[FrightFest Review] Playtime Has Never Been Better than With 'Benny Loves You'
Benny the bear loves his human Jack...
...Too bad the sentient teddy bear likes to kill anyone that gets in the way of their lifelong friendship. This is the idea behind Benny Loves You, which made its UK Premiere at FrightFest this past weekend. That’s right, a movie about a homicidal teddy bear.
Written, directed by, and starring Karl Holt as Jack, Benny Loves You is one of those absurd horror films with off-kilter premises akin to Butt Boy or ThanksKilling that knows what kind of story it’s trying to tell. Holt gives us a bloody good time with absurd moments of laughter mixed with decent kills (one in particular sure to win the Golden Chainsaw on Dead Meat).
The bear in question was designed by Karin Jehle (who has won numerous awards for her work as a teddy bear craftsman according to her website) based on Holt’s sketches. Holt seems to have his hands in every jar, even working on 3D modeling. This level of involvement is one we don’t often see in directors, but it adds to the charm and vision of the story he is trying to tell. That vision centers on the loveable man child Jack (Holt), who has his life and career upended after one tragic birthday that sets the mood for the entire film. Forced to grow up and now on his own, Jack is left to fend for himself while contending with a boss that treats his dog better than his employees and an office rival with a Prince obsession (George Collie).
With his job as a toy production designer on the line and the threat of foreclosure in his childhood home, Jack decides to get his life together by cleaning out and getting rid of all the childhood trinkets and memories, but when it comes to saying goodbye to Benny, like Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction, they will not be ignored.
No evil demon in the hallway or spirit of a serial killer possesses Benny—in fact we never really know the reasoning behind the possession—but this simple act of throwing away a childhood toy kicks off the bloody hijinks that ensue. The adorable red teddy bear bobs around, Jack interacting with and often berating the plush creature for its homicidal tendencies along the way.
While the CGI effects are noticeable where Benny has more action-oriented scenes, it doesn’t take away from their charm. We see moments of love for Jack in the stuffed killer in the form of making breakfast while a body is seated at the table or quaking in fear hiding in the corner like a scared child. Benny has a voice box but only says a few lines like “Cuddle Me” or “Benny Loves You”. Benny is no Chucky; when you see a scene of dead bodies lying around and all you hear is “Cuddle Me” or “Tada” you find yourself strangely endeared to the bear.
These moments make the film’s kills memorable; one scene is reminiscent of some bloody fantasy dream sequence with a high body count and a joyful Benny at its center. Holt directs these moments with hints of slapstick that often comes out to play when the “good cop/bad cop” characters (Anthony Styles and Darren Benedict in roles that felt like Fry and Laurie or Frost and Pegg) are investigating the many strange occurrences that happen around Jack. Both Styles and Benedict play the characters as incompetent buffoons not unlike Jack himself, which makes them memorable and lovable whenever they are on screen together. But perhaps the biggest object of Jack’s attention and competition for Benny is the new robotics designer Dawn (Claire Cartwright), whose own backstory is similar to Jack’s current situation, but with a less lovable and more Puppet Master type antagonist.
The cast all work very well together and have fun with their performances, which makes the film’s 94-minute runtime worth sitting through. Benny Loves You brings a new toy to horror town to rival the likes of Chucky and Dolly Dearest. It’s a fun ride throughout and you won’t regret the once in a lifetime friendship. Just don’t take it for granted.
By Kalani Landgraf
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