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Good Boy – FrightFest 2023 (Film Review)

3 min read
Frank in Good Boy

Courtesy of Blue Finch Film Releasing

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.

Coercive control, undercurrents of the class system and societal expectations, lashings of blood, barking scenes of BDSM, and a grown man in a dog costume – and that's only scratching the surface of the wild ride that is 's .

Ever since the release of its thoroughly uncomfortable yet oddly compelling trailer earlier this month, fans have been itching to find out what the bizarre is all about. And at this year's , they got a chance as it received its UK premiere.

Good Boy begins with handsome single man Christian hitting up a dating app and meeting up with student Sigrid for dinner, chatting about their lives and loved ones with Christian touching on the subject of his beloved dog, Frank. The pair hit it off immediately with Sigrid going back to his place, however, the following morning Sigrid discovers Frank is not all that he seems when she is confronted with a man dressed in a dog costume.

Frank in Good Boy
Courtesy of Blue Finch Film Releasing

After speaking to her friend Aurora about the awkward encounter, she discovers Christian is a millionaire heir to his parents' fortune and Aurora pushes her to continue dating the eligible bachelor. Their relationship grows and she comes to accept Frank as a part of their lives, but as the film continues to twist and turn, she discovers a dark and troubling side to Christian and Frank's relationship.

The unsettling thriller begins as a quaint indie romantic comedy with hazy, bright scenes that perfectly embody the exciting beginnings of a new relationship, though a sense of unease is ever present with the starkly juxtaposed inclusion of Frank in these twee interactions. The film then takes a whiplash turn into the world of BDSM as Sigrid endeavours to wrap her head around the seemingly consensual puppy play relationship between Christian and Frank, whom he claims is an old friend.

Director Viljar pulling the rug out from beneath us in this manner continues throughout the narrative as the audience is plunged into more devilish twists each time they regain their footing. Once the initial shock of each reveal lessens, viewers still have to contend with the dark, bubbling tension and uneasy visuals that are masterfully constructed by Viljar and the cast alike.

Sigrid in Good Boy
Courtesy of Blue Finch Film Releasing

Good Boy quickly becomes a film about power play and abuse as Christian's behaviour becomes increasingly volatile and the caring relationship developing between the audience and Frank is pushed to its limits. The film cleverly addresses a real-life horror that is painfully common in ignoring all the signs in front of your eyes in favour of rose-tinted glasses. Just as Sigrid is groomed in Good Boy to ignore dangerous red flags for the possibility of riches and a privileged life, the audience comes to realise they too have been manipulated into trusting characters with ill intentions.

The bizarre beauty of Good Boy is in its many cleverly crafted layers that gradually peel away through the fraught narrative designed to fray the nerves of those watching, with the film saving the best until last as it descends into bloody chaos and a finale that will leave jaws dropped. It is easy to be distracted by the abundantly unusual notion of Frank as Sigrid and Christian pet him, feed him, and take him for walks, so much so that you do not notice the tonal shift in the film in a masterstroke from Viljar that further compounds the horrors the viewer is subjected to.

A terrifying twist on the notion of man's best friend, Good Boy repeatedly morphs into a new, terrifying breed of horror film that leaves the audience pulling at the end of their leash to break free from the unbearable tension and whiplash narrative.

Good Boy had its UK premiere at on August 28. It is released on digital platforms on September 11.