BENNY LOVES YOU is a horror-comedy movie starring, written, directed, edited, and partly filmed by Karl Holt. He probably also did the catering, foley, set design, locations, additional voices – just kidding, but he definitely has a huge and heavy hand in this killer doll flick.
BENNY LOVES YOU is about Jack, a loser (said several times throughout the film, so I’m not taking a cheap shot) who works in toy design, and is as much of a man-child as Puppet Master 4’s Rick Meyers. During a series of freak accidents, he is orphaned at age thirty-five and inherits the large home of his parents. Unable to keep up with the bills, he realizes that he needs to grow up and shoot for the big promotion at work. Trying to get his life in order, he listens to a series of self-help tapes, where he’s instructed to let go of the past. Taking the advice, he decides to throw out his old stuffed-animal friend, Benny.
However, as true as the title is, Benny does indeed love Jack and will stop at nothing to get back into his life…Even kill.
I love killer doll movies. I love the concept. I love the message (be nice to your things or they can kill you). I love the creep factor of them. However, BENNY LOVES YOU never fully lands with the horror or the comedy that it’s striving for.
The comedic style is spaghetti-throwing, with an edge of absurdism, but never really reaching the unsettling nature of the absurd. There were only two jokes that I felt landed solidly and the rest were more trope-y, gross-out, or flat. Tonally, it is a mess because it doesn’t have the wit to carry any solid jokes or the over-the-top bizarreness to really shine as a screwball or camp. It leans in all different directions, without fully committing to any of them.
Oh, and dead dog and mutilation alert – big time. Like, Something About Mary hijinks…but with a dead dog.
The effects are…fine. The horror was…adequate. I could tell that Holt was trying and had some fun ideas, but maybe the funding wasn’t there or the writing just didn’t extend itself. I enjoyed the vacuum scene, but there were other scenes that I felt relied too heavily on tropes or half-baked homages (although I did appreciate the Halloween laundry homage, they straight-up ripped Talky Tina from The Twilight Zone).
The Benny design itself is fun and creative, but the voice is highly influenced by Elmo toys and never fully wavered into, say, demonic Speak-and-Spell territory that it probably should have. Benny is cute, but never fully actualized into an object to fear, like, say with Child’s Play.
His motions are floppy and jerky, but more in a laissez-faire kind of way (think Willy’s Wonderland), so you never really felt engaged with his actions. He just isn’t scary and we never get a complete sense of his character. For example, he is terrified of horror movies, but then gleefully revels in his bloodlust and carnage. I thought that this, as being his only weakness, would play a major part in his development or downfall…But nope. Not even explained. A killer doll who gets scared of shitty B-horror movies…
And one last point before I say some nice stuff. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – let’s put the man-child character to rest. He’s outlived his purpose. He’s old and smelly now. And if he is used, please have an actual arc instead of “gets sex, so he’s cured”. It’s gross and weird. Stop it, film industry. It’s embarrassing.
So, the good points. Claire Cartwright as Dawn is incredible. Her character is one of the best that I’ve seen for the “random love interest of man-child” trope. She brings life and humor to this otherwise lackluster character. She’s fierce and funny. Beautiful and charming. Really, just a breath of fresh air in BENNY LOVES YOU.
Also, I rag hard on this movie, but the concept was great. There were moments that really landed well and were so, so close to being very engaging and enjoyable. The third act was very reminiscent of older films with the boobytraps and killer dolls fighting each other. In fact, that all three characters had their own ‘personal demons’ dolls was interesting and entertaining (although Dawn’s doll really needed a little extra to stand out).
However, at the end of the day, BENNY LOVES YOU is just a mashup of the “But why?” meme and the answer being, “For the glory of Satan” meme. There’s no true substance to pull it all together and make it cohesive. There are no true answers or questions, no pure moments that elevate this film into what it’s trying so hard to be; it’s just a furry little dude flopping around with a knife.
BENNY LOVES YOU is now in select theaters and will be available On-Demand on May 11th and on Blu-ray on June 8th.