Toy possession has become a more commonplace trope in horror movies since films such as Puppet Master, Child’s Play, and Annabelle among others. More often, creepy looking dolls are possessed by a disturbed soul that leads them to their murderous ways. Less often, bright red, plushy rabbits come to life and go on a revenge-killing spree, and with that you get with Benny Loves You.
Benny Loves You is a British horror-comedy following Jack, a 35-year-old who suffers from the sudden loss of his parents, whom he lives with. Wanting to take control of his life and grow up, Jack throws out most of his childhood possessions, including his favorite stuffed animal Benny. Benny then comes to life, hell-bent on remaining in Jack’s life and wanting to harm anyone who comes between them.
First things first: while the bulk of the film is delightfully bizarre, the first 15 minutes are a ball of manic, chaotic energy. Viewers will find themselves very confused and wondering what they have gotten themselves into. However, if you survive the first 15 minutes, the movie picks up in a more satisfying and entertaining way for most of its runtime, complete with gore and laughter.
Director and lead actor Karl Holt totally hits the mark in some ways, and completely misses it in others. In terms of acting, most of Holt’s performance as Jack is humorous and enjoyable, but at times it feels tedious and overdone. Jack is not the most relatable character, or the most likable, and that is also the fault of Holt, who wrote the screenplay. Benny—the psychotic stuffed animal—is more likable than Jack is and it is evident, which slows viewers down from becoming invested in Jack’s storyline. Most will likely get there halfway into the picture, but not without help from Benny. In terms of directing, the majority of the film is clever, comical, and lightheartedly parodies famous puppetry. This shines through whenever Benny runs in an over-the-top, bouncy fashion that is reminiscent of Sesame Street or The Muppets. It’s fair to say that props should be given to Holt for some of the very unique and cackle-inducing segments, but as a whole this still feels like a juvenile venture for the director, writer and actor.
Lead actress Claire Cartwright portrays Dawn, Jack’s love interest and co-worker. This is where the film begins to go off the rails once again, near the end when Dawn’s history is revealed. What was clearly meant to be a surprising moment once again feels overdone. Acting wise, Cartwright leaves something to be desired. Whether this is due to her acting style or her character is unclear, but as a whole her performance is very unsatisfying. Chemistry between Holt and Cartwright is also lackluster, and at no point do audiences cheer for them to end up together or believe that the two would ever be a couple.
All in all, Benny Loves You begins to feel monotonous and tired by minute 45. The murders are cliché and overwhelmed by what is obviously fake blood and visual effects, Benny repeats the same one-liners and nothing else, and Jack becomes dull while losing his likeability almost entirely. Audiences will be checking their watch, wondering how much longer they have to endure the same conflict resurfacing in the same way. The unfortunate fact is that by that point, the movie is only halfway through its 94-minute runtime.
If you’re looking for a movie that is loaded with faux gore, speckled with jokes, and features a bizarre yet cute stuffed villain, this may be the one for you. If you’re looking for a well-crafted horror flick with a rock-solid plot and relatable characters, maybe skip this one. Benny Loves You is in select theaters on May 7th, on demand beginning May 11, 2021 and available on Blu-ray starting June 8, 2021. Feel free to comment your favorite demonic toy below!