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Better Watch Out (2016)

Well Go USA
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/5/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/15/2017

I'm not a literary historian, so I don't know what the first story with a twist was (Are there twists in the Bible?), but I know that they've become a staple of modern story-telling. A great twist can enhance a good story, and save a bad story. (We can probably all name a mediocre movie which is memorable only because of the twist?) This raises the question, can there be a bad twist? Can a shift in focus or tone derail a promising movie? The answer to this question is yes and the example is Better Watch Out.

Robert (Patrick Warburton) and Deandra (Virginia Madsen) are going to a Christmas party, which means that their 12-year old son, Luke (Levi Miller), will be staying with his frequent babysitter, Ashley (Olivia DeJonge). Ashley has been watching Luke for quite some time, and he has a serious crush on her, a not-so-secret secret which he shares with his best friend, Garrett (Ed Oxenbould). Knowing that Ashley will be heading off to college soon, Luke is determined to make a move on her, and soon as his parents leave, he sets out to prove that he's mature. Unfortunately, Ashley is too distracted by calls from her boyfriend. Both Luke and Ashley find their nights taking a scary turn when they realize that someone is lurking outside. When the intruder gets inside, the evening of fun suddenly turns into one of terror, as danger has made its way into the house.

At the outset, Better Watch Out appears to be a homage to and spoof of Home Alone, as the boys mention that movie by name. We get a similar plot, but the characters are older and savvier, and, having seen that movie, had a better idea how to defend their home. The film has real potential to be a cool meta piece in which we get a story similar to Home Alone, but, instilled with the knowledge gathered from that movie, the boys and Ashley are able to quickly turn the tables on the intruders.

But, instead of something like that, we get the twist and the movie goes in a completely different direction. I won't give away the twist here, but I can say that the movie goes from being a potentially fun and clever romp to a deadly serious and dark film. And, to put it very mildly, the twist simply doesn't work. And it's not just because it is such a distinct change. The entire tone of the movie changes, replacing somewhat clever, dark humor with a true mean streak. Characters who had been likeable become unlikeable, and characters who were unlikeable become detestable. The movie wants to be shocking and make us uncomfortable. The twist is certainly surprising, but I was only uncomfortable because the film had turned into something wasn't good. The movie also becomes more and more far-fetched in the second half. Characters who appeared to be rather normal are suddenly revealed to be mechanical engineers (or Wile E. Coyote, I'm not sure) and, conversely, other characters reveal themselves to be rather gullible.

What is the point of Better Watch Out? I'm not entirely sure. Again, I sort of liked it when it was going in the Home Alone direction. Once it turned into Funny Games, not so much. I suppose an argument could be made the Co-Writer/Director Chris Peckover and Co-Writer Zack Kahn were attempting to make a point about our zero-patience, want it now society, but it would be a stretch to try and find any lofty thoughts here. What we have is a movie which is banking on viewers going along with its surprising twist. But, many will think that someone has changed the channel, as Better Watch Out becomes a different movie, and not for the better.

Better Watch Out made me ask, "What's with those high door knobs?" on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Well Go USA. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 24 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The movie is filled with primary colors and they look fantastic here, especially the greens and reds, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good and the picture is rarely soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track provides some impressive stereo and surround effects during the first act, as we are treated to the odd noises coming from around the house. This really helps to add to the experience. The subwoofer effects come into play during some key scenes, but are not overwhelming.

The lone extra on the Better Watch Out Blu-ray Disc is a "Making Of" featurette (Entitled "Red Christmas) which runs for nearly 53 minutes. This is a very in-depth piece which contains interviews with the creative team and the cast, who talk about the story and the production. We also get a generous amount on-set footage, which takes us behind the scenes to see some key scenes being put together. (And, apparently, the original title of the film was "Safe Neighbor-hood".)

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long