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|Better Watch Out
dir Chris Peckover
scr Zack Kahn, Chris Peckover
prd Sidonie Abbene, Brion Hambel, Paul Jensen, Brett Thornquest
with Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, Ed Oxenbould, Aleks Mikic, Dacre Montgomery, Patrick Warburton, Virginia Madsen, Alexandra Matusko, Georgia Holland, Beau Andre, Michi Fifer, Tara Jade Borg
release Aus Jun.17 sff, US 6.Oct.17, UK 8.Dec.17
U leave U die: DeJonge and Miller
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
An Australian horror comedy set in snowy suburban America, this film's witty approach is a psychotic take on Home Alone. Both funny and unnerving, it's strikingly well shot, with a cast that makes the most of a group of characters who defy the usual genre stereotypes. It may be gimmicky and nasty, but it's also an enjoyable freak-out.
Young teen Luke (Miller) has a crush on his babysitter Ashley (DeJonge), and asks his buddy Garrett (Oxenbould) to help get something going before she moves away. Luke's bickering parents (Madsen and Warburton) are too busy with Christmas decorations to notice this, and head out one night for a festive party. Alone in the house with Ashley, Luke makes his move and is quickly rebuffed. But there are strange noises outside that give him a chance to prove himself. Is it one of her boyfriends (Mikic and Montgomery) or something more menacing?
Director Peckover delights in wrong-footing the audience at every opportunity, mixing sarcastic humour with sudden jolts, snappy drama and insinuating suspense that plays on the usual scary movie tropes. Phones go dead, doorbells ring, shadows loom, spiders creep out of the corners, all while Luke tries to create a romantic atmosphere during a night in watching slasher movies with the sitter. As things escalate, the story takes several sharp turns that are both ghastly and bleakly humorous.
Miller and DeJonge are terrific, anchoring the film with an uneasy long-term friendship that's complicated by Luke's overriding lust and Ashley's jitters. Where this goes is impossible to predict, and both ground their characters in realism even as things get increasingly bonkers. And as the events spiral, Miller gets the chance to shine in a seriously full-on performance. That said, everyone in the cast is solid, adding layers of pitch-black comedy, intensity and emotion, often when we least expect it.
Even if there isn't much of a point to all of this, the central premise is clever and twisty, merrily scrambling teen, horror and holiday iconography with elements that the audience is meant to work out before the next plot shift is revealed. Where it goes is dark and messy, as the balance of power shifts in some unexpectedly moving directions. And as things become more desperate, there's a sense that pretty much anything might happen, which is rare in any of these genres.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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