Why are we obsessed with dolls that spring to life?
The creepiest part of 1982’s “Poltergeist” remains the stuffed clown who attacks poor Robbie in the raucous third act. Franchises like “Annabelle,” “Child’s Play” and the lesser known “Robert” all play off the kiddie toy trope in the bloodiest ways possible.
None do it as gleefully as “Benny Loves You.”
This low-low budget thriller finds humor and scares in a plush doll that honors its owner a wee bit too much. The horror-comedy abandons its wit during the third act, and some of the budgetary restraints prove exasperating.
It’s still droll, deliciously cruel and fresh enough to recommend.
Writer/director Karl Holt does triple duty here, playing the exasperated main character. His Jack is a 35-year-old man-child, still living with his Mum and Dad amidst all his childhood toys. He loses his parents in a freak, and coal black, comedy sequence, forcing him to grow up at long last.
That means throwing Benny, his Elmo-like plushy, into the rubbish bin along with other youthful treasures.
Benny, prone to squeaking, “ta-DAH!” at just the right moment, comes to life and starts slashing his way into Jack’s heart. The bodies start piling up, while Jack’s attempt to climb the corporate ladder gets a surprising boost.
The film’s lo-fi effects are just right, from Benny scampering around Jack’s house to the buckets of blood spraying across the screen.
Yes, it’s that kind of movie.
In 2014/15, myself, @WatfordWeather @p_tay and my mum were main crew members of a self financed no-budget film. It took 4 more years to finish it on my PC. Today it’s been selected in the best horror festival in the world @sitgesfestival. I’m so proud of everyone involved ♥️ https://t.co/VrpSsflF7P
— Karl Holt (@MrKarlHolt) July 14, 2020
Holt’s script offers a sturdy enough structure for the gags, and they are plentiful. The story also allows space for hissable villains like Jack’s unctuous competitor (George Collie). Benny does the rest.
He doesn’t say much beyond, “ta-DAH!” and “Benny Loves You,” but his chipper presence and knife play are a constant hoot.
The final act goes understandably over the top, but that loses some of the story’s peculiar charms. Jack’s quasi-romance with a colleague Dawn (Claire Cartwright) suggests a ripe subplot that never materializes, but her quizzical presence and connection to the larger storyline are surely welcome.
The film suffers from terrible lighting at times, which gives the effort a made-for-VHS sheen it doesn’t deserve. The performances are solid across the board, though. Here’s hoping the inevitable sequel boasts a bigger budget but the same ol’ Benny.
HiT or Miss: Patient horror comedy fans will wrap their arms around the bloody “Benny Loves You.”