Twelve-year-old Luke (Miller, Pan) is hot to trot for his eighteen-year-old babysitter Ashley (DeJonge) and hopes that tonight, with mum and dad (an underused Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton) out at a Christmas party, is the night it'll finally happen. But, as dope-smoking best pal Garrett (Oxenbould, The Visit) points out she's moving to Pittsburgh in a few days, has a boyfriend (Mikic) and is five years his senior. But a cosy night in front of the TV turns sour when a figure comes a-lurking outside the house…
It's going to be difficult to discuss this strange horror/home invasion thriller without giving away the rather superior earlier twist, which really knocks everything seen up until that point into a cocked hat. Director Chris Peckover initially lets the clichés run riot, fooling the audience into thinking this is yet another teen slasher the-call-is-coming-inside-the-house! babysitter horror. The first half hour is a completely different film to what follows. Upending events the way he does ensures that the rest of the story is wholly unpredictable with one or two more left turns along the way.
The oddball tone takes a while to get used to. Part dark comedy, part nasty comment on the seeds of toxic masculinity, it's the latter that shines through the strongest. The assailant seems to want to possess Ashley, to punish her for her perceived ills. He ties her up, touches her body; when he does strike her, he wails, "Look at that you made me do!" With that ticking over nicely Peckover plays around the horror tropes – the loud noise/jump/boo moments - but finds original ways to do it: the dryer coming to end of its cycle, the screams from the horror movie on the TV.
It’s not without its faults, however. In masking the early twist so well Peckover struggles to maintain credibility thereafter. The twist comes so far out of left field, effectively dismissing everything up until that point, there's not enough set up to explain the villain's later actions. And the assailant's end game is either deliberately unexplored or overlooked in the rush to get through its trim eighty-nine minutes. Peckover doesn't do enough to isolate the kids either: this is an affluent neighbourhood with houses in view, and a throwaway line like "The next door neighbours are away" doesn't do enough to rob them of potential help. What about the other side? Or across the road?