Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Benny Loves You (2019)

Movie Name/Year: Benny Loves You (2019)
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller
Length:  1h 34min
Rating: TV-MA
Director: Karl Holt
Writers: Karl Holt
Actors: Anthony Styles, Bella Munday, Claire Cartwright, Darren Benedict, David Wayman, George Collie, James Parsons, Jennifer Healy, Karl Holt, Lydia Hourihan
IMDb Blurb: Jack, a man desperate to improve his life throws away his beloved childhood plush, Benny. It's a move that has disastrous consequences when Benny springs to life with deadly intentions.
Cat’s Point of View:
I ran across Benny Loves You one day while searching for something to watch with my daughter and their significant other, and immediately knew this movie would either be awesomely bad or horribly bad. There wasn’t going to be any in-between there. Watching the trailer pretty much sealed the deal that we needed to watch this fresh take on what appeared to be murderous muppets immediately. I was crossing my fingers that it would fall squarely into the “so-bad-its-good” category.

I am happy to advise that I haven’t laughed so hard in quite a while. It was worth every moment of face-palming and eye-rolling that came with the experience as a package deal (and there weren’t too many, really). 
Benny Loves You is another wonderful example of a film experience where the creator knew exactly how bonkers their concept and even execution of the story was going to be - and leaned into it with gusto. 

Seriously, consider a movie about that beloved little squeaky-voiced Elmo doll going on a jealousy-fueled murder-spree. Of course, this production had absolutely nothing to do with the educational and wholesome Sesame Street (1969-) character or really even any true muppets. The visual was still strikingly similar enough that it only added to the “that’s so wrong, it’s hilarious” aspect of the movie. 

We all have had that one toy we were given when we were very little that will always hold a special place in our hearts. Some of us are better about letting such go as we get older. I never really got rid of any of mine, but I did pass them along to my daughter when she was little. For some of us, our favorite stuffie could very well still be capable of chasing the nightmares away. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, as long as the rest of a person’s life is generally productive and at the very least self-sufficient. 

This story explored the notion of those very toys taking umbrage at being cast aside in favor of “growing up” and proving themselves just as magical as we always imagined them to be - but their new version of playtime includes chaotic murderous mayhem. 

Clearly, Benny Loves You was made with a shoestring indie budget, but I honestly didn’t care. Production made great use of everything at their disposal, and I think that ultimately it worked in their favor. I don’t think this story would have landed the same way with shiny CGI movement effects and the like. It was really a stroke of brilliance to have the toy’s movement mimic what it would look like if a child was actually playing with it. The imagery leaned into the campy fun without becoming too cheesy in the process. 

Writer and director Karl Holt (Eddie Loves You, Negative Image, The Pandemic Anthology) clearly made this as a passion project. Not only did it expand from his first credited film short from 2006, he put in quite a bit of time wearing all the important hats. Filming for Benny Loves You wrapped in 2015, but it didn’t release until 2019 because Holt was editing, scoring, and adding the VFX himself. I’m eager to see what Holt does next, and I’m hoping that he continues to bring us the much-needed laughter.

Benny Loves You is quite silly, but gloriously so; and I wouldn’t mind watching it again and again as I ensnare as many friends as possible into watching it with me so I can spread the hilarity.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 81%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 54%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – 6.0/10
IMDB Score – 5.6/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4.5/5

P.S. - There is a post-credits scene that ties up a loose end from the movie. 
Movie Trailer:

Monday, September 4, 2023

B-Movie - Revisiting Personal Cinematic Landscape

B-movies can be divisive. Due to how low their budgets are the graphics sometimes wind up questionable, less experienced actors are hired, and other cost-cutting measures are taken. They’re rarely shown in theaters, few people are putting money on them, but they can be a bit of a time-risk. No one wants to spend hours of their time watching something that isn’t all that great. They’d rather put their hard-won free time toward something better.
For movie fans that do enjoy B-movies, there’s almost a cult-like feel to their enthusiasm. I’m not gonna lie, I’m a part of that side of the argument. There are B-movies that I quote more than any other movie I’ve seen. In fact, as I mentioned in my original personal cinematic landscape article, my friends and I religiously quote The Gamers: Dorkness Rising (2008).
Why do movies like that stick with us?
It’s my belief that because the makers of B-movie don’t need to answer to multi-billion-dollar corporations, they don’t wind up having to speak for people who have nothing in common with their demographic. The geeks that created The Gamers: Dorkness Rising spoke directly to other geeks without having to sacrifice anything because some billionaires thought they needed to speak to a wider audience.
I was talking to a friend about horror movies last night. He’s not the biggest fan of newer polished, over-done, films. The old-school 80’s cult horror flicks speak to him more. The face peeling of Poltergeist (1982), the stop motion gore of The Evil Dead (1981), the high-pitched soundtrack of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). All those films can be found on the National Film Registry protected by the Library of Congress, but if they were made today, big-budget companies would strangle the charm out of them.
The charm in that low-budget creativity leads much easier to a cult following, which is why so many cult films are B-movies.
Hell, my favorite comedy flick, Clerks (1994) – which is on my list as part of the comedy genre – was funded completely by the director maxing out his credit cards. The constraint of less money leaves room for more creativity.  
The best example of a low-budget B-movie that got even more creative due to lack of funds is Deadstream (2022).

Deadstream is one of the newest movies going on my cinematic landscape. It came out just last year and I had no expectations for it. I’m not a huge fan of found footage. In fact, I dislike the sub-genre so much that I don’t even go over it as part of this article series at all. Falling in love with Deadstream was something no one could have expected of me.
The main character of the film is about as obnoxious as he can get. He’s a narcissistic streamer working to get past a bunch of scandals while trying to survive a night in a haunted house. As someone who loves to watch YouTubers/streamers it was easy to figure out where a lot of the inspiration for the character came from. They had plenty of material to draw on from bad apology videos and dumb mistakes others have made. A big production company might have forced them to tone that down.
It's a small thing, but something that added to the depth and reality of the character. People outside of online culture might watch and think it was a little far-fetched, but those of us who have followed ukelele apologies and seen people arrested for dumb pranks used for clout – we know better. It’s more realistic than we wish it was.
Aside from that, the entire movie took the found footage sub-genre and elevated it. The video is steadier because of the web-cam component, which allows people like my co-author, Cat, to watch it despite the vertigo she deals with. Going back and forth between the cameras allows for less graphic needs while the practical effects are much sleeker than anything CGI would have created at their budget.
Deadstream was a welcome change of pace by both critics and audiences, and I can only hope that other found footage creators learn from its successes. In 10 years, I hope I’ll be able to see it up for its own spot on the National Film Registry listing. I want it to alter the way others make movies the same way it’s altered the way I view them.
There’s another side to the B-movie genre: movies that aren’t made to be good. They’re made to mock the industry or just as a fun parody of movies in general. No big-budget company is going to pick up the kind of movies that aren’t made to speak to anyone, really. They’re just made for the fun of it. Not all of them turn into anything watchable, but when they do… they become so bad, they’re good.
The most recent flick I’ve added to that part of my landscape is the one that will probably become the first film I think of when anyone says “it’s so bad, it’s good.” That film is VelociPastor (2018).

When people think of B-movies, VelociPastor is what they’re thinking of. The costumes are ridiculously unreal, there’s not a single actor taking things seriously, and the graphics are… unbelievable at best. Yet, I cannot properly express how much fun I had watching it.
There were ninjas and dinosaurs, there was parody and humor. The creators of VelociPastor knew what they had. They leaned as far into the silliness as possible. One of the very first scenes exhibits a take on low-budget CGI that I’ve never seen utilized. It caught me so off guard that I had to pause the film until I was done laughing.
It doesn’t matter how bad a film is, if it makes you laugh so hard that you actively need to catch your breath, it’s good.
VelociPastor is never the type of film that I’d go around recommending to people looking for a real movie. That said, at a friend gathering with a bunch of people looking to laugh and drink while watching something to giggle at, it’d be the first thing I pull up.
I’ll always have a deep love for low-budget films. I grew up watching marathons of them on Halloween, and they are probably some of the first movies to ever affect the way I watched other films.