watch and I enjoyed his character’s evolution from the start of the film to the very end. His relationship with DeJonge played out extremely well on screen and helped further the surprising narrative along.

Just because this film is set during the “most wonderful time of the year” doesn’t mean that there wasn’t some quality bloodshed. I appreciate the fact that BETTER WATCH OUT didn’t have an excessive amount of gore, which it could have easily incorporated. The gore that was shown fit in with the elements that were happening and weren’t just used for overt shock value. One of my favorite scenes though involved a paint can filled with yellow paint which resulted in quite a bloody mess. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at the color yellow again as that scene is seared into my brain. All in all, I did find the inevitable death scenes, at the hand of the killer, to be inventive and I enjoyed the added touch of humor they had, especially in regards to how they were executed (no pun intended).

Overall, BETTER WATCH OUT, is one of the best films to come out of the Fantasia Film Festival and one of my favorite films of the year. I love how entertaining the movie was and I thoroughly enjoyed the execution of the twist, as it allowed the movie to be elevated to a higher degree. Director Chris Peckover is a rising talent in the film industry and I can only hope that he will continue to make movies within the horror genre as he has an incredible eye for storytelling and creativity. I can definitely see BETTER WATCH OUT becoming a Christmass horror cult classic that fans will be showing friends and family year after year. All in all, this is a must see film, so make sure you catch it when it arrives in select theaters and On Demand Oct. 6th.

BETTER WATCH OUT had it’s Canadian Premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival on July 28th.

Shannon McGrew
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