29th Oct2020

Frightfest 2020: ‘Benny Loves You’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Karl Holt, Claire Cartwright, George Collie, James Parsons, Anthony Styles, Darren Benedict, Lydia Hourihan, David Wayman | Written and Directed by Karl Holt

Child’s Play has a lot to answer for… actually scratch that. The killer doll cliche in horror films goes back a lot further than that , in fact it goes all the way back to the 1930s with The Devil-Doll. Since then there have been a myriad of killer doll (or killer toy to be more precise) films – culminating in the late 80s renaissance and films like Child’s Play, Dolls, Puppet Master, Dolly Dearest; hell, even the Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise switched to killer toys for its fifth instalment in 1991.. The idea of dolls and toys coming to life and attacking their owners is one that still instills fear in audiences. If the films are done right that is.

And Benny Loves You is done very, VERY, right!

In fact Benny Loves You shows that not only can you make a fantastic fun killer toy film but you can also do it on a budget and produce a film that is more inventive, more likeable and a lot more enjoyable than any recent bigger-budgeted effort.

The film tells the story of Jack, whose parents die in a freak accident, leaving him the family home, which he decides to sell up in order to start a new life. Cleaning out the house, Jack trashes his family belongings including his beloved childhood stuffed animal, Benny. It’s a move that turns lethal as Benny springs to life with one goal in mind, protect Jack at all cost, even if the price is death.

Looking more like a knock-off Elmo than a terrifying killer bear, the titular Benny is a cute yet murderous character who will stop at nothing to make his owner Jack (played by writer/director Karl Holt) feel better. If someone slights Jack, dead. If someone belittles Jack, dead. If someone so much as looks at Jack in the wrong way, dead. If someone comes between Jack and Benny, spoiling their “intimate” relationship, yes you guessed it, dead. And Benny kills with not a snarl or a snide quip but with the kinds of loving phrases you’d find in a talking teddy in your local toyshop… “Benny Loves You,” “Cuddle Benny,” “Okey-Dokey” etc. That dichotomy, between cute bear and one-bear killing machine only gets more and more hilarious as the film, and Benny’s killing spree, goes on!

Usually there’s two ways these kinds of killer toy films can go. Deadly serious or play things for laughs – be it all out chuckles or black comedy. Benny Loves You works because it not only filled with dark humour but it’s also laugh out loud funny. It’s like watching the absurdist humour of Monty Python transplanted in the horror genre by way of Sesame Street!

But the film is also more than that. Benny Loves You has a lot to say about human behaviour. Benny is essentially Jack’s id, free from all social restraints, happy to take out Jack’s anger on those that Jack won’t confront himself: including his colleagues at the toy company, a robotic toy company, where Jack works. Which does ponder the question if Benny is at all real. Is Benny something Jack has built as some sort of defence against getting hurt? There’s also the question, throughout a lot of the films running time, whether Benny is in fact doing anything. Jack, whilst seemingly a meek and mild protagonist, could have a murderous streak – there’s always the question of whether Benny’s actions are a projection of Jack’s…

That is until the films epic conclusion. Where Jack holds a final stand against Benny, armed with new toys of his own, ready to defend Jack from Benny’s psychotic tendencies. It’s a mash-up of every killer toy film you’ve ever seen and TV’s Robot Wars – looking, at times, more like the fantasies of a child playing with his toys rather than a desperate fight for survival. Even the cops don’t take things seriously – how can they armed with only pellet guns! Speaking of which, Benny Loves You‘s “shoot-out” has to be seen to be believed. It’s honestly a work of sheer genius.

As is, honestly, the entirety of Benny Loves You.

***** 5/5

Benny Loves You screened on Saturday October 24th as part of this months Frightfest Digital Edition.

One Response to “Frightfest 2020: ‘Benny Loves You’ Review”

  • I’ve known Karl for over 20 years and worked with him for nine of those producing corporate films and modules. Quite aside from his obvious skills as a filmmaker, Karl has utter dedication and soul-absorbing passion for his art that transcends the constraints of having no budget. He made some fabby shorts on his way to Benny including an early version of the story (Yes, Eddie’s still out there, somewhere!) and it’s come together brilliantly in his first feature. I really hope this is the stepping stone to the future he deserves. 6/5