Have you ever stopped for a minute and really examined the John Hughes’ Christmas classic Home Alone for what it is?
Here you have the story of a boy, Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), left on his own over the festive season and forced to fend off two burglars using a series of traps that have more in common with the Saw movies than anything you would expect from a little boy.
It’s a notion not lost on filmmaker Chris Peckover, who saw the potential for subverting that same scenario in his new Christmas-theme horror comedy, Better Watch Out.
The film focuses on Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) and her 12-year-old charge Luke (Levi Miller) who come together to defend themselves from a masked home invader.
That description doesn’t quite do justice to the twists and turns that follow but it does give you a taste of a film that is tantamount to the most messed up Home Alone tribute you could ever imagine.
“I’m a huge fan of John Hughes movies, so that was a big influence for me,” Peckover tells loaded.
“I didn’t want to make it look like a horror film, all dark and full of colour contrasts. I wanted to flip it around and give everything a heightened John Hughes-like tone in terms of characters and colours. It makes it more shocking when things take a strange turn.”
The decision to inject the movie with a Home Alone feel was one Peckover was keen to promote, admitting screenwriter Zack Kahn’s original script was “incredibly dark and a lot more nihilistic”.
“I wanted to move away from that tonally, and give it some humour and that kind of 80s feel. If think if the movie hadn’t been as fun it might have even been a little taboo.”
So is Levi Miller’s character Luke just a more demented version of Home Alone’s Kevin? “Every little boy has that spark in them,” Peckover laughs. “The only difference is a lot of those things stay as thoughts rather than actions.”
The casting of Miller, best known for playing Peter Pan in Joe Wright’s 2015 reimagining of the fantasy adventure classic was a masterstroke for Peckover and one he was keen to make happen.
“Levi had been played a lot of awe-stricken, filled-with-wonder characters. But he’s got such a range and this film really allowed him to show-off his darker streak. He had a lot of fun,” Peckover says.
Though Peckover insists we stay tight-lipped on the plot, loaded can confirm it’s one of the more unique horror movies out there – not least because it’s set at Christmas.
For his part, Peckover can’t quite understand why more aren’t.
“People say, ‘Why do a horror movie set at Christmas isn’t that the worst time for that to happen?’ and I’m like ‘exactly!’ Everything is supposed to be cheerful and nice, none of the problems of the world exist so it’s a wonderful time for things to go wrong.”
Better Watch Out is in cinemas now.