“Good Boy” works better as a sly cultural commentary than a horror film.
The Hulu original, part of its “Into the Dark” series, fits squarely in the scare genre on paper. There’s blood aplenty, some of it splattering on the titular pooch.
Sit! Stay! Fetch me a bucket of soapy water!
The scares are predictable and humdrum, but the tale of a singleton looking for love hits the mark over and again.
The perpetually underrated Judy Greer stars as Maggie, a journalist running afoul of the digital revolution. She’s forced to take a demotion after her newspaper abandons print, but that’s not her biggest gripe. She’s single, in her late 30s and the men she meets would rather hook up than put a ring on her finger.
And, to paraphrase Marisa Tomei, her biological clock is ticking like this!
So when a friend suggests she adopt a dog to calm her nerves she gulps hard and agrees. At first, “rescuing” pint-sized Reuben seems like the best Prozac possible. He’s sweet and loyal, and his presence makes being single bearable.
Lil’ Reuben does tricks, too, like making the jerks in her life disappear – permanently. Could this sweet, loving dog be a cold-blooded killer?
“Good Boy” isn’t a comedy, but much of the screenplay’s beats lean in that direction. Maggie’s boss (Steve Guttenberg, we’ve missed you) desperately spins the company line in absurd fashion. You almost feel sorry for him.
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Maggie’s dating life is a comedy of errors, one calamitous misstep atop another. Why wouldn’t she prefer an itty bitty cuddle muffin like Reuben?
“Good Boy” understands the societal double standards when it comes to love, etc. Men can flirt, and more, without worrying about children well into their 30s. It’s not so easy for the Maggies of the world, and she knows it. The spectre of her cute young friend (Ellen Wong), a wannabe “influencer,” makes that perfectly clear.
This isn’t a pity party, though. Maggie’s biological clock brings texture to the story, particularly when Maggie finally meets a good guy (McKinley Freeman) who also happens to be a cop.
The film finds a ho-hum rhythm tied to the growing body count. Director Tyler MacIntyre (“Tragedy Girls”) stages them for maximum shock value, but we’ve seen too many horror films to find them anything but mundane. Each mauling pushes Maggie closer to the edge, and Greer plays that evolution as well as any actress might.
See “perpetually underrated.”
“Good Boy” toys with a clever rationale for our fine furry friend. What role, if any, does Maggie play in the film’s bloodiest sequences? Is her frenzied state a reaction to cultural mores, or a self-inflicted wound?
The film spends more time poking, and prodding love, American style than focusing on that uncomfortable thread.
HiT or Miss: “Good Boy” is breezy horror fun thanks to a fine leading lady and some shrewd cultural nods.