Fantastic Fest Review: Safe Neighborhood Is Comedy Horror For The Holidays


Hormones are a killer in Chris Peckover’s Christmas-set horror-comedy

Safe Neighborhood is the most fun I’ve had at Fantastic Fest. Here we have a Christmastime horror-comedy with its simple, four-syllable title that would have been a popular video rental if it was released on VHS in the 1980s. “Do you guys have ‘Safe Neighborhood’? My friends and I are having a sleepover and want to watch it.” (Imagine what the cover art would look like!)

Chris Peckover’s follow up to 2010’s Undocumented (aka “The Donald Trump Years” – ha!), like a library book, has been long overdue. Thankfully, all late fees have been waived on account of leaving audiences warm and toasty, and just a tad bloody. This is a cheeky, subversive take on the home-invasion thriller that recalls Home Alone and pretty much any movie involving a prepubescent teenage boy wanting to have sex with his babysitter. No need to be bashful; most guys have had that fantasy. I’ll bet if your sitter was Elizabeth Shue from Adventures in Babysitting, you’d do your best to sleep with her too.

Not an easy task for Luke (Levi Miller) who has one last chance to make a move on Ashley (Olivia DeJonge) before she leaves for Pittsburgh. The problem is that she’s the babysitter and five years older than him. It doesn’t matter that he’s about to turn thirteen. Ashley still sees him as a little kid. When Luke’s parents (played by the “also starring” Virginia Madsen and Patrick Warburton) skedaddle to a Christmas party leaving Ashley in charge, it gives the little Romeo reason to celebrate New Years’ early, uncorking a bottle of champagne in an effort to get her tipsy and make bad decisions.

The ruse doesn’t work. To make matters worse some mysterious figures have picked this night of all nights and this house of all the houses in the neighborhood to rob. This is supposed to be the season where area carolers go door to door spreading holiday cheer, not delivering an ominous tap-tap-tapping and hiding in the bushes.

Peckover sets up the scares with Luke and Ashley equally curious about a backdoor left open or shadows moving by the windows. Ashley is particularly jumpy when she comes in contact with a spider. Eww, gross. Safe Neighborhood is designed for Luke to stem his hormonal urges and show Ashley the type of hero can be, even going as far as to get his father’s gun so he can be Doc Holiday (how seasonal). He may not get past second base, but he’ll get out of the dugout at least.

And then, boom. Reel change. Disorientation sets in. Peckover pulls a fast one. What begins as a home invasion ushers in some cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs cartoon shenanigans that would make The Grinch grin. To give more of the plot would spoil the surprise. And what’s Christmas without a few surprises, right?

With a spirited ensemble, led by Miller and DeJonge, indulge in Safe Neighborhood as if you would a plate of gingerbread cookies (with ketchup and mustard-colored icing – once you see the movie you’ll understand) chased down with a glass of spiked egg nog.

Director: Chris Peckover
Writer: Zack Kahn and Chris Peckover
Notable Cast: Levi Miller, Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Virginia Madsen, Patrick Warburton

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