Guys, remember when you were 12 and the wind could give you an erection? Even though you were entering middle school, you might have had a babysitter because 12 year olds are filled with raging hormones and on the verge of being trustworthy and possibly make the dumbest decisions of any age group. Maybe you had a female babysitter whom you wouldn’t have minded getting busy with, but she was like 16 and had a car and was cool and out of your league (in part because she was 4 inches taller than your pre-growth-spurt self)? That’s the initial setup of Better Watch Out, a Home Alone-meets-Funny Games thriller/dark comedy where a horn ball adolescent boy wants to get in his babysitter’s pants when their home is invaded by a burglar.
Set during the Christmas holidays, when his parents go off to get drunk at a holiday party, 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller) is left home with his hot teenage babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge). Ashley is getting ready to leave town because her family is moving, and this is Luke’s last chance to finally score with Ashley. Unfortunately, Ashley tends to fall in love with a series of assholes (including her current boyfriend), and, besides, she’s also old enough where any Romeo and Juliet law starts to get sketchy. Then a burglar drops in the house, and things take a turn for the crazy really quickly.
If you think this is an innocent little Home Alone knock-off, think again. This one turns into Funny Games by the end of Act One where there’s a twist that leads down one of the grodier and more misogynistic holes this side of Deadgirl. Why yes, there will be a girl tied up and sexually intimidated because of course there is. So, brace yourself for that. *sigh*
Better Watch Out wants to criticize sociopathic male entitlement and the objectification of women, but it also wants to be fun and creepy and zany and hilarious. The challenge for the audience is whether it can sit with its discomfort at the sexual aggression long enough for the movie to finish shifting gears and sympathies. Or, does it? The movie ends on such a weird note that you can’t tell whether the movie is trying to be inappropriately cutesy or if it is setting itself up for a sequel or if it is just being that cynical. With the subject matter that Better Watch Out is toying with, it needs to choose a morality and stick with it to the bitter end.
If it feels like I’m being vague, it’s because the meat and potatoes of Better Watch Out is behind the twist that needs to be left vague. I can’t, in good conscious, write up a review of the first act and not warn people that sexual assault trigger warnings are firmly in place. It gets kind of rough. I also can’t say Better Watch Out is immoral enough to not recommend, and it is good enough to not spoil, but it’s not a great movie. So, you’re stuck with this non-committal nothingburger of a review because fuck it. Life sucks.