Dog-eat-human world: ‘GOOD BOY’ director unleashes hell in horror anthology series

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Director Tyler MacIntyre giving notes to Reuben (Chico the Dog). Courtesy of Hulu.

Preston Barta // Features Editor

Hulu and Blumhouse Television supplied horror fans with a tasty treat when they launched their horror movie anthology series Into the Dark, now in its second season. Each episode runs the length of a feature film and revolves around a particular holiday or event associated with its month of release. From Halloween and Independence Day to the first day of school, expect each occasion to deck the halls with buckets of gore.

For this month, rather than pick the low-hanging fruit that would be Father’s Day again, the filmmakers behind Into the Dark unleash a dog-centric episode with “Good Boy” in honor of last week’s Pet Appreciation Week.

Helmed by Tragedy Girls director Tyler MacIntyre, the new installment brings together the comfort behind an emotional support pet like Beethoven with the terror of a savage beast akin to Cujo. “Good Boy” follows Maggie Glenn (Judy Greer), a single and recently unemployed reporter. She’s a walking example of Murphy’s Law, who can’t seem to catch a break. Her former boss (Steve Guttenberg) recommends a pet to help manage her anxiety. Maggie soon adopts a sweet terrier mix, Reuben, and it’s love at first sight. She goes full Dog Mom, dressing the little guy up in cute pajamas to match hers and spoiling him with loads of toys. But it’s not long until Reuben’s secret life as a pup killer comes to fruition, most notably those who cause Maggie stress.

Fresh Fiction recently spoke with MacIntyre to discuss navigating the film’s tone (that toes the line between romantic-comedy and blood-splatter horror) along with incorporating genuine moments of stinging relatability.

Preston Barta: Your films are playful, but they also deconstruct the horror genre in fascinating and entertaining ways. Would you say that you’re a lover of film who likes to dissect cinematic work deeply, or do you try to distance yourself as much as you can to see what sort of surprises you can conjure up without reference? 

Tyler MacIntyre: “I think it’s a bit of a combination. I mean, I was definitely into movies. There are probably 200-300 movies that I’ve seen before that I’ll watch every couple of months. But I try to watch a new film a day or more if I can, but sometimes it’s a little bit impossible while you’re working. Nothing excites me more than seeing a movie that has things in it that I haven’t seen before. Just being somebody who’s watched a fair number of films, anything that takes a risk, even if it’s recently unsuccessful in what it’s doing (but it’s taking a bit of a leap), that’s what excites me. Even if it’s not 100 percent working, I appreciate the courage that it takes to try and push the envelope.”

“I think that’s why I’m drawn to a lot of independent and foreign material because you’re more likely to see something that you wouldn’t necessarily get [stateside] Normally, broadcasts and things like that, they try to engineer ingenuity out of it, because they’re trying to keep things contained creatively in a way. They want a certain set of tools to be used. So, yeah. I’m really looking for things that inspire me.”

Maggie (Judy Greer) with Reuben (Chico the Dog). Courtesy of Hulu.

How do you feel that this particular narrative pushed you creatively?

“I’m really into satire at this moment. I grew up with Paul Verhoeven movies, and he does a very biting, condemning version of that sort of stuff. Tragedy Girls, to a large extent, has some in it, and I think Good Boy was written with that sort of tone. The idea of putting Judy Greer in a movie that has a lot of these romantic-comedy beats to it, with the type of history in film that she has, was interesting to me. It was an opportunity to start with this rom-com, lighter, almost Marley & Me kind of movie, and then take it to a darker place where you can go off the edge a little bit. Knowing that you were going to be working in the box that is Into the Dark, with those budgets, and that schedule, and it needed to kind of play a part in this series, but there is some room to make it your own — that was exciting to me.”

“I like the challenge of having a certain amount of resources, and working with a crew that isn’t normally the crew that I would work with, and trying to do something that was a little bit more episodic. Not that it ties to other episodes, but you feature it more like an episode of an anthology series like Black Mirror, which brings a different set of challenges because you have to kind of balance your resources. You can’t rely on the old indie film tactics, like riding yourself into the ground and putting it all on the line. You have to try to work within and fit it in a box because you have a deadline and certain expectations about how and why the scenes go. But within that, you can be creative. For me, it was to see if I could operate within those parameters, but also make something that felt personal to me.”

And with a dog.

“Yes. Just nuts and bolts challenges like working with the dog who’s in, like, 80 percent of the movie, and things like that. Trying to get a performance out of a dog, and seeing the challenges that come with that. And part of it is just I wanted to work with [Greer, Ellen Wong and Steve Guttenberg]. I find these moments with these actors, and it can be rewarding in and of itself. I don’t think it’s one specific thing, but there’s a lot of experience and opportunities that supported me that I wouldn’t have otherwise had, and so, I was thrilled to be a part of it.”

You mentioned how it didn’t need to tie into other episodes of Into the Dark. But did you still find that it was necessary to familiarize yourself with other chapters in the series to see if there needed to be some throughline? 

“I knew that they’re independent of each other, but there’s supposed to be self-reflectivity. And a lot of that’s brought from the crew, too. Like [Eve McCarney], who’s a production designer, likes to put little Easter eggs in the movie that reference other things. And even the editors will suggest music or motifs that allude to other episodes.”

Yes! I noticed, which is why I asked.

“Yeah. They do multiple episodes and are even working on multiple episodes at a time. So, they find these natural ways to tie things together. I was more in charge of trying to make it individual, but I was familiar with titles like ‘Pooka!,’ ‘Treehouse’, ‘My Valentine’, and a few others. I was aware of the scope of it and the challenges that came with that.” 

“I wanted to see if I could make something that riffed a bit on that TV movie vibe and take those expectations that we were feeding to the audience and subvert them. It was in the script itself. We were all on the same page with that, and I think it comes across.”

Maggie (Judy Greer) taking care of some dirty business. Courtesy of Hulu.

What was the process for you coming up with the monstrous look of the dog, the attacks, and making them feel unique for the genre?

“That was a good challenge because we knew the monster dog was not going to be available until late in the schedule because it needed to be fabricated. We had some versions of it that looked a little bit too alien-like. So, we ended up trying to reground it a bit. After our table read, we concluded that there’s a version of this where we don’t see the dog because it’s in the movie so little. It’s scarier not seeing it at a certain point, but also, the focus of what is clever about the movie doesn’t necessarily need a creature. It’s not necessarily a creature feature. It’s not as necessary to see the whole thing, but I wanted the times when we do see it for it to be brutal and fun.”

“So, we worked on those sequences and tried to make sure they escalated properly. At the same time, I wanted it to be a bit more palpable. It’s a bit of a balance. Being a guy who has made a fair number of horror films, I thought it was a little light on the gore. People are like, ‘Oh, it’s super gory.” And I’m like, ‘Really?’ Whereas this one, it’s definitely on the lighter side. But I think that the creature element turned out well. I think we got some fun sequences in there that may be a tad absurd, but hopefully, people click with it.”

As we wrap up, I think it’s only fair that we discuss the equally-as-impressive dramatic beats. As someone who writes for a newspaper publication that recently transitioned to completely digital, it was sad in the movie when Judy Greer’s character faced the same reality. Steve Guttenberg’s character says how lucky we are that it lasted this long. That scene, along with the idea of there being a clock for people trying to have kids, has a lot of relatability to it. What were your feelings about the script’s inclusion of these moments, and what were the challenges of navigating it with everything else we discussed?

“Both of those, specifically, are things that were in the script. They were themes that the writers Aaron and Will Eisenberg put there, having dealt with it themselves. I think both of their parents are journalists while they were growing up, and they saw them struggle as the industry was dropping. The industry had been the same for 200 years –– Starting to see these weird cracks and those things going online and everything. And so, we wanted a link. There’s a bit of an allusion to that because I think they just understood the struggle of being a journalist in a pretty real way as writers themselves, and the struggles of creating a family.”

“I’m in my 30s myself, and you do get to a certain stage in life where you start thinking about these things. Like, Aaron has some very specific thoughts about fertility struggle and the idea that it’s a lot of pressure that people are put in these situations where they’re just getting their life going the way that they wanted, and then they’re running out of time biologically. But now that there’s technology available, maybe you can deal with that choice differently.”

“I think it’s important to discuss those issues because, socially, I don’t think we talk about them that much because they are a bit personal and they’re difficult to discuss. I wanted to have a bit of that authenticity to it. And [Greer] was all for that. We were able to talk through these things and make sure that it comes from a real place in regards to her experience. But at the same time, we didn’t want it to get overwhelming. We wanted the movie to remain fun still but sprinkle that stuff in there to add some stakes by making it feel real and let people know that we come from a place of sincerity.”

“Good Boy” is now available to stream on Hulu as part of the Into the Dark series.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.