What’s scarier than strangers invading your home? What if the strangers are white supremacists in search of a key that’s in your house? That’s essentially the plot of Becky, a 90-minute thrill ride directed by Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion. The film has plenty of nail-biting scenes, brutal kills, and a superb performance by Lulu Wilson, who plays the 13-year-old protagonist who fights back against a group of neo-Nazis. That said, though entertaining, the film has a major plot hole and a few thinly-drawn characters.
The film begins with effective cutting and editing, featuring a juxtaposition of scenes showing Becky (Wilson) in her domestic and school life and white supremacist Dominick (Kevin James) in prison, introduced via the large black swastika inked on the back of his head. The opening minutes set the viewer up for the confrontation between the two characters.
In the first act, you learn a major detail about the feisty protagonist that triggers her simmering anger once she takes up arms against the invaders. Becky lost her mother a year before the film opens, and their close relationship is shown through flashbacks of Becky in the hospital with her mom. This humanizes the teen and makes it understandable why she rages when her dad, Jeff (Joel McHale), tells her that he’s going to re-marry. Just prior to that news, we’re introduced to Jeff’s new lady, Kayla (Amanda Brugel) and her son, Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe).
The scenes between Becky and Jeff are some of the most effective in the film, especially during a car ride to a secluded house that holds special memories for the family. Furthermore, it’s nice to see McHale play a character far less arrogant than his Jeff Winger role on “Community.” It’s clear, namely through the dialogue, that he loves his daughter but also needs to move on with his life and has found new love. You feel for the guy as he tries to comfort his daughter, who he calls Chipmunk as she storms off into the woods.
Brugel is just fine in the film, especially when she resists the invaders near the third act, spitting in the face of their ringleader, Dominick. Yet, you wish that she had a larger role and had the chance to fight back more, especially since she and her son are the only people of color in the film.
James, generally known for comedic roles, is menacing. From the early prison yard scenes to the moment he enters the house, claiming he’s searching for his dog, he takes up most of the frame, thus making him an oppressive presence. Yet, he never yells, and in the third act, when he comes face to face with Becky, he talks to her over a bonfire in a calm manner. He’s a good villain, at times terrifying, while rarely raising his voice.
The film’s biggest flaw lies in a major plot hole, the purpose of the key. Dominick gives some vague explanation as to the key’s importance, but it makes little to no sense. The key triggers the entirety of the action and most of the plot, but it has no tangible purpose that we, the viewers, understand. At one point, Kayla questions Dominick about the reason for all the violence, and as viewers, we wonder the same thing. The key and its meaning are not reason enough for the blood-soaked scenes we witness. It’s unclear how Dominick even knew where to find it. Why that house?
That said, Wilson’s performance largely carries the film. She scowls. She wails. She looks at a picture of her former happy family life, when her mom was alive, and uses it as fuel for her attacks. She employs everything from art pencils, to a ruler, to fishing line to punish Neo-Nazis. Gore hounds will enjoy the film because Becky’s fury paints the woods red. The camera zooms in on spurts of blood and even an eyeball that needs to be severed after one of Becky’s assaults.
By the last 20 minutes, you question if Becky’s vengeance will have a permanent effect that can’t be undone. One of the white supremacists, Apex (Robert Maillet), tells her at one point that killing leaves stains and then offers her the chance to walk away with him. At least one of the goons shows some heart and ethics. This idea is only compounded by the ambiguous ending, and throughout the film, you have to question why she never tries to save Kayla and Ty. Does she merely relish the bloodshed and unleashing pain upon the Neo-Nazis?
Overall, Becky is an enjoyable film, primarily due to Wilson’s performance as a resourceful and indignant teen, driven by grief. The kills are some of the most creative and goriest that you’ll see all year. If you can put aside some of the major plot holes and some thin character development, then you’ll enjoy the suspense.
Becky is currently playing at drive-ins across the country and also available on VOD.
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