4 out of 5
Directed by: Tyler MacIntyre
As I’ve been mentioning in recent Into the Dark reviews, my take on this is more in comparison to other entries in the series; as a standalone flick, it’s average, and lacks any notable visual character, but as “just another” monthly installment for the show, it’s one of its best, and had me giggling throughout.
“Themed” around, aheh, Dog Appreciation Week, ‘Good Boy’ might also find the series insouciantly stepping away from its holiday-of-the-month structure; while I think this was a good way to start, it’s definitely limiting in the long run, and so I’m glad the show seems to be going outside the norm for its inspirations. What that translates to in plot-talk: Maggie (Judy Greer), journalist at a paper being de-papered in favor of freelance, online articles, pairs this life change with a series of horrible dates (a rinse and repeat of deleting and reinstalling a dating app) and longing looks at mothers and children; she’s considering plonking down some serious cash to freeze her eggs when the idea is floated by that she get a support animal to help her, emotionally, through a slump. And so she does: Reuben, who’s ultra cute and been left ownerless by a previous owner who was thrown in jail, and because this is a “horror” movie, that’s certainly not a throwaway line. Reuben is a bit of a scamp, but damn is he so fluffy and lovable (for real; this was a great dog for the role), and he does the job of perking Maggie right up. Soon enough, she’s installing the dating app again, and can she bring her dog along?
We’re brought in to some indeterminate point in the date when things seem to be going well. But date makes some offhand, flippant comments about patriarchy, and then interprets ‘not playing games’ as meaning skipping right to sex, and so Maggie excuses herself to gather her things to go. Date steps outside for a cigarette; Reuben isn’t seen. A loud noise brings Maggie running outside to the street to find her date seemingly crushed in a hit-and-run, with Reuben nearby, smiling like a good ol’ pup, and covered in blood.
The scampiness continues, and Maggie discovers that her dog seems to have it in for anyone who’s making life hard for her, which leads to some hilariously over the top splashes of gore – not Dead Alive levels by any means, but still some satisfying shots – and Mags rather conveniently taking right to the task of covering up the murders. I mean, after all, she didn’t do it, and Reuben’s just so cute…
There are some suggestions of more-than-meets-the-eye to Reuben, beyond his apparent targeted bloodthirst, but director Tyler MacIntyre doesn’t overdo that, instead letting Greer (and the quality dog actor!) carry every scene, which she absolutely does. MacIntyre, in fact, doesn’t do much, which is where the flick feels (no pun intended) unfortunately toothless, and very much a TV movie as opposed to something that could play to a larger audience. There’s certainly something to be said for not getting in the way of a production, but ‘Good Boy’s visual sense and pacing is admittedly by the book. It’s not drab – it’s well lit, and believably production designed – just easy to not notice. Thankfully, with Greer, and a pretty witty script from Aaron and Will Eisenberg that keeps things a’rolling, this doesn’t become an issue, until the ending sort of falls flat, as the movie has nothing else to rely on once our two leads’ parts are done.
But again, Into the Darks have proven to be more of a distraction than anything else, with the better and best entries – such as this one – actually giving you reasons to watch besides, like, boredom.