‘Becky’ Review: “Vicious Grindhouse Goodness”
Few things in this world are more terrifying than extreme prejudice. Pure, unreasonable hate towards someone for their race, gender, sexuality, what have you. This is perhaps most scary when a perpetrator internalizes it to the point it becomes a natural part of their identity. Becky knows this and mines it for all the horror it’s worth.
Becky features Kevin James playing against type as a man of such prejudice, Dominick. A Neo-Nazi escaped convict, Dominick interrupts a family get-together with his violent crew to obtain a key. What it unlocks, we never know. Yet what is apparent is how chilling he is. Soft-spoken and measured, he wears his hatred in a swastika tattoo on the back of his head like it’s nothing. He tortures this family without a care in the world. James embodies a very real type of person in the world: the careless destroyer of everyone around them. Thankfully, 13-year-old Becky (Lulu Wilson) isn’t going down without a fight.
Directed by Jonathan Millott and Cary Murnion (Cooties), Becky takes James’ very real-world villain and puts him in something of a cathartic grindhouse-adjacent horror. The titular character is a rebellious child, mourning the loss of her mother, who is hesitant about going on a weekend trip with her father (Joel McHale). She grows frustrated as her father’s new fiancee (Amanda Brugel) and her young son (Isaiah Rockcliffe) arrive. These expository parts of the film are easily its weakest. Although it’s not quite bad, these parts fall into the common cliches that befall the horror genre. However, her standoffishness transforms into survival as Dominick and his crew arrive.
What follows is a deadly game of cat-and-mouse that is impeccably directed all the way through by Milott and Murnion. While the script by Nick Morris, Lane Skye, and Ruckus Skye is hardly something to write home about, the filmmakers make it sing. The juxtaposition between Becky and Dominick rests at the core of the film. James’s calculated villain has long lost his sense of emotion. He fights with decisive precision, wasting human life wherever most convenient to him.
Becky, on the other hand, is overcome with emotion. Wilson gives a star-making performance as someone who has an internal war raging inside of her. She has the Herculean task of transforming Becky’s inner rage into a primal urge to protect the lives of those around her. And when Becky gets her revenge, she goes all in. Tension permeates Becky all the way through not only because of its terrifying villains but also because of the sheer depths Becky will go to to protect her family.
This is a gory, gory movie. And not in the gratuitous, simple sense either. The kills here are as nasty as they are inventive. With every new threat, Becky comes up with a grotesquely beautiful way to dispatch each new enemy. The make-up department here has made art out of violence. In this day and age, it’s easy to fall short of truly surprising audiences with violence or to go too far in the opposite direction and shock for the sake of shocking. That problem is all but gone here. Becky’s actions are gross, sure, but they’re also highly inventive and even darkly comical. It’s hard not to chuckle and let out a “hell yeah” when Becky finds a devious new way to take out a white supremacist.
As the bodies pile up, Becky does something a bit surprising. It apes the excellent Mandy a bit by asking what the effect of this violence has on the perpetrator, no matter the cost. A speech by the violence-weary member of Dominick’s crew Apex (Robert Maillet) questions the point of all this. But by then, it’s too late. Becky is on a path that cannot be stopped, but when her ire is directed towards the evil who are completely indifferent (and proud) of their evil, who are we to stand in her way?
Becky is surprising. With the marketing focusing heavily on “here’s Kevin James playing a horror role”, it seemed that’s where the pleasures would end. But instead, Milott and Murnion have served up a slice of vicious grindhouse goodness that’s airtight in nearly every facet. It’s the type of movie that’s made to watch with an audience, all feeling the same collective enjoyment of seeing the wicked punished for their deeds and basking in the transformation of a young girl to an instrument of justice.
Unfortunately, since theaters aren’t open, the only way to see Becky is to watch it on video on demand or go see it at a drive-in. I highly recommend the latter. With all the new content hitting VOD, one might be hesitant to skip Becky. Don’t. It’s a horror treat that fans of the genre should not miss. – James Preston Poole
Becky is now available on various VOD platforms.
The film stars Lulu Wilson, Kevin James, Joel McHale, Robert Maillet, Amanda Brugel, and Isaiah Rockcliffe.