Safe Neighborhood – A Fantastic Fest 2016 Review
12-year old Luke (Levi Miller) is in love with his babysitter, Ashley (Oliva DeJonge). He holds out hope they can overcome the 5-year age gap between them, but time is running out because she’s set to move away in a few days. When his parents (played by Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton) hire her to watch him one last time on a snowy December night, Luke knows it’s now or never. He has it all planned out, until they find themselves threatened by a home invasion.
Safe Neighborhood, directed by Chris Peckover, owes equal debt to Home Alone and more sinister home-invasion horror films. It’s a film that thrives on it’s plot twists. To go into details on the plot would do a disservice to viewers, who should go in knowing as little as possible. The story, conceived by Zack Kahn, and written by by Kahn and Peckover, cleverly subverts expectations at every turn. What starts off light and playful swiftly becomes sinister and bleak.
With a running time of just 85 minutes, the film effectively utilizes every moment. There’s zero flab to be found in this well-shot and edited feature. It oscillates from strategically placed jump scares to genuine terror. By the time an homage to Home Alone comes into play, both the characters and the audiences are in for a shock at the horrific results.
The natural performances of the young cast builds off the strong foundation of the script. They possess all the genuine qualities found recently in the cast of Stranger Things. Levi Miller in particular shines. His range is remarkable with charm and intensity reminiscent of an early Leonardo DiCaprio. Watching him carry this film was pure joy. Not to be overshadowed, Oliva DeJonge also impressed with her assured and no-nonsense performance.
Don’t read spoilers. Don’t even watch the trailer (I haven’t). Go in blind, expecting a new take on the home invasion genre, and see what unfolds. You won’t be disappointed if by what you see.