Animal lovers appreciate the love and care reciprocated by their pets so much so that the term “good boy” is one used to address even the most basic of commands. We love our pets and our pets love us. The cohesive relationship is not only natural, but necessary for some as pets offer a source of comfort, love, compassion, and even identity.
Man’s best friend is spotlighted as the Best In Show in director Tyler MacIntyre’s (Tragedy Girls) June episode of Blumhouse and Hulu’s horror holiday series, Into The Dark. Their episode, ironically titled Good Boy, teaches an old dog new tricks as the narrative celebrates Pet Appreciation Week by drinking from the same water dish as Cujo, The Voices, and Fido. As the sixth episode of Into The Dark’s second season, Good Boy is a happy-go-lucky horror satire that ranges in bark and bite.
“From bad dates to bad co-workers [Maggie’s] well-behaved dog, Reuben, makes a tasty snack out of her adversaries.”
Judy Greer (Halloween 2018) stars at the forefront of Good Boy and is supported by a talented cast including Steve Guttenberg (Police Academy), McKinley Freeman (End Of Watch), Maria Conchita Alonso (Vampire’s Kiss), Ellen Wong (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World), and V.J. Foster (The Shawshank Redemption). The ensemble is completed by the absolutely precious Chico the dog, who brings a special performance to the table all his own.
Good Boy is a classic pet tail (see what I did there?) that turns dark “When Maggie gets an emotional support dog to help quell some of her anxiety, she finds him to be even more effective than she imagined… because he kills anyone who adds stress to her life.” From bad dates to bad co-workers and all of the nuisances in between, her well-behaved dog, Reuben, makes a tasty snack out of her adversaries. As the body count rises and her connection with the pup becomes inseparable, the meaning of the label “Dog Mom” becomes more than a flashy mug decal.
Good Boy effectively produces a narrative that entertains and imbues meaning. At 39 years old, Maggie is feeling the ticking of her biological clock. She struggles with what feels like dog years waiting to find that special someone to settle down with and start a family. Her desires are clear from the start of Good Boy and are amplified by scenes of the uncomfortable lengths women may go to preserve and conceive. The physical and emotional tolls on her body, the expenses, and the pressures all play an interesting role as terrifying subplots that develop throughout her initiative to find happiness.
Maggie’s character draws steady empathy from viewers as she is conflicted with situations beyond her control. Greer’s performance is charming, authentic, and definitely one of the highlights of Good Boy. She stands in the spotlight with total ability and takes on the leading role, which is not much of a surprise. Maggie’s strain to be flexible and her vested loneliness is highlighted with long, singular shots that eventually transition to moments of fulfillment when she does find that special someone to share her life with.
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“Maggie’s transformation into becoming a full-on dog mom takes on an important meaning that contributes to the horror of the third act…”
Maggie’s transformation into becoming a full-on dog mom takes on an important meaning that contributes to the horror of the third act and simultaneously provides some light-hearted humor throughout Good Boy. At first, and arguably to the end, Rueben is a worthy companion. Maggie embraces her newfound motherhood from outfitting to communicating with Rueben in ways all dog lovers do. While it is indeed cute and endearing, her role begins to take on a more moving level of love.
The scenes of Maggie adjusting her life to more dog friendly environments are not only enjoyable moments, but speak to her character’s dedication regardless of the grim outcome. Her substitution of a baby for a pet is a unique way to portray coping and care for a woman desperate to become a mother. Her nature to care and protect something is in her all along, whether it be for a human or a canine.
Dogs May Bite
There’s no such thing as a bad dog, just bad owners, right? Good Boy takes a bite out of expectation as it presents man’s best friend as a vengeful little monster. If you have a place in your heart for animals, Rueben will playfully tug at your heartstrings. Even when he is committing the most heinous acts a dog is capable of, you will find yourself rooting for him. He is just so darn cute!
Rueben is an adorable villain acting out of the defense for his equally dear owner. Rueben is a perfect example of empathetic, not excusable, horror where motives fall into that gray area of understanding. Rueben’s ability to ignite adoration and fear gives his character (yes, animals are characters) an original angle that creates a heartwarming horror energy. The little ball of fur might act as a metaphor to serve the purpose of Good Boy, but he is a different kind of danger one can’t help but love… even when his bloodthirsty side comes out to play.
“The little ball of fur might act as a metaphor to serve the purpose of Good Boy, but he is a different kind of danger one can’t help but love”
Good Boy is full of easy-going mechanics that ultimately work together to make another quality episode of Into The Dark. The tidy direction is clean and smooth making the scenes notably easy on the eyes. The dialogue, penned by the duo of Will and Aaron Eisenberg (3Below: Tales Of Arcadia), is animated and modern without hitting jarring territory. Almost everything about the film is appealing if viewers are looking to consume some good-natured terror. Almost everything.
The one point of Good Boy that falls a little flat against all of its pro-choices lies in its visual effects. Many deaths do not happen onscreen, and the intentional point of view is considerate, but it could have benefited from showing just a little bit more. The graphics and practical effects are a little rough when it comes to showing Rueben in all his dangerous glory. What viewers get is far better than a digitally enhanced pooch, but the puppetry comes off a hair novice in comparison to the other elements at play. However, it is all commendable given the material, schedule, and budget being applied. I would throw Good Boy a bone when it comes to down evaluation of that particular aspect.
Who Rescued Who
Emotional support animals are a new and effective concept when it comes to a multitude of human needs. Rueben acts as Maggie’s new focus at a difficult point in her life, allowing her to cope as naturally as possible. As their relationship blossoms, Reuben’s loyalty and Maggie’s dedication feed off of one another in blissful synchronicity thanks to Will and Aaron Eisenberg’s steady, fluid storytelling. With light and whimsical music scored by Russ Howard III, Good Boy takes on rom-com feel as Maggie thrives at first.
However, the comfort and support she finds in her pet evolves into something a bit more serious. Quickly turning into a dark comedy, Reuben sinks his teeth into anyone who angers his beloved owner. The connection between Maggie and man’s best friend not only turns into a wacky narrative that runs on the notion of one woman’s dependency, but turns into a bloody game of fetch.
“Comedy, gore, and meaning are all married in a workable blend that hits the standards of Into The Dark’s purpose and caliber.”
Going from dog mom to crazy dog lady, combined with Reuben’s penchant for taking out her stress, Maggie slowly begins a spiral. From sweet separation anxiety to deadly co-dependence, Good Boy is a charismatic tug-of-war between opposite tones. Comedy, gore, and meaning are all married in a workable blend that hits the standards of Into The Dark’s purpose and caliber.
The quirks and funny factors are commendable as the canine companion steals the hearts of Maggie and viewers alike. There’s very real emotion behind the story, with the difficult task of disliking such a cute menace. There is a carefree coat to Good Boy, while obvious in intention, that should relieve viewers of the stresses that plague them as they kick back and enjoy its simplistic bark. Reuben comes to the rescue in more ways than one and the only harsh part about Good Boy is deciding whether he is a good dog or a bad dog.
Good Boy is a pleasant surprise as another special installment made in the Into The Dark universe. Judy Greer is not only an expected gem, but she truly elevates her role as a leading lady touched with her signature wit, and some great one-liner delivery. Good Boy is a wild experience and it is full of terrific elements that energizes animal horror with contemporary life and a cuddly demeanor. It will break your heart, give you a good laugh, and make you appreciate your pet for being as normal as possible.
Good Boy is currently streaming on Hulu. Be sure to give your pet an extra hug this week… and an extra treat or two.
Are you watching the second season of Hulu and Blumhouse’s Into The Dark anthology series? What do you think of June’s Pet Appreciation Week episode, Good Boy? What do you think of Judy Greer’s performance as a lovable, but crazy dog mom? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!