What I'm Watching: Better Watch Out
Oh no! I haven't posted a WIW in FOREVER! I got totally sucked into working on the big reviews for this site, and my new podcast The Blood Stream, I just couldn't find the time to sit down and write a quickie review.
But this movie, this movie inspired me, and I have to spread the word. Y'all gotta hear about Better Watch Out, and that's what I'm gonna do right here.
I am going to start out with this; I heard some time ago that the best way to see this movie is knowing as little about it possible, and if you can, even avoid trailers. So I *did* that. I never watched a trailer, I didn't read any reviews, outside of hearing all the positive buzz, and I managed to avoid any spoilers, SOMEhow.
And let me tell you, constant readers...that is definitely the way to see Better Watch Out. I finally watched the trailers on the DVD after watching the movie, and it spoiled ALL the moments that made this movie special. Every. Single. One.
Also, some of the marketing called this a horror/comedy and that does this movie a huge disservice. While there's some humour, it's very dark humour, laughing at horrible things, but this is NOT an outright comedy. It has people with a sense of humour about it. So if you saw some of that, and it made you shy away, trust me, this is definitely a thriller.
I'm going to try and avoid some of the surprises, but y'all should check out now. I will say right up front, I LOVED this movie, it's probably my favourite Christmas movie right now, and you should take that information, and go watch it before I say anything else.
This is your last warning.
Okay, here we go.
Better Watch Out is...hard to describe. Because I don't want to ruin things, like I said. But even beyond that, it has a LOT going on, even beyond twists and turns.
The basic setup though is that Ashley, a young and popular student, days away from moving away, decides to take one last babysitting job with a family she's done a lot of work with, and say good bye to them. Damnit, she was ONE DAY AWAY FROM RETIREMENT!!
The Lerners are off to a Christmas party or something, and leaving Luke in Ashley's capable hands. But the wrinkle in this is, Luke has a big time crush on Ashley, and he knows this might be his last chance to act on it. He's got a big plan that he lets his best friend Garrett in on, to watch some scary movies, and get her to jump into his arms, basically. Hey kid, been there, tried that.
But things take a nasty turn, when someone outside starts toying with them, in classic home invasion fashion. The scares become real very quickly. And this is gonna be the first big plot point I'm gonna ruin. I was thinking, if this kid has a plan to basically scare the girl into his arms......what if he actually somehow planned out this home invasion and it would be revealed he was behind it?
Well, I was RIGHT. But...but that's not even the big reveal of the movie. We find that out as the end of the FIRST ACT. That really caught me off guard, and I literally stopped the movie, checked the time and how much was left, and wanted to know...where the hell do we go from here?!
And boy, does this movie ever go places.
Once Ashley figures out that twist, she gets knocked out, tied up, and the next part of Luke's plan kicks off, as he basically can have his way with her at this point and do whatever he wants.
Now yes, Ashley, played brilliantly and perfectly by Olivia DeJonge, does spend a LOT of time tied up in this movie, and I understand why that is off putting to some. Believe me, if I had a better, non spoilery image to use as a thumbnail for this review, I would have. But I digress.
She may spend a lot of time tied up, but she never plays a victim. She's afraid, as anyone would be, but she also knows she's dealing with a KID and can use that against him, his insecurities, and she may be afraid, but she never shows it. She sits all tied up, and is defiant at every turn. She spits defiance and taunts at Luke, and it's wonderful. She plays a perfect balance between vulnerability and strength.
But from there, it doesn't just stick to just being a couple people taunting each other with one tied to a chair for another hour. More Stuff happens, like Ashley's boyfriend comes looking for her, so does her ex, and they don't make it out alive.
Because Luke has a Plan. And while his plan goes awry frequently, he is VERY adaptable, and endlessly ready with a new way to make this all seem like a home invasion gone terribly wrong, while he gets away with literal murder because he is an innocent little child who slept through the whole thing. The way he sets up the crime scene towards the end of the movie is so intricate, so perfect, it is positively Machiavellian.
Much like setting up that first act twist, the movie lays the groundwork for several things. Something gets placed that made me go, "OH that's gonna come into play to take out the killer at the end of the movie!" and while yes, it DOES come into play, it is neither used how, or when I figured, and the movie keeps doing that. It sets up expectations, and then springs them on you WAY before you think, and you just keep wondering, WHAT NOW?? AND I LOVE THIS FEELING. I both saw where things were going, but was constantly surprised, despite getting everything I saw coming. This movie is a squawking magic trick.
There are two very specific moments, one that came so out of left field, that I literally shouted out "JESUS!" when it happened, and I don't think I've ever done that. And another moment towards the end that broke so many rules of fiction, that I was shouting, "Nononono!" at the movie. It can't DO that! But it DID!
Luke's plan is so detailed, that it will be such a pleasure to see this movie again, and watch it all unfold, and hopefully not find all the holes, if there are any. I love it when a plan comes together. And the ending of this movie is so damned PERFECT, with one last moment, that I genuinely cheered and applauded.
Thirty minutes into the movie, they hooked me by blowing the obvious twist out of the water, going somewhere else entirely, and I started to cross my fingers that this movie could bring everything together, and it did. It so did. This movie gave me everything I wanted, and more, and wrapped it all up so perfectly, even better than I ever could have hoped for.
Levi Miller as Luke is so wickedly, deliciously evil in this, but he still has this charisma, for the first half of the movie, that it makes the twist into sociopathy all the more brilliant. This entire movie relies entirely on the performance of him and Olivia, and they both give such great performances with multiple layers, and they play off each other so well.
This is my new favourite Christmas movie, hands down. Some of that may stem from being blown away by such an amazing thriller, so it might slide down the list a bit, but I think it will remain solidly in my top five for a very long time to come.
You Better Watch this movie, because this was one of the most singularly wonderful movie watching experiences I have had this year, since probably Get Out. I could seriously go on and on and on about so many moments in this movie, but you need to see them for yourselves. I've already said too much.