Originally covered for Moviehooker.com as part of the Fantasia Festival
“Safe Neighbourhood” actually screened at last year’s Fantasia Fest, but it’s back this year once again under the name “Better Watch Out”, giving audiences another chance to witness the horrifying possibilities of a Christmas gone wrong.
As the parents of a kid called “Luke” head out for their Christmas party, they welcome in a babysitter for the evening to keep an eye on him. The classic situation ensues akin to the “New Kid on the Block” episode of The Simpsons, whereby Bart develops an unhealthy infatuation with the babysitter, attempting to convince her that his age should not be an issue and to reciprocate those feelings he holds so dearly.
This is nothing new (“Simpsons did it!”), but it’s where the cute references end. Luke (Levi Miller), settles in for the night with his Babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge – who some may recognise from The Visit), only to become victim to a frightening home invasion.
Cue the panic and hysteria as every exit is blocked and the eerie figures close in on our twosome with a heightened sense of claustrophobia, the film wastes no time in jumping into the action.
However, it cannot maintain this pace for the entire film, and this is where something very different happens. It reaches a darker level; a sort of Home Alone meets Scream hybrid. It’s a twist that I certainly did not see coming and breathes new life into this tired concept.
Director Chris Peckover and writer Zack Kahn have successfully pulled the wool over my eyes, applying a generous helping of uncomfortable horror laced with dark comedy too. It’s a vile turn, but with the warm holiday cheer splashed across the screen with the rich Christmas movie styled cinematography, it never even gets close to the “typical” type of horror you are usually accustomed to in these situations.
Instead, it’s a demented Christmas tale. The leap half way is massive, but go with it and you will have a lot of fun, even if it is decisively morbid. The performances help patch over the cracks because there isn’t a bad one among them, and there is great chemistry among the cast despite the events taking place!.
There have been Christmas-Horror movies in the past (the Silent Night Deadly Night Franchise springs to mind, not only because the 3rd film is titled “Better Watch Out!” too), but none that I have seen have managed to provide that authentic Christmas movie spirit, while attempting to simultaneously destroy it with every minute that goes by.
This is a hell of a lot of fun, and in a demented way, you can tell they had fun making it. While it starts out predictable, stick with it, and it may surprise you – it certainly surprised me.