A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Better Watch Out is a Christmas-themed dark comedy/horror movie that's definitely not for younger viewers. While the grossest violence is left to the imagination (which could me more disturbing, frankly), plenty of terrible things happen on-screen, including death via shotgun blast, stabbing, and more, as well as cruelty and torture. There's also frequent strong language ("f--k," "s--t," and more), tween/teen drinking and drug use (a 12-year-old drinks, abuses narcotics, and tries to "roofie" a teen), and non-graphic sexuality. Bottom line? It's too intense and twisted for most young teens.
What's the story?
BETTER WATCH OUT starts as a teen romantic comedy, with 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller) hoping to romance older teen babysitter Ashley (Olivia DeJonge, a ringer for a young Diane Kruger) before she moves away. But before long, it veers into home invasion/slasher territory, as someone may be watching them from outside. Then the twists start in earnest.
Is it any good?
It's never too early for a Christmas-themed horror/thriller movie, if it's as original as this one. Better Watch Out shifts gears several times in some delightful ways, gleefully blurring into which genre it actually fits. "Delightful" might seem like a strange description for a film in which some truly hideous things happen -- including torture, murder, and assault -- but for those who go in for twisty, twisted, violent thrillers, the film likely has enough surprises to make it fun. Nice-girl teen babysitter Ashley is moving soon, but she welcomes the chance to care for 12-year-old Luke one more time in the family's cushy suburban neighborhood. Luke is about to put the moves on her when someone starts terrorizing them. To reveal more would ruin the experience; let's just say there's much more to the story than that.
Better Watch Out's spins on a dime recall the Duplass brothers' underappreciated Baghead, though this film definitely aims for a more sinister kind of entertainment. It plays at times like a John Hughes movie remade by Eli Roth. There's a puckish humor beneath it all; director/co-writer Chris Peckover definitely maintains a meta-view of the genre(s) and keeps things moving entertainingly. Miller has collected a few awards for his lead performance, and DeJonge is very good in a role with more dimension than the usual damsel in distress. Better Watch Out isn't for kids, but for horror/thriller fans, it's a nice holiday surprise.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Better Watch Out's violence. How does it compare to other horror movies you've seen? When terrible things happen off camera, is that more or less upsetting than seeing them take place on-screen? Why? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
Was Better Watch Out scarier, more effective, or more realistic than other films like it that you've seen? Why or why not?
How does the movie play with what you've come to expect/anticipate from seeing other films in similar genres? Is that effective or is it confusing or annoying?
Some of the extreme actions taken by one of the characters aren't directly explained, but clues are given about that character's past. What are some of those clues? Did you think that was an effective way to reveal character, rather than having motivations explained out loud?
- In theaters: October 6, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: December 5, 2017
- Cast: Olivia DeJonge, Levi Miller, Virginia Madsen, Patrick Warburton
- Director: Chris Peckover
- Studio: Well Go USA Entertainment
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: Holidays
- Run time: 89 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing violent content, language throughout, crude sexual references, drug and alcohol use - all involving teens
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.