Wow! Better Watch Out is a surprising and terrific horror-comedy with an excellent blend of humor, drama, and tension; plus some gore that may please horror fans. Not just horror, writer/director Chris Peckover and writer Zach Kahn beautifully blend 4 or 5 different types of movies into one that keeps you guessing until after the mid-credit scene. It’s a Christmas movie with a coming-of-age comedy feel which slowly morphs into a home invasion movie which soon becomes… something else. I hesitate to say more beyond that because the movie is really good and probably best with little foreknowledge (don’t watch the trailer first, I just did and it would have spoiled some of the fun).
So, let us start with story elements that aren’t too spoiler-y. Ashley (Olivia DeJonge; The Visit) is days away from moving away and agrees to babysit one more time for Robert and Deandra’s 12-year-old son, Luke (Levi Miller; Pan), who has a huge crush on Ashley. Thanks to an early scene with Luke and his best friend, Garrett (Ed Oxenbould, who apparently played Olivia’s brother in The Visit, a film that I wanted to see but have yet to do so; I may have to rectify that after watching them in this film), we learn that Luke has plans to try to earn Ashley’s affection during this night.
Ashley, on the other hand, has plans for a peaceful babysitting job. As soon as they are alone, she, unintentionally or otherwise, shrugs off Luke to get on the phone with her boyfriend to discuss their relationship troubles. Eventually, they settle down to a scary movie and Luke makes some headway; even getting Ashley to admit she would date him if they were the same age.
Slowly, creepy things begin to happen, like a jump scare featuring a certain holiday figure. Soon, Ashley and Luke discover that their peaceful night alone is not going to go according to plan. While there are some clever and explicit nods to Home Alone, Luke is no Kevin McCallister and it is up to Ashley to save the day, if she can. And, now we will move away from the story.
Patrick Warburton and Virginia Madsen make book-end appearances as Luke’s parents. Always a treat to see them and they do not disappoint in their brief roles. Olivia, Levi, and Ed carry the majority of the movie nearly perfectly, along with their characters’ unnamed visitors (unnamed here, not necessarily during the movie). As a Power Rangers fan, I would be remiss to not mention Dacre Montgomery’s appearance (Dacre was the Red Ranger in the latest movie and I am still holding out hope that we’ll see more of this new incarnation). Dacre’s appearance in this film is a bit… chilling.
Almost like The Nightmare Before Christmas, this movie could easily spark debate about whether it is a Halloween movie or Christmas movie. While there’s no mention of Halloween, it is a horror movie being released in October, so it could be trying to catch the Halloween spirit. On the other hand, retail stores are already stocking Christmas items and decorations, so it could be going for the Christmas spirit in October. The movie does a fine job showing off some Christmas decorations, including some clever, and humorous, usage of Christmas lights.
If you have not guessed already, I would highly recommend this movie to any horror or comedy fan; aside from overlaps, the latter group may have to cover their eyes every few scenes. Like I alluded to earlier, stick around after the credits start for an extra scene that made me curious for more.