Some movies answer very specific questions. One film might ask what would happen if an alien got left behind on this planet and was found by a young boy. Another film could tackle the question of why, precisely, you wouldn’t want to go about bringing dinosaurs back to life. A third might look into the potential pitfalls of going back in time and destroying your parents’ courtship. And then there’s “Benny Loves You,” the new movie written, directed, and starring Karl Holt. It ponders the question of what the world might be like if Rowlf the Dog was a psychopathic killer who wanted nothing more than to make his owner happy… by killing anyone who would stand in the way of his love.
Okay, technically, Benny, the stuffie in question, is a bear, red, and only 18″ tall whereas Rowlf is a dog, brown, and far taller, but the floppy ears feel more dog than bear (see Fozzie as the example of bear ears) and there is something undeniably Muppet-like in Benny’s overall appearance. It is nearly impossible, in fact, to look at Benny and not think of a Muppet. Even after the incredibly bloody killing streak begins, there’s something Muppet-like there (Constantine was an evil Muppet, even if he didn’t tend to disembowel his enemies).
Foolish as some of the above may sound, this is the movie. Jack (Holt), following the death of his parents, is trying to turn into the adult he has not been for the first 35 years of his life. After avoiding the responsibility, he has come to the realization that he needs to pay the bills and clean the house and generally function in the way that society requires if one is to be a part of it. So, it is out with the detritus (old toys) of childhood and in with an adult lifestyle for him. Or, it would be, until he attempts to get rid of Benny. The stuffed animal decides he’s not having any of that and, as a response, kills anyone and anything that might win over Jack’s love or, alternatively, ruin Jack and Benny’s life in any way. It doesn’t matter whether it’s another human or a real animal or a stuffed one, Benny is done playing. Well, he’s done except for his wanting to play with Jack… for eternity.
It is certainly possible that one could view the entire movie as a metaphor for the difficulty some people have in breaking away from a state of perpetual adolescence. Then, Benny is a weight on Jack, a reminder of all the good times that the two previously shared and a constant lure, urging him to fall back on his youth. How exactly canned spaghetti functions as stuffed animal entrails in that metaphor may be less clear, but assuredly one could work it out.
As may already be evident, “Benny Loves You” is cartoonish in its bloody violence. The whole movie is a caricature of something truly dark and disturbing. As with any good caricature, it manages to hold on to a portion of that truth while taking the overall image and making it outsized and overly grotesque.
During more than one moment in the film, the viewer can almost sense someone off-camera urging more blood to be spattered as Benny hacks away, and said person being immensely amused as another spout of red shoots across the frame. It is a movie that is gleeful in its comic depravity. The viewer is helpless but to also find themselves chuckling at the next bit of viscera that comes forth.
It wouldn’t be terribly fun if Benny only tortured a single human, so we get to see him go after a number of Jack’s acquaintances including a new potential girlfriend, Dawn (Claire Cartwright); a horrific co-worker, Richard (George Collie); and an awful boss, Ron (James Parsons). All three, and everyone else in the movie, exhibits that same sense of vague glee at the shenanigans, even when those shenanigans involve terror and death. “Benny Loves You” may be a horror film, but that horror very much exists within a world of comedy.
There are moments in the movie of undeniable greatness, whether its canned spaghetti bowels, or conscious mimicry of other movies, or the messages Benny leaves around the house, or just the joyously bloody way in which it all proceeds. Not all of it hits though with that same level on enthusiasm. The lulls aren’t numerous, but when the movie isn’t preparing the next spectacle nor mocking the proceedings, it isn’t as successful.
By no means is “Benny Loves You” the first movie about a murderous childhood toy, it’s not even close. Even so, its very enthusiasm makes it an undeniable joy. If Rowlf’s lines in “We’re Doing a Sequel” didn’t have you wondering what sorts of evil lurked behind the Muppet’s eyes before, Holt’s efforts will force the question upon you.
photo credit: Dread