No matter where you stand on killer doll movies, prepare to give your heart — or whatever piece of your anatomy the titular animated evil stuffed toy wishes to take — to Benny. Benny Loves You is a riotous, grue-heavy U.K. horror comedy that is the winning result of a five-year labor of love for writer/director/star/cinematographer (with sound engineer John Bowe)/editor Karl Holt.
Holt toplines as Jack, a 35-year-old ne’er-do-much who works at a toy company — in hopes of a promotion although his designs don’t get much attention from management — and lives at home with his parents. When his mother and father suddenly die in a darkly humorous manner, he finds himself in financial dire straits and must sell the house. As he goes through his possessions, he discards his childhood teddy bear — which looks absolutely nothing like a teddy bear — named Benny. Benny is none too keen on this, and comes back inside the house to protect Jack from those who would keep him down, as well as those who make Benny jealous because of their affection for Jack.
Holt does a superb job at each of the roles he takes on. As a director and editor, he handles the comic elements and timing superbly, as well as the gore gags and the horror elements. His cinematography is crisp, and his sharp screenplay takes tropes from killer-doll horror movies, such as the Child’s Play and Anabelle franchises, and mashes them up with family-aimed toys-come-to-life vehicles such as Toy Story and Toy Soldiers, finding clever ways to spoof and riff on those tropes, giving Benny Loves You a unique, fresh, fun feel. The visual effects, both practical and CG, punch far above their weight and are yet another highlight of this fine film.
Holt also does a great job portraying Jack, aided by a terrific cast including Claire Cartwright as Dawn, a coworker who seems willing to help Jack out at work and in the romance department — and who can empathize with him in the killer doll area, too; James Parsons as Jack’s straight-faced, eccentric boss Ron; and George Collie as promotion competitor and Prince fan extraordinaire Richard.
Fans of horror comedy need to put Benny Loves You on their must-see lists. It has a huge heart and satirizes the films and clichés it sends up in a loving manner. It’s the newest addition to my list of 10 favorite films of the year, and it should find a wide, appreciative audience. It certainly deserves it.
Benny Loves You, from Raven Banner, screened as part of Arrow Video FrightFest’s Digital Edition 2, which ran from October 21st–25th, 2020.(4 / 5)