Every year I watch a bevy of Christmas films. What I look forward to even more are the non-traditional holiday films: Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Gremlins, even Scream — as it was released days before Christmas. It seems like director/co-writer Chris Peckover loves them just as much as I do if Better Watch Out is any indication. Along with co-writer Zack Kahn, the two have set out to give the old home invasion sub-genre a nice twist by centering the attack during the Christmas season. As tempting as it may be, please don’t watch the trailer before this one; it gives away everything — including some of the more hilarious kills.
T’was a night before Christmas and all through the house,
young Luke (Levi Miller) is pining for his babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) and what’s under her blouse.
His best friend Garrett (Ed Oxenbould) just wants to play games and smoke pot,
to both of them, danger’s a mere afterthought.
Luke’s parents (Patrick Warburton, Virginia Madsen) leave them to go party it up,
while the two are left awaiting as an invader lurks near.
Just wouldn’t you know it, things aren’t what they seem,
as Luke sets out to prove he can defend them from this scheme.
Well Go USA may be known for their foreign releases, but they’ve wrapped up a reasonable presentation for Better Watch Out. Even though it’s on a 25GB Blu-ray framed in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. If it weren’t for the nearly hour long “Making Of,” it might not have hurt the video. As is, it eats into the disc space causing a few compression issues. Sharpness is never as clear as it should be. Most of the time the picture looks like you have your TV setting turned down too low with sweaters, shirts, and hair just on the side of fuzzy. Individual strands are rarely noticeable.
Colors are where it shines though. They may not be as bright as you’d hope considering the Christmas palette, but they do have some pop to them. They’re never dull and never bloom or bleed. Speaking of, blood is the one area the colors pop. It’s good considering this is a horror comedy and all. And what would a Well Go USA disc be without a sprinkle of noise and random banding. Thankfully they’re quick and never linger. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is bright and lively too. Christmas music fills the speakers with house ambience while directionality keeps the creepier moments tension filled. Bass comes in handy for random jump scares and gunshots. An optional 2.0 Dolby Digital track is included with subtitles in English SDH only.
As mentioned, the “Making Of” (52:42) is surprisingly just as fun to watch as the movie. They cover everything including that the film was rewritten to take place during Christmas because it made it more fun — wholeheartedly agreed — with the title changing from Safe Neighborhood. The green (2:03) and red (2:02) — how appropriate — band trailers are also included.
Better Watch Out is not quite a new Christmas classic, but it’s one I won’t mind revisiting every year. This one falls in line with The Night Before where it wears its non-traditional and traditional Christmas movie inspirations on its sleeves and is all the better for it. Let’s just say that Peckover finally answers the burning question of what would really happen if you Home Alone someone with a paint can to the face. That’s exactly the kind of twisted hilarity you’ll find when you unwrap your copy of Better Watch Out.
If that sounds up your alley, you’re in for a grand time. The cast are game for the sick shenanigans — it’s fun to see DeJonge and Oxebould play against each other when last time we saw them together was as brother and sister in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit — and the twist works extremely well against the Christmas backdrop. Not to give too much away, but it even ends on a mid-credits cliffhanger, setting up a sequel I would love to see. The video/audio won’t blow anyone away, but that’s not why we’re watching a film like Better Watch Out, we came for the ride and it’s definitely a good time. So just sit back, sip on some spiked eggnog, and enjoy.