‘Tis may be the season for romantic comedies set in idyllic English cottages or whimsical tales of elves lost in New York, but if you’re in the mood for something a little more gory, we’ve got your back.
We guide you through 14 days of Christmas Horror. We get appropriately brutal with a festive slasher, Better Watch Out.
2017’s Better Watch Out certainly isn’t the only Christmas horror to draw inspiration from Home Alone and Die Hard, but it’s definitely one of the better ones.
Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) agrees to babysit 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller), but their peaceful night is ruined after an intruder threatens their safety.
This probably isn’t much of a spoiler as it’s pretty much spelt out in the film’s trailer, but it turns out that it’s Luke and his best friend Garrett who have plotted a very violent night for themselves. Luke harbours feelings for Ashley and is determined to win her over, but Ashley doesn’t warm up to the much younger and all-around creepy (not to mention deranged and violent) Luke.
What follows is a gloriously, gleefully violent slasher with plenty of humour and clever kills. Better Watch Out reminds us that horror doesn’t always have to be so serious; a joke here and there doesn’t necessarily water the violence down. If anything, it amplifies the whole thing. The laughs almost have an awkward ring to them; should we really be laughing at this?
To make the killers kids is a pretty genius move, if I may say so. We’re naturally drawn to root for kids in dangerous situations, maybe it’s a weird need to protect the weak, or maybe we just want innocence to win in the end.
But in Better Watch Out, that supposed innocence is quickly revealed to be completely false, as Luke and Garrett are pretty psychopathic in nature. They gleefully attempt to kill Ashley’s ex-boyfriend with a paint can, just like in Home Alone, just because it seems like a great way to kill someone.
While Luke is doing this to seduce Ashley, who is having none of it, the lack of a larger motive is intriguing. There’s no false sense of justice to be found here. Luke might at first use his infatuation with Ashley as a reason to commit these atrocious acts. Still, the truth is that he just really likes inflicting violence, and Ashley becomes a secondary reason.
There is, of course, a healthy amount of misogyny baked into the plot’s core, much like this year’s Don’t Worry Darling. In both films, the male aggressors assume they’re entitled to the affection of the woman they desire. What makes Better Watch Out extra terrifying is that Luke is only 12. Turns out, misogyny starts young. Alex Garland went to great, gory lengths in Men to point out that toxic masculinity is reborn with each generation and is passed down.
But above all else, Better Watch Out is a bloody good time. It has frights, plenty of satisfying kills and a surprising amount of heart, more than earning its place as one of our top Christmas horrors.