[Movie Review] GOOD BOY

The Venn diagram of horror enthusiasts and kink enthusiasts may as well be a circle. Both horror and kink boil down to what is essentially consensual torture, attracting those of us who crave depravity and submission. But while chains and whips are horror staples, other kinks –  like puppy play – feel relatively unexplored in the horror world.

Well, not anymore. GOOD BOY, the latest film by Norwegian director Viljar Bøe, is about a man named Christian (Gard Løkke) who owns a dog that isn’t really a dog, but a person in a dog suit. The film opens with Christian cooking a steak in the kitchen of his beautiful country home before promptly placing it into a dog bowl. He puts the bowl on the ground and calls out for Frank, who comes running around the corner on all fours and eats the steak through his fake snout. Even if you’re no stranger to furries, there’s something highly uncanny about Frank’s suit and his movements.

Thankfully, GOOD BOY is not interested in kink-shaming. Soon after we meet Christian and Frank, the film introduces us to Sigrid (Katrine Lovise Øpstad Fredriksen), whom Christian meets on Tinder. They go on a date and strike up a mutual attraction, despite their obvious differences– Christian is quiet, punctual, and reserved, while Sigrid easily opens up about her struggles with university and her lack of time management. Everything seems perfect, up until Sigrid meets Frank– at which point she is instantly put off, later lamenting to her roommate that “there’s always something.” Her roommate tells her to be more open-minded, namely because Christian is not only handsome and kind but also the son of a billionaire.

The two watch a Youtube video explaining puppy play, after which Sigrid decides to give Christian another chance. He explains to her that his relationship with Frank is not sexual– apparently, Frank is an old friend of his who lost everyone and needs to act like a dog at all times to have his emotional needs met. Slowly, Sigrid warms up to the situation and her relationship with Christian begins to flourish.

Since this is a thriller, their romance is of course doomed, but Boe does a great job of keeping you on your toes as to how and when things are going to go awry. The pacing is slick and natural, wasting no time on details that are irrelevant to the shifting dynamics between Sigrid, Christian, and Frank. When the first surprising twist hits near the halfway point, the tone of the film becomes addictively anxiety-inducing. Sigrid is as well-written as a horror protagonist can get, always behaving in a way that’s realistic enough for us to place ourselves in her shoes and making our anxiety over her situation that much worse.

Entirely character-focused, GOOD BOY plays phenomenally with trust, tension, and manipulation, culminating in a truly shocking ending that stuck with me for days. This is a film you absolutely don’t want to miss.

GOOD BOY arrives in theaters, on Digital and On Demand September 8, 2023.

Vidya Palepu
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