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Review: Becky (2020)

Becky (2020)

Directed by: Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion

Premise: Teenage Becky (Lulu Wilson) and her father (Joel McHale) meet his fiancé and her son (Amanda Brugel and Isaiah Rockcliffe) at a secluded lake house. A group of white supremacists invade the house and it’s up to Becky to save the day.

What Works: Becky is a brutal home invasion movie that toys with the conventions of both horror films and action movies to a subversive end. The opening amasses some sympathy for Becky by establishing her as a teenager who has lost a parent but Becky is cold and antisocial toward her step-mother-to-be, diminishing our sympathy for her. But then the family is attacked by a gang of neo-Nazis who take over the house and torture Becky’s father. Making the villains white supremacists automatically returns our sympathies to Becky who wages asymmetrical warfare on the gang, laying traps and killing them in brutal ways. The violence of Becky visualizes the destructive energy and propensity for cruelty that is unique to adolescence and the picture concludes on a coda sequence that questions the ethics of what we’ve seen and who and why we cheer on violence in cinema. This is smart and subversive filmmaking that recalls the early works of Wes Craven, namely The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. The ferocity of Becky is matched by energetic pacing and slick production values. The movie is breathlessly edited and its imagery is simultaneously handsome and gory. The film is anchored by several impressive performances. Lulu Wilson is great in the title role; she doesn’t try to make us like Becky but rather allows the forces in the story to manipulate our sympathies and she makes Becky’s violence credible. The film also includes revelatory performances by Joel McHale and Kevin James. These actors are primarily known for silly comedies but Becky requires them to be serious and they do it well. Kevin James in particular impresses as the leader of the white supremacist gang. His character is vicious but intelligent and James doesn’t hold back the villainy.

What Doesn’t: After Becky starts her violent conflict with the neo-Nazis the filmmakers don’t seem to know what to do with the step-mother and her son, played by Amanda Brugel and Isaiah Rockcliffe. These two spend the rest of the movie on the couch being threatened but not doing very much. The neo-Nazis are in search of a key that is hidden in the basement. The key is a McGuffin—an object that drives the conflict between the antagonist and protagonist. McGuffins are frequently incidental but a lot is made of the key and the white supremacists’ desire for it. These men kill strangers and Kevin James’ character speaks broadly about a master plan. But we never actually learn what the key is for and that missing detail is frustrating.

DVD extras: Trailer.

Bottom Line: Becky is an efficient and brutal piece of work. The movie delivers as a mix of action and horror but it also manipulates the viewer’s sympathies in ways that lead to some subversive conclusions.

Episode: #838 (February 7, 2021)