What began as a curiosity more than anything else, directors Jonathon Milott and Cary Murnion’s Becky is a survival story filled with fantastic performances.
I have a soft spot for Paul Blart the Mall Cop. King of Queens was one of my favorite sitcoms ever. For that reason alone I loaded up Becky. A gleefully disgusting thriller starring Kevin James as a larger than life, scraggly beard sporting, vile, racist killer. I’d heard very little except confusion and condemnation. The loveable comedian couldn’t possibly play a human monster. My expectations were low and my hopes even lower. I was shocked to find how good the film actually was. Becky is a bloody Home Alone with a heart of the Goonies, black soul of History X, and a massive dose of I Spit On Your Grave.
Jeff, Becky’s father(Joel McHale) has taken Becky to their family cabin in the woods after the death of her mother. She has not moved on from the loss, but Jeff has met someone new, and he wants to take the time to introduce his girlfriend(Amanda Brugel) and her son(Isaiah Rockcliffe). Jeff’s timing couldn’t be worse because not only is Becky not thrilled about her Dad’s engagement, but a group of prison inmates have escaped and are looking to bring their neo-Nazi terror to Becky and her family. The leader of the group Dominick, played by Kevin James, who is playing so far off type you won’t recognize him, is looking for a key hidden somewhere in Becky’s family cabin. Why the key is there and what it unlocks doesn’t really matter.
What James’ gang doesn’t realize is Becky has booby traps set up everywhere, has watched a whole lot of survival movies, and is not afraid to get a little dirty. She had run off into the woods with her dog to work off some anger when Dominick knocked on the door looking for a fake lost pet. He barges in and starts roughing up Jeff, his girlfriend, and her son looking for the key. When they take things too far and begin torturing Jeff, Becky plots revenge. They have no idea what Becky is capable of. Instead of running for help, she chooses to cobble together all her toys and take out the group, one by one. She’s just that kind of girl and Dominick has met his violent match.
The music and cinematography are very seventies in style. A throwback soundtrack from Nima Fakhrara sets the right mood while intensely focused scenes revel in gore. Movies like I Drink Your Blood and Straw Dogs have similar vibes, and for fans of that kind of grisly revenge story, it is a good example. The violence is over the top, nauseating, and a ton of fun. Milot and Murnion dare you to watch as nasty bits of gore linger. If they sometimes remain gratuitously, so be it. That’s weirdly part of the charm. Becky is not for the weak-stomached. For those expecting a home invasion thriller, you will be shocked. There is as much inventive violence in this film as in Hostel. That’s saying something.
Performances by Lulu Wilson and Kevin James are stellar. Wilson from Annabelle: Creation and The Haunting Of Hill House is an angry, bitter young girl. She is an anti-hero with as much intelligence as rage. The prison escapees are horrible people, but Becky is their match both in brutality and resolve. She has had it with losing people and being disappointed, and she is going to defend her castle regardless of the costs.
Most kids may try valiantly to fend off the bad guys, but few would go to the extremes she does to get revenge. She isn’t just protecting herself; she is taking pleasure in hurting her attackers. It isn’t just about revenge, it’s about grief, and she has a ton of it. By the end, the question of where that violence and rage begins and ends is asked. Becky enjoys the pain she inflicts on James and his gang, maybe a little too much. Is there ever too much pain for neo-Nazis who killed your Dad, punched your dog, and tried to steal something from your home, though?
James is fantastic. The urge to dive headlong into cartoon territory where his bad guy is more melodramatic than scary would be strong. James’ nice guy persona is hard to shake. The very fact that he instead chose a more nuanced, quiet affect makes Dominick frightening. He is effective in part because it is so unexpected but also because he is believable. Real bad guys don’t wear masks, stroke mustaches, or giggle maniacally. Dominick doesn’t either. He instead uses his size to intimidate, and his previously affable voice to ratchet up the tension. Comedians often make the best dramatic actors, and this is a prime example of his untapped range.
The only misstep is the hurried wrap up of Dominick’s killer with a conscience right-hand man Apex. Robert Maillet, the former pro wrestler, plays the enormous man who follows Dominick blindly until he suddenly begins to question the morality of all their mayhem. The reformed bad guy could have been an interesting addition, especially since neither Becky or the group is entirely innocent in this situation. Lots of people would defend their family and house; very few would enjoy it as Becky does. Unfortunately, Apex’s resolution is too hurried and incomplete to have any weight. It’s no slam on Maillett who does as much as he can with the material he is given and is an imposing figure. Apex’s character arch is given too little time both before and after his change of heart.
The only other issue is the key itself. What does it unlock? Why is it there? Why does Dominick want it so bad? None of those questions get answers, and ultimately it’s okay. It doesn’t matter. The key is there solely to force the group together. In that case, think of it as a catalyst only who doesn’t need any backstory—random fate.
This out-of-the-blue horror movie has elements of many different films and uses them all wisely. The gore is creative and cringeworthy. The hero is fresh-faced and deadly, and James is terrifying. Becky is one adolescent you don’t want to mess with, but she is fun to watch. She’s the little girl with a curl who really only has the horrid side since her mother died. It’s more fun to watch bad guys, and Wilson’s hero is as bad as she is good. Her penchant for taking ordinary but dangerous things and turning them into weapons could someday be a career path for her and would be a sequel I would pay to see.
If for nothing else, watch Becky for the grisly practical effects, especially an eyeball scene that can’t be missed and the morbid curiosity of James’ tatted up white supremacist. Watching Becky turn the tables on the prejudiced monsters is precisely what we all need right now. You can stream it now on Vudu.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.