“Benny Loves You” – Just not you [MOVIE REVIEW]

Karl Holt as Jack and George Collie as Richard in "Benny Loves You." Photo courtesy of Epic Pictures.

Karl Holt as Jack and George Collie as Richard in “Benny Loves You.” Photo courtesy of Dread

“Benny Loves You” is from the massively disturbed brain of Karl Holt, who wrote, directed, edited, and acted as co-cinematographer on this incredibly inventive, horribly gory, and massively funny take on slasher films.

Opening on a spoiled little girl who rejects her teddy bear for her bright new shiny Barbie-type doll, she is in for a big shock when her teddy takes active offense and begins to terrorize her. Teddy is unforgiving and his actions let us know right up front what we’re in store for. His revenge is jaw-droppingly graphic, offset by the hilarious unreality of how he wields it. Cut to…

Jack is a marginal toy designer with the maturity of a socially awkward preteen still living at home with Mom and Dad with no inclination to change. Stuck in a rut at work, his life is upended when Mom and Dad die in a freakish kitchen accident during his 35th birthday celebration. It wasn’t the way he was planning to get his own place.

When it’s clear that the promotion he wants at work is going to be given to his rival Richard (pronounced Riche arde), he decides to take action. That action is in the guise of a self-help tape that tells him, in essence, to grow up and throw away childish things. Even after a few minutes into the story, it will come as no surprise to the viewer that he still has all of his childhood stuffed animals, including his teddy Benny who was his closest companion and confidante. Into the bin they go, and that is when things go awry.

Benny the Bear in “Benny Loves You.” Photo courtesy Dread.

Benny was given to Jack by his mother who declared, “As long as you have him by your side, nothing can ever hurt you.” Benny is no ordinary bear. Upset that Jack has abandoned him, he takes it upon himself to prove that he loves Jack and will do anything to protect him and prove his love. And that is when the blood starts to flow. Anyone or anything that comes between Benny and Jack is toast—a metaphor that brings both horror and hilarity as the fingers of one of Benny’s victims pop out of the toaster when Jack saunters into the kitchen one morning.

Suffice it to say, very few come out of this alive. Along the way you’ll shudder and laugh at the fates of some of the innocent, but never sympathetic, victims of a bear who has a strange resemblance to a demented Rowlf the Muppet dog. Beware of your Pavlovian response to the phrase “Benny loves you.”

I couldn’t help but be reminded of 1 Corinthians 13:11—“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” And that was Jack’s mistake. He was safer as a child.

The cast, most of whom you will be unacquainted with, is wonderful even when over-the-top, which is most of the time. There will be no performance awards for depth of character but almost all serve the story well. George Collie, as Jack’s rival Richard, is broad in his approach and someone you just know deserves to get it. James Parsons, their boss Ron, may be shallow in character and approach, but he sets up many a joke with his stutter which is only on words beginning with an “F” (need I elaborate?). Claire Cartwright as Jack’s potential love interest Dawn makes you question the sanity of her pursuit but it turns out that they have more in common than meets the eye.  Special note should be made of Anthony Styles and Darren Benedict who play hilariously incompetent and inept local coppers.

Anthony Styles as Bad Cop and Darren Benedict as the Good Cop in “Benny Loves You.” Photo courtesy Dread.

Holt lays out Jack’s character in both large and small details. When investigating a suspicious and threatening noise, he reaches not for a flashlight but for his Star Wars light saber. His character development is no deeper than anyone else but as director and writer he saved the best bits for himself and he definitely comes through.

This is not a film for the faint of heart but it is a slasher movie with a twist; a revenge of the toys. Perhaps not as adept or subtle as “Shaun of the Dead” or “Hot Fuzz,” it is, nevertheless a worthy addition to the horror/humor genre. So sit back and feel guilty that you are enjoying this film as much as you will.

Opening on demand May 11.

 

 

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