Becky Review: Preteen Pandemonium Rages On

“Hell hath no fury like a grumpy 13-year-old.” Isn’t that how the saying goes? Right on the cusp between independence and protection, the end of tweendom is always an especially rough phase to traverse. In Becky, co-directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion (Cooties) once again turn their attention to the trials of childhood to showcase the uniquely violent talents of one very special girl. 

Becky starts out like so many great horror films: in a car on the way to a house by the lake. Becky (Lulu Wilson) and her dad (Joel McHale) are heading out to vacation, and the start is a bit rough. Not only is it clear that Becky’s mother has passed away in the not-so-distant past, but her mourning has turned the chip on her shoulder into a whole giant potato. She is unfriendly and salty, and it only gets worse when she finds out that they are going to be joined at the lake by her father’s girlfriend and her son (Amanda Brugel and Isaiah Rockcliffe). Becky takes the two dogs and heads out to her fort in the woods to pout as soon as they get there. While this could be a recipe for a horror film all by itself, Becky adds some prison-escaping nazis to the mix to keep it fresh. 

Paul Blart himself, Kevin James, carries the burden of the baddest bad guy here with an unnerving ease. Given that the actor’s comic roots precede him in every role, it is a nice change of pace to see him turn in a straight performance as a horrible shell of a man. Within moments of arriving at the house he starts calling the shots, and ordering the violence, that keeps the pace for the rest of the film. 

From here on out it is mostly a cat-and-mouse chase between this gang of nazis and the slippery Becky. She knows that house and the surrounding woods better than anyone else, and she’ll be damned if she gives up her only living family without a fight. She is smart and inventive, and perhaps even Kevin McAllister himself would get a kick out of all of the ways she can inflict pain on these invaders. 

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Make no mistake, Becky is really just a shell of a plot loosely draped around some of these great gore gags. Watching this angelically-faced young girl kill and maim, and take delight in doing it so well, is truly the best part of the film. The film moves swiftly at an even 100 minutes, without much of a rest from one blow to the next. It barely stops for plot or character development along the way, which might be a strength as well. 

The major drawback to the film is that it is easy to question the characters’ motivations. With a faint exception, “nazi” is used just as shorthand for “really bad dude” and the actual politics brought in with the weight of that designation is not addressed within the film. It seems it was just easy enough to give these escapees swastika tattoos and call it a day. Also, what brings these bad men to this particular house is the hunt for a key, but we never find out what the key is for or why it was worth busting out of prison and ruining this family. This was all crafted as a device to get Becky and these jerks in the woods and on her turf without any real explanation as to why, or greater yet, why should we care?

Happily, Becky seems to be relatively aware of its own shortcomings and sticks to what it does best: Mayhem and angry youths. And while it may have been more engaging to have more real characters and fewer flimsy representations of hypothetical people, its refusal to take itself too seriously makes for a fun and fluffy little killer movie.

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