Better Watch Out (2017)

December 24, 2017 — Leave a comment

It’s Christmas and teenager Ashely (Olivia DeJonge) has a lot to unpack at present. As well as boyfriend trouble, she’s having to deal with moving out of her home town after the holidays. Trying to recoup some sense of normality, Ashley offers to do one last babysitting gig looking after 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller). For Luke, this is fantastic news due to the long-held crush he has on Ashley, and is ready to break into his parent’s spirit cabinet if it’ll prove to her how grown up he is. The evening has all the trappings of a terribly awkward night in, and that’s before the phone lines are cut and a home invasion leads to Ashley and Luke running for their lives.

Like McG’s The Babysitter, Chris Peckover’s Better Watch Out cleverly upturns the standard babysitter in peril trope. Whereas the former threw some good old-fashioned devil worshipping into the mix, Better Watch Out has a more modern axe to grind in the shape of 2017’s biggest trend, toxic masculinity. From the opening scene – which sees a cackling boy violently destroy a girl’s snowman simply for his own enjoyment – we know we’re in a world where the needs of women come second to men. So, pretty much exactly like the real world then…

For another example, look at Luke’s crush on Ashley. In other films, in other decades, his behaviour would be brushed off with a ‘boy swill be boys’ attitude. He confides in his friend, Garrett (Ed Oxenbould), that his evening’s plans of a horror film and pizza should be enough to get into Ashley’s pants. After all, he read it on the internet, dude, you can believe everything you read there. The parallels to teenagers learning about sex through watching online porn are clear, and once Ashley must push back Luke’s advances no less than three times in five minutes, his behaviour is seen as anything other cute. But it’s not just about dismantling the cloying idea of a boyhood crush; even later, once Luke’s has been invaded, someone is shot trying to escape and the killer is revealed, Better Watch Out continues its spearing of male privilege with Ashley expected to defend her body from verbal and physical attack.

Performances are key here, and starting off larger than life DeJonge and Miller allow theirs to be stripped down by the reality of the situation, their festive and joyful expectations worn down by the societal norms that plague them every day. So, again, pretty much exactly like the real world then…

Whilst admittedly restrained in terms of flashy direction, Better Watch Out succeeds by offering something other than nubile teens running around in tight t-shirts.

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