BECKY (2020)

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Studio:      Quiver Distribution
Director:    Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott
Writer:      Ruckus Skye, Lane Skye, Nick Morris
Producer:  Jordan Yale Levine, Jordan Beckerman, J.D. Lifshitz, Raphael Margules, Russ Posternak
Stars:     Lulu Wilson, Kevin James, Amanda Brugel, Robert Maillet, Ryan McDonald, James McDougall, Joel McHale

Review Score:

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Summary:

A troubled teenager must defend her father and his fianc¨¦e when four escaped convicts invade their family¡¯s remote lake house.


Synopsis:     

Review:

It¡¯s definitely behind ¡°found footage¡± and zombies, but home invasion still lands in the top five on the list of overplayed horror/thriller subgenres. To ensure worn-out eyes will tune in to another tired tale of good guys defending personal property against bad guys, these movies must offer a tantalizing treat to make them unique. Otherwise, they¡¯re as DOA as every other effort that tries and fails to surpass ¡°The Strangers¡± (review here).

Of course, the big hook piquing interest in ¡°Becky¡± is comedian Kevin James, known to many as good-natured goofball Doug Heffernan on ¡°King of Queens,¡± playing against type as Dominick, a murderous neo-Nazi who terrorizes a vacationing family after escaping prison. Bald, bearded, and sporting several swastika tattoos, this mean man is a far cry from Paul Blart.

How well does James handle his atypical role? About as well as can be expected, no more and no less. It¡¯s always unfair to pigeonhole someone based on what makes them most familiar in our minds. But James¡¯ long career playing cartoonish characters prone to volcanic antics makes it particularly difficult to dissociate his usual persona and take Dominick at face value. At best, all anyone can really hope is that James toes the line and doesn¡¯t break into humorous territory. That¡¯s pretty much what happens. His acting skills don¡¯t run as deep as Patrick Stewart¡¯s, who instantly obliterated images of Captain Picard upon assuming his frightening white supremacist role in ¡°Green Room¡± (review here). Dominick is always ¡°Kevin James pretending to be a villain.¡± He¡¯s more passable than he is scary, although that turns out to be adequate for what¡¯s required of a film leaning closer toward over-the-top fantasy than ripped-from-the-headlines realism anyway.

¡°Becky¡¯s¡± greater appeal should be seeing Lulu Wilson¡¯s continued evolution as a leading young actress in the genre space. From ¡°Ouija: Origin of Evil¡± (review here) to ¡°Annabelle: Creation¡± (review here) to ¡°The Haunting of Hill House,¡± Wilson has been the go-to girl for dark projects in need of a kid capable of dramatic depth and childlike charisma. ¡°Becky¡± sees Wilson graduating out of adolescence and into a moping, moody 13-year-old. Oddly, she exhibits the kind of overblown behavior one might expect of Kevin James. Asked to persistently sneer, sulk, or purse her brow with the annoyed anger of an angst-addled teen, Becky is not Wilson¡¯s most nuanced performance. That¡¯s because the film is about as subtle as a stab to the face, which ironically might be the least violent of all the traumas the title¡¯s namesake inflicts upon her attackers.

Going out of her way to ignore her well-meaning father Jeff (Joel McHale), early scenes depict Becky looking both envious and hateful when she spots happy parents and children giggling inside a gas station while wearing ¡°Magill Family Reunion¡± t-shirts. Becky copes by lovingly smiling at her phone¡¯s keepsake videos of mom, because there¡¯s no better way to remember a dead loved one than by reliving memories of that person slowly dying in a hospital bed. Giving the audience information obviously takes precedence here. So yeah, Becky is an emotionally troubled girl who got that way from losing her mother, in case all of that background expressed on her pained face didn¡¯t come on strong enough.

Jeff¡¯s bright idea for healing involves treating Becky to a weekend getaway at their family¡¯s remote lakehouse. Initial excitement morphs into more resentment when Becky finds out her father also invited his girlfriend Kayla (Amanda Brugel from ¡°The Handmaid¡¯s Tale¡±) and her little boy Ty. Pouting subsequently turns into outrage after Jeff and Kayla additionally reveal they plan to marry, giving Becky a conniption fit that sends her storming off into the woods alone.

In this serendipitous little window of separation, two hardened convicts and two bumbling ones escape a prison transport van and make their way to Jeff¡¯s cabin by killing no less than six people, including two small boys. After capturing Jeff, Kayla, and Ty, Dominick demands to know where he can find a key that was hidden in the house¡¯s basement. Jeff has no idea what Dominick is talking about. Becky does though, because she cherishes the key as another memento of mom.

Having witnessed their intrusion from outside in the trees, Becky elects to turn the tables on Dominick and his crew. With the players and stakes laid out on the board, ¡°Becky¡± becomes a twisted take on ¡°Home Alone,¡± if Kevin¡¯s kooky traps resulted in brutal bloodbaths and torn body parts.

Working from a straightforward script by Ruckus Skye, Lane Skye, and Nick Morris, directors Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott simply seek to put a slaughter-filled stamp on home invasion thrillers without advancing the category in any progressive way. ¡°Becky¡± packs in plenty of signature beats for this setup, including one of the villains struggling with a change of heart as well as roundabout cat-and-mouse dialogue featuring a lot of fruitless pleading from both parties.

Other creative choices are quizzically confusing. Add ¡°Becky¡± to the long list of movies framed as a ¡°Two Weeks Earlier¡± flashback when the narrative gains nothing from revealing its outcome in advance. ¡°Rambo¡± zooms on Becky fashioning weapons and making preparations in montage are borderline absurd. Then there¡¯s the matter of a distinct absence of explanation behind Dominick¡¯s motivation.

But ¡°Becky¡± is a movie built on MacGuffins. Two of the four convicts are only warm bodies for Becky to carve into cold corpses. Each antagonist comes equipped with a convenient pause button that gets hit when someone¡¯s turn to pursue Becky comes up, leaving the others with nothing to do in the downtime. A lack of meat in the material will frustrate some, specifically with regard to the key Dominick stays so hot about, although I don¡¯t see how it matters to the movie¡¯s purpose as unapologetically ferocious entertainment.

¡°Becky¡± knows that it is New Age grindhouse cinema, recognizes it only wants to be a graphically explosive experience, and delivers according to those goals. The film gets pretty savage once action intensifies, with a carnage-laden collection of genuine shocks certain to catch unprepared viewers off guard.

Words of warning to those triggered by certain types of violence: ¡°Becky¡± badly beats one dog and kills another. Becky herself also takes several body slams and full punches from grown men, so if children or animals enduring great physical pain makes you uncomfortable, you¡¯re going to have a hard time getting through ¡°Becky.¡±

You don¡¯t have to deduct as many points if you¡¯re just in it for the wish fulfillment spectacle of watching evil aggressors meet an unlikely match who devilishly dishes out complete meals of comeuppance. Every single kill in ¡°Becky¡± is a squirm-worthy work of creative conceptualization and artistic FX. Be ready to hire a masseuse, as there is a moment of ocular trauma nearly guaranteed to make each viewer¡¯s entire body tense up instantly. It¡¯s easy to predict what will happen as ¡°Becky¡± plays out, but impossible to guess exactly how. That uncertainty injects sadistic scenes with surprisingly tense suspense.

¡°Becky¡± wins a looksee due to its unflinching approach to torturing a game audience¡¯s eyes as much as it enjoys doing the same to the people pincushions onscreen. Anyone who doesn¡¯t see escapist appeal in extreme revenge scenarios would be wise to step aside. If you can stomach one more home invasion thriller however, ¡°Becky¡¯s¡± got the goods in the gruesomeness department for sure.

Review Score: 70