Another comedy icon comes knocking at the door of horror in ho-hum invasion film Becky, but it becomes quickly apparent King of Queens star, Kevin James got the wrong house. Barely a threat or an on-screen presence for that matter, the attention is on the titular terror played by Lulu Wilson, who has already dabbled in scares with the likes of The Haunting of Hill House and Annabelle: Creation, and is taking absolutely no prisoners here.

Still mourning the loss of her mother and struggling to come to terms with Daddy dearest (Joel McHale) finding a new flame to be warmed by, Becky’s (Lulu Wilson) teen-rage explodes when her picturesque family home is infiltrated by a band of escaped convicts, led by Neo-Nazi, Dominick (Kevin James). He wants a mysterious key that will apparently leave him and his gang sitting pretty – the only problem is Becky is in possession of it, and she’s not giving it up without a fight. So begins a visceral game of cat and mouse, where the latter is on lethal form and has no qualms in entering the killing Nazi business, much to the frustration of James’ leading loser of the brotherhood. Facing the impending terror head on, Wilson’s Becky has a hidey-hole full of sharp implements that are quickly weaponised to make the bad guys question if picking up this mysterious key was really worth the trip, and they’re not the only ones.

Seeing the the tables turned on intruders by the home owners they’re intruding on is always fun, but it helps if the characters on either side of it make for a compelling pair, which unfortunately isn’t the case with Becky. While the big selling point is having an alternative casting choice lined up as the film’s antagonist (Simon Pegg was actually down for the role before backing out), James lacks any true menace. He’s got everything a bad guy needs of course (swastika tattoos, woeful hostage negotiating skills, and a band of henchman to send off to their doom), but fails to come across as any level of threatening, not because of the performance, but because of the script that it’s dependent on.

James’ character Dominick is a vapid hindrance to Becky and her family with not a lot to do, and even less to say. Almost bound to the home that he’s turning over, even a bit of Die Hard radio chit-chat fails to spark any bit of tension between himself and the teenager from hell knocking off his gang without flinching. Therein lies the most effective element of the film that horror fans will no doubt get a kick out of.

When Becky goes to war on her attackers, the gore levels are through the roof and impressively displayed. Camerawork from Greta Zozula gets you up-close-and-personal with the poor souls on the receiving end of our heroine’s number of defence tactics, with some landing with grisly effect (albeit a rather unintentional bit of self-surgery from Kevin James is touching on comedic). But even with the amount of exposed guts and glory on show, it all feels a bit empty given that the film’s hero suffers the same issue as its villain.

Seeing youngsters take up arms against a major threat often works, so much so that one has become a staple of Christmas viewing. With that said, at least Kevin McCallister had a bit of charm. While the effort is made to show the reason for Becky’s rage with flashbacks of time with her mother, it’s not enough to flesh out this Nazi-dispensing Hit-Girl in the making. This cutout template of an enraged teenager lacks any charm to warm to, and makes the film overall a slog, with only the various forms of death distributed to the bad guys livening things up.

It’s clear that Lulu Wilson is giving it her all as a lone hero with a very short fuse, but it outweighs the humanity that’s poorly shown in between.  In the end, when the big showdown does arrive, it’s a hollow encounter that doesn’t feel either earned or effective in its execution. It’s just two violent characters going toe-to-toe, and the only real losers of it all feel like the ones watching it.

Rating: ★★

Directed by: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion

Written by: Nick Morris, Ruckus Skye, Lane Skye

Cast: Kevin James, Lulu Wilson, Joel McHale