Into the Dark Good Boy Review

(Blumhouse Television and Hulu have partnered for a monthly horror anthology series titled Into The Dark, set to release a full holiday-themed feature every month. Horror anthology expert Matt Donato will be tackling the series one-by-one, stacking up the entries as they become streamable.)

In honor of June’s Pet Appreciation Week, Into The Dark’s latest feature has gone to the dogs (strap in, pun haters). From Tragedy Girls and Patchwork director Tyler MacIntyre comes Good Boy, which you might assume summons a canine werewolf (“werewoof”) based on trailer assessments. Not quite the case, as writers Aaron and Will Eisenberg rework butt-buddy comedy Bad Milo but with an emotional support pupper as the protective creature who kills on behalf of its host. It’s humorous, features plenty of “good boy” shots, and carries a certain animal-lover charm that’s properly twisted by blood-stained fur coats.

Also, Judy Greer isn’t shoved into an ancillary role. For this, we Greer stans adore Good Boy even more.

Greer stars as “Los Angeles” journalist Maggie, who resides in the slower-paced neighborhood of Reseda. Maggie’s publication – The Valley Yeller – is going digital, she’s not finding much luck in love, and the nearly-40s bachelorette’s biological clock is ticking downward. Anxiety is beginning to bubble over, so editor and boss Don (Steve Guttenberg) suggests either medicinal marijuana or an emotional support animal to help calm Maggie’s nerves. Enter Reuben, the cutie-pie shelter rescue who Maggie brings home. They say dogs can sense when their owners are anxious, and Reuben is no different. It’s just that when Reuben helps, people die.

Good Boy doesn’t escape the recurring pitfalls of Into The Dark segments past. The Eisenbergs demonize fluffy, fetch-prone innocence; the problem is we don’t get to see much of said demonization as the action primarily happens off-camera. That transformation shot in the trailer where Reuben’s back arches and splits apart to reveal something monstrous? A single third-act glimpse reflects puppetry not far from MacIntyre’s previous experience with the Sesame Street Lite “Owl-Cat” in Patchwork. There’s more dedication to conception than countless other Into The Dark entries, but still, only a three-quarters delivery dictated by breakneck filming schedules. Oh, how I would have loved to see the “horror” elements of this “horror-comedy” go more beastly, truly unleashing Reuben.

On the flip side, Judy Greer sells her character’s midlife crisis and eventual lovestruck relationship with Reuben. Whenever humans fail Maggie, Reuben proves why dogs are the owner’s best friend. With each gnarly attack, Maggie gains more confidence and pep in her step. Greer evokes the blackest comedy notes as she tiptoes around police investigations and scolds Reuben for devouring her problems, which is always the reason why Good Boy isn’t hokily perceived. Not to mention her chemistry with four-legged performer Chico (who plays Reuben) is off-the-charts adorable, which elevates comedic cheesiness when Reuben pitter-patters into frame covered in red juices. We are all Maggie, who still loves her little man unconditionally and values pet companionship over human lives.

MacIntyre’s work on the practical-effects heavy Tragedy Girls and Patchwork help accentuate grotesque horrors after Reuben commits his vicious maulings. The likes of Steve Guttenberg and Ellen Wong are exterminated in brutal ways, whether it be spilled intestines into a bathtub or a lake of blood gushing from underneath the covering of Maggie’s bed. When possible, MacIntyre juxtaposes gruesomeness against the cutesy-and-goofier sequences where Maggie, for example, enjoys ice cream with her policeman crush Nate (McKinley Freeman). It’s needed, otherwise Good Boy would crumble beneath the weight of its Hallmark(ish) satire as Maggie learns the struggles of digital media writers or strikes out on another bum date. Reuben’s primary motivation is comfort, but his methods – while mostly off-camera – still land the gleefully grim genre punch that’s required.

You’re watching Good Boy for Judy Greer, the softest pair of puppy-dog eyes in the biz, and random violence enacted by a knee-high pooch who you’d never suspect. Do I wish Into The Dark would permit filmmakers like Tyler MacIntyre more resources to explore further possibilities within screenplays, this time in Aaron and Will Eisenberg’s more formulaic creature-feature? Without debate, yes. Is Good Boy still psycho-cuddly enough to nuzzle up against, bringing the warmth of horror-comedy outrageousness? Against specific odds, it does. Belly scratches all around, good boys and girls. All that and I didn’t even make a “Who let the dogs out?” reference. You’re welcome.

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10

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About the Author

Matt is an NYC internet scribe who spends his post-work hours geeking about cinema instead of sleeping like a normal human. He seems like a pretty cool guy, but don't feed him after midnight just to be safe (beers are allowed/encouraged).