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Writer, reviewer, loves life in the dark.

Starring Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, Ed Oxenbould, Aleks Mikic, Dacre Montgomery, Patrick Warburton, Virginia Madsen. (2016, 89 min). WELL GO USA

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It's difficult to summarize movies like Better Watch Out without providing major spoilers, especially since the plot-twist it heavily depends on occurs during the first act. One major narrative strike against the film is that, due to some heavy-handed and clumsy foreshadowing, said-twist probably won't come as a real surprise.

Still, this Christmas themed horror film presents an interesting take on the home invasion subgenre. Olivia DeJonge is Ashley, an 18-year-old who agrees to babysit 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller) while his goofy, bickering parents go to a Christmas party. Later, Luke's less-than-responsible best friend, Garrett, shows up. Initially more concerned with an over-the-phone spat with her boyfriend, Olivia soon has much a bigger problem: Somebody begins terrorizing her, cutting the phone lines & internet and threatening to kill anyone who leaves the house.

To reveal much more would ruin the fun. Suffice it to say, Better Watch Out is not your garden variety home invasion thriller. Though the big plot twist is bungled by obvious exposition, it does lay the groundwork for an off-kilter, suspenseful, sometimes disturbing film with a mean streak a mile wide and a sense of humor as black as coal in your stocking. Of course, horror movies are only as good as their villains. This one has a doozy: a truly sadistic, hateful character that's bolstered by a remarkably unhinged, scenery-chewing performance.

Though not always particularly scary, Better Watch Out is suitably unnerving and sometimes jarringly violent, with better than average performances and a resolution that's both infuriating and cryptically funny. Those game for this type of entertainment might also find themselves laughing at inopportune moments. Make sure not to shut it off when the end credits start to roll.



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