Sometimes we take our pets for granted. They are an ever-constant presence in our lives, providing us with love and companionship, especially during these turbulent times. If we didn’t appreciate our pets before the COVID-19 pandemic, we certainly should now. However, this does not mean our pets are perfect. Sometimes they pee inside the house. Sometimes they tear up our furniture. And, in the case of Blumhouse and Hulu’s latest installment INTO THE DARK: GOOD BOY, sometimes you get a pet that decides to literally tear apart the people that make you upset. As we find out, this ends up having both pluses and minuses that’ll make us question if we would actually approve this behavior.
In honor of National Pet Appreciation Week and directed by Tyler MacIntyre (Tragedy Girls), INTO THE DARK: GOOD BOY focuses on Maggie (Judy Greer), a journalist working for a local outlet in LA who is at a crossroads in life. She’s single and lonely. She wants kids, but she is at an age where fertility is now an issue. She has anxiety and her landlord won’t stop being a dick about add-on costs. There’s a lot in her life that she wishes were different. After she learns that her outlet has gone digital and has pushed her and the rest of the team into freelance positions, her boss (Steve Guttenberg) suggests getting an emotional support animal for her anxiety. Maggie soon adopts Reuben (Chico the Dog). It doesn’t take long after the adoption, though, for things to heat up. As Maggie is placed in anxiety-inducing situations, Reuben starts to knock-off those who make his owner unhappy with very life-altering results. And, regardless of what anyone thinks, I still think Reuben is the goodest of bois. Yeah, I went there.
I’m going to do my best, as I always try to do, not to reveal pertinent spoilers. With that all being said, INTO THE DARK: GOOD BOY highlights more of the limitations of fast-paced production schedules Blumhouse and Hulu have kept up with the production of this series. As the series moves forward, the particular cracks caused by the production schedule are becoming less easy to camouflage. While the concept of this episode is pretty stellar (and hits home for those of us journalist Angelenos who struggle with that work/life balance), the execution is less so. The film is less horror and more black comedy, with Judy Greer doing the majority of the heavy lifting. However, this does not mean that it’s a film to write off. There’s plenty to enjoy in this homage to the more crazy pet-owners out there.
Judy Greer‘s performance, in particular, is a standout. First off, it’s just so refreshing to see her take center stage rather than be on the sidelines. She completely sells the complexity of Maggie, who is more than just the lonely, desperate single woman on paper. She’s opportunistic, capitalizing on the murders her pet is committing in order to get her article numbers up. She’s envious, desiring the life that her younger friend (Ellen Wong) has in comparison to her own. Her willingness to hide bodies rather than do the responsible thing reveals what lies beneath the surface. Her actions give much for the audience to think about as Maggie is not entirely a sympathetic character. She is reaping what she has sowed in a sense. And, while all of this happens, Greer delivers it with earnest black humor that makes it easier to swallow. It is her approachability that makes us still question the negative aspects of her character before all shit hits the fan in the third act. And that, in my opinion, is what carries this film.
What drags the film is both the length and the lack of horror elements onscreen. While Reuben is running around killing all these people, the majority of the action leading up to that third act happens offscreen. Though the aftermath of those kills is beautifully done in a visceral fashion. Whether making these actions happen offscreen serves to make the audience question the validity of Maggie’s perspective on these things as they play out, I’m not sure. To me, it comes across as a budgetary, time-saving measure. However, once we do get to that final act, the horror elements get ramped up and this is where director Tyler MacIntyre’s practical effects background really kicks into high gear. We get practical monstrous doggo puppets. We get buckets of blood squirting out from under a bed. We get doors clawed apart. It’s just a shame that it takes too long to get us to that point.
At the end of the day, I wouldn’t say I would be watching this installment for the plot. I’m watching this to see Judy Greer in the lead and Chico the Dog being the bestest Reuben boy he can be. While the narrative itself runs longer than necessary, with a repetitive structure of waiting to see who Reuben kills next, the multi-layered performance delivered by Greer really saves it. INTO THE DARK: GOOD BOY is more than just a film of an emotional support dog bathing in the blood of Maggie’s enemies. It’s a dissection of the complexities of what it means to be lonely nowadays in our society. It just took a murderous, leveled-up monster of a dog to help us find our way through it all.
PS. Can you spot the Into The Dark universe references? There are at least two hidden Pookas and one My Valentine reference. Can you spot any more? Let us know!