31 Days of Horror – October 24th – “Becky”

One of the things I did at the beginning of this autumnal adventure was try and map out what the different streaming platforms had to offer. I know a few times, especially towards the beginning, I scrolled somewhat haplessly trying to find something that suited my fancy. Not every service had a great interface that can capitalize on their entire catalog in an easy to manage fashion. Prime Video sort of just goes on and on forever. I also found myself being dumped back at the beginning of the line if I did click on any films to take a closer look, if I found anything interesting. But on the venues that I could find more comprehensive looks at what all they had to offer, particularly broken down into the horror genre, I did make a few lists of any titles that really jumped out at me. I figured this could help cut down on time spent wandering through screens looking for something I wanted to watch. If I already had some solid ideas of what had jumped out, I could go straight to it. This has been the case a number of times. I will say that I’m not sure if Paramount+ has updated their layout or what the case is because while I noted that they featured both “Becky” and the recent sequel “Wrath of Becky” (note the foreshadowing is heavy here), I only added them to the list because I saw they were featured on that platform but I separated them out because I don’t believe they initially flew under the banner of something spooky.

Becky IMDb

That’s one of the parameters. I’m not making the call as to whether something qualifies as a horror movie or not. It might be a loose affiliation. It might be a stretch here and there. But as long as somebody outside myself has deemed a movie any kind of horror then it qualifies for me. It could be IMDb. It could be Paramount+. Ok admittedly it can’t be some dude down at the bus station. But you know what I mean. Some trustworthy institution has to have classified my film de jour as some style of scary. I protest that when I made my list, Becky did not fly under that flag or I wouldn’t have parsed it out. I only noted it when I was scrolling around because I did actually really want to make a concerted effort to watch that one. And knowing that the sequel was there as well made me excited to check that out also. So when I went back to my list and was going the Paramount way anyways I stumbled on Becky now in the horror section to my delight. This altered my original plans as Becky was now clearly the choice for tonight.

Becky caught my eye a while back for a couple of reasons. The titular character is played by Lulu Wilson. She was one of my favorite young actresses from Annabelle: Creation, my favorite entry in that trilogy of satellites in James Wan’s Conjuring Universe. I found her to be quite a compelling young lady that could really embody a number of complex emotional responses. She could succumb to fear but also really fortify herself well in convincing inner strength as well. She is probably the youngest, but also perhaps most capable, final girl I remember in recent years really rooting for and enjoying tremendously. So to see her pop up in this film was a nice treat. Becky isn’t one I feel really hit the mainstream very hard. I don’t know when or where I first heard about it but I certainly don’t hear a lot of regular chatter about it, especially in lieu of a relatively recent sequel that has only recently come to streaming as well. But I’m quite happy it did come on my radar because it’s a great deal of fun.

Staying in the vein of casting I have to note Kevin James role in this movie, Dominick. I did see in the trivia that his role was originally intended for Simon Pegg, which would also be a curious but still plausible stretch. But he was unable to perform the duties and responsibilities due to a scheduling conflict so James was selected as his replacement. This role was somewhat of a departure from his standard fare, and I applauded him for venturing out into the unknown. Clearly he’s traditionally a comedic actor so playing a villain is not his bread and butter. On top of that, the fact that he’s an escaped Neo-Nazi prisoner, with the tattoos to match, only intensify the dedication to playing this character straight. Not that there’s really a “funny” way to play a Nazi. Perhaps with the exception of “The Producers” having an internal production of “Springtime for Hitler” being a candidate. Regardless, James was dedicated to the intensity of his nefarious counterpart. There were a number of times he really was truly menacing. It was hard at times to totally believe he was such a bad guy simply because I’m so used to seeing him as such a good guy. I will say that there were probably a couple of times that if you had somebody really driving the point home, ala Ed Norton in “American History X” there would have been a more grisly representation of depravity but I do appreciate the fact that they kept that level of deplorable out of the ethos of this film. The swastikas and his generally imposing nature with no real shred of comedic relief helped keep his on screen transformation believable. Which I did appreciate. He never had a moment where you saw a glimpse of some Paul Blart type schtick. He was a foe the entire time. And his antagonist was a poignant one.

Leading up to the collision of these two powerhouses on screen is the back story, which they set up really nicely from the opening sequence of the movie. They parallel the filming of Becky and Dominick in this back and forth volley visually introducing the two really well in my opinion. The optics give you a sort of montage that frames each of them in their natural habitat and how they operate and even thrive. Becky is a young lady who has lost her mother to cancer and is still having a tremendously difficult time adjusting to life without her a year later. She’s numb to the world. Cut off. Her anger dwells on the surface but also creates a thick wall of protection around her sadness. The mix of the two is only briefly broken a couple of times on screen. I think there’s only one or two moments in the film where she exhibits any kind of happiness or frankly anything outside of at least mild frustration perpetually. While framing her in her setting, Dominick is also shown against his backdrop of prison. It’s clear he’s got something in the works. He’s meticulous. He’s conniving. He’s brutal. Whatever it is that he’s putting together, he’s been working on for a while and has gone to great lengths to work out. Eventually the two converge on the destination, a lake house. It’s clearly been in Becky’s family’s ownership for some time with pictures and memories that ground her there significantly. She’s under the assumption her father, played by Joel McHale, is taking her there under the guise of selling it. She’s upset at first but once he’s able to explain they aren’t selling it, we see one of the few moments where Becky is actually happy. It’s short lived as dad’s new girlfriend and her son show up, thereby ruining the whole thing in Becky’s eyes. But this gives her reason to ditch her stuff, grab her pooch Diego and head off to her secret clubhouse in the woods. Meanwhile Dominick and his crew manage to break out of their prison transport, hijack a vehicle and make their way to the same lake house looking for something he left there presumably many years ago. While the violence is mostly implied and off screen, the killing of the family to steal their car only stands to fortify the truly vile nature of these prisoners on the run.

As you may, or may not, have suspected, eventually confrontation erupts. Dominick makes his intentions known as his cohorts descend on the house and Becky makes her decision to fight back once she knows the family is in trouble. The catalyst for this is that Becky has unknowingly foiled this well laid plan that Dominick has been working on for literal years. He’s returned to find a key. At some point Becky came across this key and added it to her collection of odds and ends in her tree house. Convenient, yes. But it is in a plausible way so I don’t fault the story here. As always, the bad guys just “want the key back” and everyone will be let go. The problem is that Dominick makes the mistake of torturing Becky’s dad while she watches in the woods, igniting the fire inside her to a full on rage. This girl is well beyond emotional issues. There is something seriously wrong with her, but for the purposes of this movie it’s pointed squarely at our antagonists. I will note here that this is done quite adeptly in my opinion. In the set up of who Becky is, she’s not introduced as a sweet early teenager who is dealing with some difficult stuff. Losing her mom is admittedly a tough thing for any kid to deal with all around. Cancer sucks. She watched it eat away at her mom and over time it took so much from Becky as well. But even giving her the benefit of the doubt, Becky is still not overtly portrayed as a hero. Nor is she necessarily given the story of “rising to the occasion” either. When you interact with Becky in the first act, you don’t like her all that much. I didn’t. I could reason out why she was the way she was. it all made perfect sense. But that didn’t stop her from being rude and insufferable. There’s a real reluctance to pin protagonist on her from the onset. The problem is, pitted against the villains of the story, she wins out as the one we’re going to root for after all. And I like that. I enjoy the fact that the dangle in front of us the notion that we aren’t fully meant to really like Becky. I think in the end, knowing I had to overcome some of my own biases against her while being aware that was going to happen because I knew she was the one I’d cheer for was impressive in many senses. If for no other reason than purposefully making me confront my own negativity towards her being a real nasty teenager I’d have a difficult time parenting, once the proverbial shit hit the fan I was all in on Becky.

Once things go off the rails it’s Home Alone meets Rambo First Blood. Becky arms herself with a handful of practical items from her treehouse. She’s got some colored pencils she binds up and breaks off a ruler with a nice pointy edge. I should note that because this movie is a few years old now that I will probably spoil it a little bit but it’s because I just have to talk about how brutal she is in the end. I can’t fully highlight how epic her character becomes without really showing you what she’s capable of doing to her would be captors. Once she witnesses the death of her father, she loses any semblance of contact with sanity. She had brought the key with her, perhaps to truthfully make a trade. She teeters at times between this hardened individual that gives off this vibe that they are wise to the world while other times you have to remember she’s a very naive 13 year old girl who is simply placed in an extraordinary position and responds accordingly. So when she comes to Dominick to trade the key I think there is some measure of good faith. However, things do not go well and she takes the key and shoves it directly into Dominick’s left eye. To the point that when he returns to the house they have to cut his eye out. The eyeball is hanging onto some kind of grisly connective tissue that they first use scissors to try and cut off and then eventually he lays his head down on the counter and uses a sharp kitchen knife to saw it off and then drops the extracted appendage into the sink. This is the first of the gnarly things that Becky does. Each of the four criminals is eventually done in and are eliminated in fairly tremendous fashion. Her ability to use the elements around her with such skill really does make her this pre-pubescent female Rambo.

I think it’s the maniacal fashion by which she destroys each of the prisoners that truly highlights that she is unhinged. For every modern day meme take on Kevin McCallister and his seemingly sociopathic ways, the over the top traps he set for Harry and Marv were ultimately played for gags. Sure, in real life they would have caused significant physical harm and potentially murdered each of the intruders a number of times over. But to make that case you have to remove the comedic nature of how he put everything together and how it all played out on screen. The laughs is what they were after. You don’t get big laughs with a nerf gun to the crotch. But a BB gun? That’s a different story. And I’m not saying that somewhere in the psyche of young Kevin there isn’t a budding serial killer just waiting to come out. But when you watch Becky and the means by which she brings about the end of each of these grown men, it’s just pure chaotic destruction. And in that vigilante justice kind of way we’ve grown to sincerely appreciate from Hollywood, Becky becomes the hero we want. Even her smug, sarcastic nature at the end of the film is far more endearing now that we’ve moved firmly to her side of things. She got the bad guys. She won. It’s nice to celebrate the victory with her. And honestly she seems to have been capable in her methods. Some of it required one of the escapees having a sort of change of heart that she completely manipulates to her advantage but I also don’t really blame her. She’s a 13 year old girl who has now lost both of her parents in horrific form and was pushed to do some considerably traumatic things to stay alive. The entire event is enough to push someone over the edge. But it’s the transformation in the end to this person she becomes that you can’t help but approve of by the time the credits roll. She’s a badass. She’s unrelenting and vicious packed into this little blonde girl that you kind of can’t help but love.

I think in the end this is why I loved this movie so much. The story isn’t unique. It’s another iteration of Die Hard that I’m totally here for and can’t help myself but enjoy it. The story is unique enough and everything sort of fits within the boundaries of what they’ve set up here. A lot of the time I get angry at movies about dolls or toys that attack people and all these seemingly rational, intelligent adults end up falling victim to some 3 foot tall doll that somehow gets the drop on them. Chucky comes running from this direction or one of the puppet master’s minions gets somebody by the back of the leg. It’s always some silly way that they have to make it work that between an adult human and a doll, somehow the doll wins out. That’s ridiculous. In this movie, it’s not that Becky gets lucky or has some special training that allows her to somehow take these four men to task. Some of it is that they are actually idiots and she’s smarter than them. Some of what it comes down to is that they underestimate her. That’s a big part of the problem. Their own confidence in their ability to deal with this child assumes the child won’t fight back. When she does, and she does so in impeccable fashion, it catches them off guard. That part is believable. I think it’s because most of this movie really does feel realistic enough that you’re never really taken out of the whole situation and that closeness to the character makes the movie that much more enjoyable. She stays on point. And she’s not invulnerable. She’s doesn’t have super powers. She’s just prepared enough and the bad guys assume she won’t do anything back. And she does. And it’s horrific. But it’s also pretty amazing. I still say Cobweb is my favorite truly scary movie. There’s less about this movie that’s really “scary” but that’s the same way with most of the slasher movies that comprise the horror genre. Nobody is really scared of Jason. You show up wanting to see him tear a bunch of teenagers apart in a glorious catastrophe. Final Destination is only fun because the way these kids die is completely off the wall. So Becky still earns that horror distinction because of the brutality for sure. But it doesn’t win out as scariest movie. That being said, Becky is definitely my second favorite film I’ve watched this month. I’m so glad I finally got around to checking this one out. It’s been on my radar for a while now but I just hadn’t seen it. And I’m glad I did. It will soon be in my collection as the special edition blu ray arrives on Halloween. I can’t wait. So out of 10 I think I have to give this a 7.75. I’m pretty sure I gave Cobweb an 8 so I can’t outshine that one but this clearly belongs in second place. So if you’re looking for something where the final girl pushes back hard like a “Ready or Not” or even “The Hunt”, “Becky” is the way to go. It’s a lot of fun and incredibly violent. Plus. spoiler alert from that foreshadowing at the beginning of my little review, the second installment is coming up next. Wrath of Becky is tomorrow’s film and it’s taking everything in my power to not fire it up tonight. So on that note we will shut it down again and wait for tomorrow once more. Until we meet again kids, I’ll catch you on the flip side.

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