Kids who kill are pretty terrifying in the real world, but in movies they tend to lean a bit sillier. Blame it on filmmakers who can’t quite bring themselves to commit to the darkness and instead deliver admittedly entertaining fare like Bloody Birthday (1981) and The Pit (1981). There are exceptions, of course, with Them (2006) and The Children (2008) being among the very best, but most try to leave room for laughs both broad and uncomfortable. The latest film to enter the fray changes things up by seeing its killer kid as the protagonist, but it stumbles trying to walk the line between fun and terror.
Becky (Lulu Wilson) is an unhappy teen — redundant, I know — still harboring anger over the death over her mother one year prior. Worse, her dad (Joel McHale) is already moving on and has just announced his engagement to single mother Kayla (Amanda Brugel). His failure to read the room makes for an awkward arrival at the family’s remote summer home when Amanda and her young son join them for the weekend, but even worse things are brewing nearby. Four escaped convicts, including a quietly menacing Kevin James as neo-Nazi king of the hill Dominick, are heading to the house as well in search of something hidden long ago. They take hostages, but Becky escapes into the surrounding woods where she realizes the rage that’s been burning inside her might finally have an appropriate outlet. Those poor Nazis aren’t going to know what hit them.
Becky is a bloody, gleefully violent romp that sees its thirteen year-old protagonist slaughtering Nazis with gory abandon, and it’s difficult not to enjoy the carnage despite the film’s numerous faults elsewhere. From a gratuitous stabbing to a scene of eyeball violence designed to make most people squirm (while making me smile in delight), directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion (Cooties, 2014; Bushwick, 2017) embrace the violence and gore but can’t quite get a grip on the film’s tone.
The in medias res opening already starts things on shaky ground — filmmakers, stop doing this as it never helps your movie — as viewers are told and nearly shown glimpses of what to expect. It starts Becky as a psychopath from the beginning rather than allow her to shift from angsty teen into full-blown killer, and Wilson is unable to recover. She’s a talented child performer who’s already well-versed in horror (Annabelle: Creation, 2017; The Haunting of Hill House, 2018-2020), but her character here is one-note by design. She’s a psychopath looking to explode, and the opportunity has finally arrived.
The script (by Nick Morris, Ruckus Skye, and Lane Skye) is unconvincing throughout starting with Becky herself. Bratty teens are believable, obviously, but her shift into an even more murderous Kevin McCallister is no real shift at all, and it seems her success falls again and again to the idiocy of the convicts. They managed to plan an elaborate escape, but every move they make here is built on pure stupidity. Dominick is given a couple short monologues highlighting his white supremacist bullshit and homicidal tendencies, but in practice he and his fellow bad guys are dumb as hell and played as fools. Laughing at Nazi idiots is fine and all, but it lessens their threat here — despite killing a couple kids and a dog off screen — and leans the film too far toward comedy even as bad things are happening.
Milott and Murnion fumbled tone in their last film too while nailing it with their first which suggests it really comes down to the script at hand, but they succeed elsewhere here with both visuals and energy. There’s a well-crafted transition back and forth between Becky’s day and that of the convicts showing parallels in mood and motion before they all collide, and as mentioned, the violence is entertaining in its messy meanness. Boat motors, Super Soakers, lawnmowers, safety scissors, colored pencils, and more all come into play delivering fun mayhem along the way.
Becky is entertaining enough for a ninety minute genre film, but it feels like a movie that could have succeeded better if it committed one direction or the next. Go full comedy like Cooties and deliver big laughs, or darken things up and leave viewers legitimately affected by the carnage. As it stands, everyone here is one-dimensional and moronic in their own way meaning the onscreen violence is the only thing worth investing in, and while that may be enough for a sociopath like Becky it leaves most of the rest of us shortchanged.