A lot of the intrigue and hype surrounding Becky has been zoned in on the fact that Kevin James, the usually “comedic” actor best known for his sitcom stays on The King of Queens and Kevin Can Wait, is playing drastically against type as a neo-Nazi skinhead who evidently has a penchant for killing children. It’s the type of hook that could reel audiences in, if only James was a bit more of a prolific performer. That being said, he’s convincing enough in the role, and the film he’s found himself in works on the most basic level - a supremely violent, Home Alone-style invasion thriller who’s titular tween is far from the damsel in distress James and his goons expect.
Directing duo Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion (who helmed the little seen horror-comedy Cooties) may not be operating the most original narrative, but they certainly don’t let that stifle their enthusiasm. James, who very easily could have been unleashed to his own defenses, is remarkably understated, which assists the film in grounding itself among the elevated premise; a premise that Milott and Murnion have an understanding in navigating. And in knowing that they are operating something similar, their aesthetic choices to frame and edit sequences in a parallel manner to each other allows the film to adopt a personality that feels a little more sophisticated than the violent invasion actioner it ultimately is.
As I stated in my Dead By Dawn review that the home invasion subsect of the horror genre isn’t remotely fresh, Becky is already at a disadvantage in that it’s remarkably simple at its core. It has a few standard tropes surrounding as to why the lead character (Lulu Wilson) is as angsty as she appears - again, an all too convenient plot strand - but, to the film’s credit, nothing lingers longer than it should. In fact, the film’s decision to make the character of Becky so unhinged is premeditated throughout, with her emotion-driven outbursts indicative of the rage that ultimately consumes her when her father (Joel McHale), his new girlfriend (Amanda Brugel), and the girlfriend's young son (Isaiah Rockcliffe) are put in peril when James and his cohorts storm their house in a bid to uncover an artefact allegedly hidden inside.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
James and his against type persona is what the advertising material has focused on, and he’s intimidating enough in his performance - he thankfully never goes over-the-top (even when he has to sever his own optic nerve) - but Wilson is ultimately who carries the film. The wide-eyes that so perfectly played into her innocence and naivety in such efforts as Annabelle: Creation, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House are utilized in a more unnerving manner here. Her stare suggests that the atrocities she embarks on throughout the film’s brisk running time - one quite painful and gory offing involves her driving a lawnmower over an assailant’s head - were an inevitability rather than a mere fight-or-flight response.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
At times almost insultingly loud, and others unnervingly silent, Becky’s score isn’t always entirely sure what personality trait it wants to embrace. In the realms of the genre though it’s a fairly standard state of affairs in that what you hear is just as grisly as what you see. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but feels no need to at the same time.
If there’s one area of the film you hope would embrace the gory pleasures of the horror genre, it’s in the effects and make-up, and Becky indeed delivers on the brutality. If it isn’t fire pokers scorched on people’s faces, the aforementioned eye severing or the lawnmower incident (the aftermath imagery of this is particularly macabre), it’s kinetic stabbings with a ruler and a run-in with a boat motor that will likely test your blood-and-gore limitations.
"...A familiar narrative that still has plenty of gory, genre-specific charm..."
Whilst overall Becky is the type of film we’ve seen before in terms of its home invasion-cum-unlikely-heroine mentality, the decision to make the story’s hardened, weapon-wielding protagonist a 13-year-old girl gives the film an illusion that it’s more cutting edge than it really is. That being said, watching a young girl protect her own environment with gusto from a collective of neo-nazis in the most R-rated of ways certainly has its genre-specific charm.
IN THEATERS, DRIVE-INS, ON DEMAND AND DIGITAL - June 5, 2020