The unconditional love between a boy and his favorite stuffed toy turns dark in “Benny Loves You,” a horror-comedy from writer, director and co-star, Karl Holt. As the film’s tagline goes, “hell hath no fury like a teddy scorned.” If you’re in the mood to see a stuffed rabbit-looking thing go full serial killer on anything and everything that he perceives is hurting his best friend, you’re going to love this movie.
Jack (Holt) is an adult, but he struggles with growing up. He still depends heavily on his mom and dad but after a family tragedy, Jack must sell the family home and move on. To be rid of the past for good, Jack throws out most of his childhood belongings, including his beloved plush Benny. This doesn’t sit too well with Benny, who springs to life with deadly intentions.
The premise is funny, but far from clever. The idea of a killer toy has been done to death (pun intended) in films like “Child’s Play” and “Puppet Master.” The story is stretched to feature length, and Benny’s welcome wears out less than halfway in. That’s not to say this is a total stinker. Some of the kills are creative and outrageously sinister, including a memorable bit where instead of finishing off a victim, Benny lets them suffer while taking a break to make himself a cup of tea.
Holt sets the tone quickly, with the horrifically hilarious accidental deaths of Jack’s parents during a birthday party, and giving Benny a voice that’s as comforting as it is creepy (“Benny loves you!”). The more absurd the situations, the better the film is. That’s not to say it doesn’t suffer bouts of monotony, and the story is so one-note that it gets old fast.
The British humor suits the film well, and it’s easy to sympathize with Benny because he murders solely out of love for his boy, Jack. Even as Benny’s killer instincts kick in and he goes on a bloody, gore-filled spree, you still feel a connection with him. What makes this possible is the way the character looks. Benny is the ideal balance of lovable and menacing, especially as he’s bouncing along with a cute little giggle while holding a bloody butcher knife in his hand. The filmmakers have nailed the look of the toy, and Benny is so funny because he’s delightful and appears so innocent, yet he’s a cold-blooded serial killer.
There are some themes about embracing your inner child before you shut the door for good, and Jack’s emotions bring Benny to life to illustrate the point. It’s not played like Benny is a figment of Jack’s imagination but instead as a matter of fact.
The filmmakers lean heavily on CGI, and the animated toys look terrific. It’s a low budget project for sure, but it doesn’t visually seem like one.
There’s plenty of blood and gore in “Benny Loves You,” but the film isn’t overly dark. Instead, Holt opts to lean more on the comedy side than the horror, making this a film that will likely be popular during the midnight movie circuit at art house theaters.
By: Louisa Moore