Film Review: Becky (dir by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion)

Becky is a fairly intense thriller, featuring two actors who you normally wouldn’t expect to appear in a film about a 13 year-old girl savagely attacking and killing a group of criminals in the woods.

For example, Kevin James is best-known for starring in The King of Queens and for playing Paul Blart: Mall Cop.  He’s a member of the Adam Sandler stock company and almost his entire career has involved playing goofy but lovable manchildren.  In Becky, he plays Dominick, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood who has escaped from prison and, along with a group of other fugitives, is desperately searching for a key that will apparently unlock something that will lead to a race war.  Over the course of the film, Dominick murders several people.  He orders his associates to kill children.  He tortures a man with a branding iron and he taunts an interracial couple.  He has a big bushy beard and a swastika tattooed on the back of his saved head.  In other words, this isn’t the Kevin James movie to show your grandma.

And then you have Joel McHale.  Joel McHale is best-known for hosting The Soup and playing Jeff Winger on Community.  In Becky, McHale plays another character named Jeff.  This Jeff is the father of an angry 13 year-old girl named Becky (played by Lulu Wilson).  Jeff wants to have a nice weekend up at the lake with Becky and he’s hoping that he can get Becky to accept the fact that Kayla (Amanda Brugel) is going to be her new stepmother.  Needless to say the weekend does not go well.  Not only does Becky resent Kayla but Dominick and his crew show up at Jeff’s cabin, searching that key.

While Dominick is holding her family hostage, Becky is hiding in the woods and picking Dominick’s men off one-by-one.  As Kayla explains it, Becky is unstoppable because she’s “a vindictive 13 year-old girl.”  The majority of the film is taken up with scenes of Becky coming up with creative ways to kill people who are a lot bigger than her.  It turns out that everything from an art pencil to a ruler can be turned into a deadly weapon.  (Of course, sometimes, a lawn mower works just as well.)  Becky is the type who will scream over the corpse of someone who she has just killed.  It’s not because she’s upset over what she’s done.  It’s because she’s so pissed off.  And believe me, I could relate.  I was a pissed off 13 year-old too.  Luckily, I never had to kill anyone with my art supplies so let’s all be happy about that.

Becky is a bit of throwback to the grindhouse films of the past.  There’s even a scene that plays a very obvious homage to the ending of the original I Spit On Your Grave.  There’s a lot of violence.  There’s a huge amount of gore.  If you’ve ever wanted to see what an eye looks like when it’s literally hanging out of its socket, this is the film for you.  There are some moments of very dark humor as well.  Lulu Wilson gives a fierce performance as Becky and, In general, the film’s well-directed.  The first 20 minutes of the movie are actually rather brilliant, with scenes of Becky dealing with school bullies alternating with scenes of Dominick killing people in prison.

That said, the film itself runs out of gas long before the final scene.  A huge part of the problem is that Domenick and his associates are all way too stupid to really be a legitimate threat to Becky and, as a result, there’s not much suspense as to whether or not Becky will be able to kill them.  (It was hard not to unfavorably compare the buffoonish, easily outwitted Neo-Nazis in this film with the legitimately terrifying ones that appeared in Green Room.)  As well, for all the film’s violence and it’s homages to the grindhouse, it oddly allows two characters to survive the film despite the fact that there was no reason for the film’s villains to keep them around.  Their survival reminds you that you’re just watching a movie and it takes you out of the moment.  You realize that if the movie doesn’t have the guts to kill the two of them, then it’s probably not going to have the guts to really surprise us further down the road.

I have to admit, I really wanted to like this film, if just because I was intrigued by the against-type casting of Kevin James and Joel McHale.  I may not care for the majority of Kevin James’s films but I’ve always felt that he was a good actor.  Joel McHale, as well, has always been a personal favorite of mine and, like James, he’s a better actor than he’s often given credit for being.  I was hoping that both of them would get a chance to shock viewers by brilliantly playing against type.  But McHale is stuck playing a character who is just too wimpy to be sympathetic and Kevin James, bless him, often seems to be trying too hard to project menace.  True menace has to feel natural.  Once it becomes obvious that you’re trying to be menacing, then you’re not.  Dominick is a Sid Haig role being played by Kevin James.  Despite (or perhaps because of) the goofy appeal of such an idea, it just doesn’t work.

Despite its flaws, Becky is a well-shot, quickly paced film and it has enough entertaining moments to be watchable if not entirely satisfying.  If you’re looking gore, this film has what you’re looking for and, as any horror fan can tell you, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.  The film doesn’t quite work but still, directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion do a good enough job that I look forward to seeing where they do next.


One response to “Film Review: Becky (dir by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion)

  1. Pingback: Lisa’s Week In Review: 7/13/20 — 7/19/20 | Through the Shattered Lens

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