[Animal Summer 2020] Into the Dark: Good Boy (2020)

Tyler MacIntyre

Judy Greer - Maggie
Ellen Wong - Annie
McKinley Freeman - Nate
Steve Guttenberg - Don
Elise Neal - Dr. Linda Johnson
Maria Conchita Alonso - Bea
Travis Schuldt - Nick

Genre: Horror/Thriller/Comedy/Bad Animals

Running Time: 89 Minutes

When Maggie gets an emotional support dog to help quell some of her anxiety, she finds him to be even more effective than she imagined… because unbeknownst to her, he kills anyone who added stress to her life.

Due to lack of motivation last month, I didn’t get a chance to watch and review the June 2020 edition of Hulu’s Into the Dark series titled GOOD BOY - a film celebrating International Pet Day and starring some familiar faces that probably make this the most high profile Into the Dark installment so far. Starring and executively produced by the fantastic Judy Greer, GOOD BOY surprised me by being one of the best Into the Dark episodes and giving me hope that the series still has a lot of juice left.

GOOD BOY is more of a comedy than a horror film, although it does have a small, cute dog transforming into a bigger, vicious dog who murders anyone stressing out its owner. And I think having the film focus less on giving the audience cheap horror tropes and more on the funny character moments actually helps the film in terms of its presentation. GOOD BOY excels in giving us a main character with a lot of depth going for her. Maggie is a single, middle-aged woman who freezes her eggs hoping she’ll eventually have children someday in her life. She’s a journalist who isn’t given enough respect for her work, demoted to a part-time gig while she has to work as a barista on the side to pay the bills. Her landlord is a hard-ass, the men she meets on dating apps are creeps, and feels like her life is passing her by as she sees how all her friends are advancing in their lives both professionally and personally. It’s when she adopts Reuben, her dog, that she seems to find support and purpose for the first time in a long time. And when Maggie realizes that her dog protects her more than a dog should probably do, she struggles with her appreciation for Reuben against her morals and ethics.

Maggie feels like a real person from the start, due to Judy Greer’s wonderful performance. We sympathize with her personal problems, root for her when things start falling her way both in friendship and in love, and kind of side with her some of the time when she would rather cover up the bodies than turn Reuben in because of what he has provided for her in a time of need. She’s a flawed character, but GOOD BOY has this strange way of justifying her bad actions. In a time of uncertainty due to our political and social climate, as well as a pandemic that grows more out of control by the day, who wouldn’t want to protect those who bring us happiness and support regardless of their evil actions? A lot of us don’t want to deal with more drama than we have to, so I can see many supporting a character who hides the evidence to protect the one animal that understands her and protecting her emotional state. And the film does well in slowly building a relationship between the two characters that makes it easy to understand why one would protect the other and vice-versa.

While I like the characters and the situations presented that gave justification for Reuben’s actions, I thought the film’s final act didn’t really climax in a satisfying way. The first two acts of GOOD BOY have a lot of momentum, energy, and fun going for it. It’s fluffy and cute and you feel like it’s building to something memorable. However, the third act is more focused on the horror aspect and cover up for Reuben’s actions, leading to a predictable conclusion that I wish took more risks. The tone also changes within the third act, making a fun movie feel colder and darker than it ought to, considering what came before it was anything but. It’s as if they remembered this was an Into the Dark film and it needed to match the other installments in the series.

The visual presentation is good. Director Tyler MacIntyre, who brought us 2017’s TRAGEDY GIRLS, brings us a colorful, energetic film that has no issue embracing the silly premise and comedy for much of its run time until the tonal change in the final act. The film flows really well and goes by at a quick pace, making GOOD BOY an easy watch. There’s nothing really visually stylish about the film, but it’s shot well and shots around the death scenes better than expected, considering the budget limitations. A lot of the aftermath moments of Rueben’s rampage are pretty gnarly and bloodier than I was expected, including mutilated corpses and the dog eating fingers more than once. The CGI is a bit iffy though, especially when Rueben transforms into a larger creature to attack his victims. I mean, I would have loved to have seen Reuben do his thing on-screen without these moments either happening off-screen or in shadow. But what can you do? I think MacIntyre did the best he could with what he was given.

The acting is really great, with Judy Greer carrying GOOD BOY easily on her shoulders. She’s honestly the reason to watch, as I always found her onscreen presence enjoyable and welcoming. It’s nice to see her as a lead for once in a project, as she’s usually a supporting player. She’s really likable and hits every emotional beat believably. Great comic timing too. The rest of the cast includes G.L.O.W.’s Ellen Wong, Maria Conchita Alonzo and Steve Guttenberg - all very good in their supporting roles. I also liked McKinley Freeman as Greer’s detective love interest. A really solid cast that elevated a predictable premise by giving it more flavor than it probably deserved.

GOOD BOY is one of those rare Into the Dark installments that I would recommend to anyone interested in the series, as it’s actually pretty good and does more right than wrong. Judy Greer elevates the predictable material with her charismatic and comic performance, helped by a script that gives her character some depth to play around with and make her sympathetic for the most part. The script handles the comedy aspect [which made me genuinely laugh a few times] better than the horror aspect, especially in the first two acts that are nothing but fun and energetic to watch. Director Tyler MacIntyre does what he can with the budget limitations, creating a colorful and well paced film with some dodgy CGI and camera tricks to hide the onscreen violence, only sharing the sometimes gruesome aftermath. And besides Greer, the supporting actors - especially Ellen Wong and Steve Guttenberg - are wonderful as well. I wish the final act was better tonally and creatively, as it doesn’t really match the build created by the first two acts. But for an Into the Dark film, I was surprised by how much I dug this. There’s hope for this series yet if they continue on this track. More of this, please Hulu!

3 Howls Outta 4

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