After a chilling start, Viljar Bøe’s horror flick “Good Boy” loses traction in the final act.

When it comes to online dating, everyone has their red flags. Some folks will automatically swipe left on profiles with excessive group photos or one too many gym pics. For others, it’s the political and religious preferences that make all the difference. In most cases, you can’t go wrong with a few pictures of your four-legged friends on your dating profile. Unless, of course, your “dog” is actually a person in a creepy dog costume. Writer/director Viljar Bøe (To Freddy) explores this nightmarish dating scenario in his third feature film, Good Boy. In this rom-com gone wrong, a bright and carefree psychology student named Sigrid (Katrine Lovise Øpstad Fredriksen) is pleasantly surprised to find that Christian (Gard Løkke), the young man she matched with on a dating app, is the heir to a rather sizable family fortune. But like every rich and handsome man in the online dating space, Christian is hiding a few flaws. The biggest one is that his dog, Frank, isn’t a dog at all, but a grown man in a costume who crawls on all fours and acts like a dog 24/7. Despite Christian’s bizarre secret, Sigrid decides to give him a chance. However, it doesn’t take a dating guru to figure out that this isn’t exactly a match made in heaven. What starts as a passionate romance slowly devolves into Sigrid’s worst nightmare.


Katrine Lovise Øpstad Fredriksen as Sigrid in the thriller, GOOD BOY, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

Good Boy is slow, but it builds tension and keeps us hooked simply by being weird. From the get-go, it’s clear that there’s something a lot more sinister going on than innocent puppy play. But it’s not clear what that sinister thing is, and Bøe withholds that information for as long as possible. That mystery alone is enough to put a cloud of tension over the film. Part of the fun of Good Boy is trying to figure out when, where, and how the horror is going to happen. Meanwhile, Løkke (Troll) and Fredriksen perform the romance of Christian and Sigrid like there’s nothing wrong, dropping only subtle hints at the horror to come. The script constantly teases the audience with potentially dangerous situations that just turn out to be misunderstandings. The risky nature of online dating makes a Tinder meetup an easy place to start a horror/thriller story, and Bøe uses that to his advantage.


Nicolai Narvesen Lied as Frank in the thriller, GOOD BOY, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

The real horror of movies like Good Boy is that the events in the story could very well happen in the real world. It could be your best friend, roommate, sister, or even you who goes on a date with an anti-social millionaire who’s hiding a dark secret. Good Boy isn’t filled with images of blood and guts or otherworldly creatures, but it’s just as creepy as the horror films that are. While just about every other part of the set design is normal and realistic, Frank’s dog suit is so creepy and out of place that it changes the entire aesthetic of the film from light and minimalistic to downright disturbing. This isn’t your average Halloween animal costume, but something much more sinister. From the demonic eyes to the blood-red gums, Frank’s costume is absolutely nightmarish. Although it’s just one simple element out of many in the artistic design of Good Boy, this creepy costume alone is enough to make the film deeply unsettling. It reminds us that we don’t need to believe in demons and monsters to experience horror in the real world.


L-R: Katrine Lovise Øpstad Fredriksen as Sigrid and Gard Løkke as Christian in the thriller, GOOD BOY, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

Aside from Sigrid’s roommate (Amalie Willoch Njaastad), who only appears in a few scenes, and Frank (Nicolai Narvesen Lied), who stays on all fours, Sigrid and Christian carry the entire story on their shoulders. Løkke and Fredriksen handle this responsibility with humor, chemistry, and nuance. As the script balances the excitement of a new romance with the absurdity of the situation and the horrors to come, Løkke doesn’t miss a beat. He has the shy romantic persona down pat, but he can also take on a grave and serious tone with surprising ease. He and Fredriksen have solid chemistry, and their combined performances balance out the slow-moving story. Fredriksen, for her part, is undeniably charismatic. As is the norm in the horror genre, Sigrid makes several questionable decisions throughout the course of the film. However, Fredriksen is so genuine and likable in front of the camera that you can’t help but pull for her.


Katrine Lovise Øpstad Fredriksen as Sigrid in the thriller, GOOD BOY, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

Good Boy proves that slow movies can keep us glued to the screen just as effectively as fast-paced ones. While it doesn’t have the intricate complexities of other psychological thrillers, it’s still interesting, entertaining and delightfully weird. Unfortunately, the final act of the film falls flat. All the tension, chemistry, charm, and intrigue of the first three-quarters of the movie disappear in the blink of an eye, giving way to a deeply unsatisfying conclusion. On the one hand, the penultimate scene does provide a much-needed change of pace, breaking the quiet cautiousness of the film and erupting with violence and anger. However, the violence and anger don’t serve a purpose other than being violent and angry. The film’s climax indulges in images of sadistic torture that add nothing to the story. All character development and narrative tension is abandoned for the sake of prolonged violent imagery. To be completely fair, the climactic scene isn’t that graphic. It’s disturbing, to be sure, but if you’re a fan of the horror genre, it won’t even be close to the worst thing you’ve seen on screen. And yet, it seems to exist only for the purpose of being controversial and disturbing. Violence is often used as a tool for character and plot development, but in the case of Good Boy, it adds absolutely nothing to the film. The characters begin making nonsensical decisions (as characters in bad horror movies often do), forgoing all development for the sake of sadistic imagery. In its final act, Good Boy betrays its characters and, in terms of story development, takes the easy way out.

In theaters, on VOD, and digital September 8th, 2023.

Final Score: 3 out of 5.

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


Categories: In Theaters, Reviews, streaming

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