‘Good Boy’ Review: A Terrifying Look At Modern Intimacy
Dating is a nightmare. Profile pictures don’t match reality, political opinions are abhorrent, and let’s not mention the inherent danger of meeting a stranger, even in public. We all have at least one dating horror story and have friends with dozens more. Norweigan writer and director Viljar Bøe weaves his take on a dating nightmare in the new film Good Boy. Not only is Bøe looking at the horrors of modern dating and intimacy, but also at toxic masculinity and the behaviors rich white men are allowed to get away with due to their societal status.
Christian (Gard Løkke) is your typical very handsome son of a millionaire who knows how to dress and how to charm the ladies. But, he has a little secret: he has a dog named Frank. Let me be more specific: He has a man who dresses and acts like a dog named Frank. The faceless man is wearing a ragged fur suit and a terrifying dog mask that just oozes sinister energy. And yet, Frank is treated like a family pet, which sets an incredibly uneasy tone. Bøe never hides Frank, but rather places that mystery front and center, immediately causing the viewer to question Christian’s sanity and motivations. Then, he matches with Sigrid (Katrine Lovise Øpstad Fredriksen) on a dating app.
They have a normal dinner at a beautiful restaurant where he and Sigrid click over glasses of wine. She quickly says yes to going home with him and there, she meets Frank. While lying naked in Christian’s bed. There’s no bigger red flag than your hook-up failing to mention their secret human dog that you see panting at the edge of the bed like a nightmarish specter of death.
After researching puppy play (a form of kink where one partner dresses and acts like a dog while the other partner is their owner), and discovering that Christian is the heir to a massive fortune, Sigrid decides to give him another chance. A massive wallet makes up for what she thinks is a harmless kink. So she doesn’t ask many questions and just goes along with the act. Until things take a turn for the bizarre. Yes, they get more bizarre.
But what’s disappointing is that it doesn’t get bizarre enough. Yes, the idea of a man living as a dog is an inherently strange concept, but it’s not enough to support an entire feature. Bøe lays a strong baseline for Good Boy, but he barely builds on it, which keeps the third act from truly packing a punch. Instead, the film has a more restrained air about it, relying on a deeply uncomfortable atmosphere to shape its horror. But that atmosphere is rather one-note and gets a little stale until the film’s final minutes.
Løkke shines in Good Boy as the Norweigan Patrick Bateman, a man who requires control in every aspect of his life. He is spoiled rich boy incarnate who exerts his daddy issues on those he deems lesser than, such as women and animals. Løkke balances charisma and psychopathy beautifully to create our unnerving villain with a desperate need for power.
With Good Boy, Bøe does an admirable job crafting a unique horror story inspired by the very real complexities of finding love in the digital age. Bøe takes a common premise to another bizarre level, yes, but in his attempts at being restrained, he holds Good Boy back from true bizarre cinema potential. Still, if you’re looking for a beautifully shot and deeply unsettling Euro horror, Bøe definitely delivers a memorable cinematic experience.
‘Good Boy’ is definitely weird, but sadly, it’s not weird enough.