Review: Becky’s cottage-country revenge thriller misses the mark

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BECKY (Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion). 93 minutes. Available for rental and purchase on digital platforms Friday (June 5). Rating: NN


If there was ever a time for an intense, gruesome thriller where a teenage girl meticulously stalks and kills a band of white supremacist assholes, this is it. I just wish it was happening in a better movie than Becky.

A backwoods variation on the fusion of the “home invaders met with disproportionate payback” subgenre of American horror that stretches from The Last House On The Left to Don’t Breathe, Becky adds a new wrinkle by having its final girl also be its biggest menace.

That’d be the eponymous Becky (Lulu Wilson), an angry young woman who’s still scarred by the loss of her mom a year or so earlier. Her widowed dad (Joel McHale) is trying to move forward: he’s met a nice woman (Amanda Brugel) with a nice kid (Isaiah Rockcliffe), and he’s brought everyone up to the cottage to try the blended-family thing for the first time.

Unfortunately, this is also the weekend when a gang of escaped convicts show up in search of something hidden on the property and they don’t care about anyone’s feelings. Things escalate, people get hurt and Becky goes full Predator, hunting them down one by one.

Great idea, right? A transgressive premise, rich with psychological subtext, and an excuse for a talented cast to play around in a genre sandbox that allows for emotional highs and brutal intensity. And all of that is there… but Becky goes wide of the mark, somehow.

Directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, who gave us the kid-zombie splatter comedy Cooties and the high-concept siege thriller Bushwick, struggle to reconcile the movie’s oppressive tone with their love of midnight-movie violence. It’s clear they want us to enjoy the righteous brutality Becky inflicts on the villains, but the super-serious nature of the packaging – and the sincerity of Wilson’s performance – drain all the grotty pleasure out of the catharsis.

The actors do their best. Wilson, of Ouija: Origin Of Evil and The Haunting Of Hill House, resists any attempt to turn Becky into a caricature, even when she’s sporting a crocheted animal hat that feels like a reference to Louise Belcher, she projects a calculating fury that grounds her performance.

McHale (who, fun fact, co-starred in Deliver Us From Evil, Wilson’s feature debut) is solid as Becky’s dad, a man doing his best against impossible circumstances. Black Conflux’s Ryan McDonald has one good scene as the most reasonable of the heavies, and Brugel, of The Handmaid’s Tale and Kim’s Convenience, delivers the strongest performance as Becky’s would-be stepmom, who possesses boundless empathy and resilience… and manages to show us this while spending most of the action tied to a couch. 

And yes, that’s Kevin James as the movie’s Big Bad  – covered in Nazi ink so we know he’s really serious about playing against type. He’s good at suggesting seething rage underneath a calm facade; we know who this guy is right away. There’s just not much for him to do besides threaten and torture people until it’s his turn to suffer.

This is the problem with Becky as a whole, I guess: you can see the whole thing stretching out in front of you, beat for beat. There are no surprises, no twists. It’s just there.

That said, if all you need from your entertainment this week is a movie where some white-power asshole gets his eyeball gouged halfway out by a teenage girl… well, Becky is absolutely the film for you. Play it loud.

@normwilner

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A life-long Torontonian, Norman became the senior film writer for NOW in early 2008. Previously he had reviewed films for Metro newspapers across Canada and covered every video format imaginable (yes, even Beta).

Read more by Norman Wilner

June 4, 2020

12:42 PM