Hulu’s Good Boy Review: Into the Bark
My family adopted a dog a few months ago. Although she’s not an emotional support animal, it’s hard not to mellow out once you spend some time with her. Whether you’re taking her for a walk or cruising through the Starbucks drive-through for a puppaccino (after a trip to the dog park), she’s good vibes. Except for when she loses her damn mind, which happens whenever anyone has the GALL to exist outside our home. Our little dog–a Carkie, or Cairn Terrier/Yorkie mix–turns into a barking, snarling beast. So Into the Dark‘s latest entry is, as we used to say, relevant to my interests. And here’s my Good Boy review.
What is Into the Dark?
As I mentioned in my guide to this century’s horror anthologies, Into the Dark is a movie series from Hulu. Working in collaboration with Blumhouse’s TV division, they release a new movie in the series every month, because every movie is tied to a holiday. Like I wrote back then (last December), they’d begun repeating holidays because “there are only so many major ones.” And then I cracked a joke about an Arbor Day horror.
Well, my joke may come true. They’ve been a little loosey-goosey before with what counts as a holiday, but now they’re really stretching it. I can’t wait for like, season 15 when you see my horror movie, inspired by National Cheese Pizza Day. (It’s also my birthday.) Because June’s entry, Good Boy, is a nod to Pet Appreciation Week. Alright, naturally.
Who’s a Good Boy?
image via Hulu
Judy Greer stars as Maggie, a journalist living in the San Fernando Valley. Well, some people might think “journalist” is a bit fancy. She writes stories for a tiny enterprise called the Valley Yeller. When we meet her, all the stressful stuff in her life seems to be converging.
For example, as she’s getting older, she’s thinking more about her biological clock. She hasn’t had much luck with dating, so she’s thinking about freezing her eggs. That’s a pricey proposition, though, especially for someone on her meager salary. And then she loses that.
Her boss, Don (Steve Guttenberg), tells Maggie and her coworkers that the Yeller is going digital. As such, they’ll all be independent contractors working from home. When Maggie panics, Don first offers her edibles. Then he suggests she get an emotional support dog, especially since she’ll be spending more time at home.
After a trip to the pound, she returns home with the dog she’ll name Reuben (Chico). Although the shelter employee does mention that Reuben ended up in custody because his previous owner did–meaning, they went to prison–it doesn’t seem to sink in for her. But it will.
Because any time anyone causes her stress, Reuben takes care of it. And I don’t mean by being an adorable snuggle duggle–I mean he kills the stressors in increasingly bloody ways.
Now Let’s Cry About Dogs
image via Hulu
First of all, the concept of the film is nothing new. The creature who kills for you, whether you want them to or not, has been done before–most recently on the Creepshow episode “The Finger.” But just because something’s a familiar horror trope doesn’t mean it can’t be good.
And making a dog be the creature who kills is a smart twist. After all, our relationships with our dogs are special, a bond forged over thousands of years. As Jeffrey Kluger wrote for Time:
The earliest remains of humans and dogs interred together date to 14,000 years ago, but there are some unconfirmed finds that are said to be more than twice as old. The larger point is the meaning of the discoveries: we lived with dogs and then chose to be buried with them.
When we interact, we both release oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding. It isn’t just us–as far as research has shown, dogs love us back.
And we care about them so much, we can’t bear to see them in danger, even fictionally. If I so much as see a wagging tail in a movie or on TV, I head to Does the Dog Die before I continue watching.
So yes, having Reuben be Maggie’s protector is clever. Because in addition to the fact that Maggie goes full dog mom, there’s that pesky biological clock. But it isn’t just babies–she’s lonely in general. And while she develops a relationship with charming detective Nate (McKinley Freeman), it’s hard to imagine she’ll bond with him the way she bonds with Reuben.
Good Boy Review
image via Hulu
Overall, my review of Good Boy in short is that it’s one of Into the Dark‘s better offerings. That might not be as complimentary as it sounds, though, as the series has been very uneven from the very beginning. One of the biggest problems with most episodes is that they’re thin. They start with an interesting concept, but then they don’t know where to go with that.
Good Boy suffers from the same issue, but to a thankfully small extent. For the most part, it tells its story compactly with little extra fat. And it’s a fairly straight-forward story, although there are some surprises along the way. On that note, I have to cheer the use of practical effects. While computers can do wonderful things, it’s hard to beat the charm of an old-school practical effect.
And speaking of charm, Judy Greer. While she’s long played roles as the sidekick or best friend, those past roles don’t speak to a lack of talent. She’s equally at home in a lead role like this. After all, at its (bloody) heart, this is a silly story. You can imagine how it would fail in the hands of a lesser actor. But with Greer at its center, it ends up being much more moving than you’d expect from a gory horror flick. And if I had one major complaint, it’s that for a gory horror flick, it’s never that scary. But maybe that’s just the power of a dog. Even when they’re raising hell, we just see a wittle pupper.
Do you agree with my Good Boy review? Let us know what you think on social media or here in the comments.
featured image via Hulu
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at email@example.com.