REVIEW: INTO THE DARK – GOOD BOY

CROSSING_SWORDS_S01_E09_00_09_44_13-1000x600

Starring

Judy Greer (Ant-Man)
Maria Conchita Alonso (The Running Man)
Aaron Eisenberg (The Clinic)
McKinley Freeman (Pump)
Steve Guttenberg (The Goldbergs)
Elise Neal (Logan)
Mina Joo (Lodge 49)
Ellen Wong (Scott Pilgrim vs The World)

into-the-dark-good-boy-review-huluIn honor of June’s Pet Appreciation Week, Into The Dark’s latest feature has gone to the dogs. From Tragedy Girls and Patchwork director Tyler MacIntyre comes Good Boy, which you might assume summons a canine werewolf (“werewoof”) based on trailer assessments. Not quite the case, as writers Aaron and Will Eisenberg rework butt-buddy comedy Bad Milo but with an emotional support pupper as the protective creature who kills on behalf of its host. It’s humorous, features plenty of “good boy” shots, and carries a certain animal-lover charm that’s properly twisted by blood-stained fur coats.good-boy-5Greer stars as “Los Angeles” journalist Maggie, who resides in the slower-paced neighborhood of Reseda. Maggie’s publication – The Valley Yeller – is going digital, she’s not finding much luck in love, and the nearly-40s bachelorette’s biological clock is ticking downward. Anxiety is beginning to bubble over, so editor and boss Don (Steve Guttenberg) suggests either medicinal marijuana or an emotional support animal to help calm Maggie’s nerves. Enter Reuben, the cutie-pie shelter rescue who Maggie brings home. They say dogs can sense when their owners are anxious, and Reuben is no different. It’s just that when Reuben helps, people die.good3Good Boy doesn’t escape the recurring pitfalls of Into The Dark segments past. The Eisenbergs demonize fluffy, fetch-prone innocence; the problem is we don’t get to see much of said demonization as the action primarily happens off-camera. That transformation shot in the trailer where Reuben’s back arches and splits apart to reveal something monstrous? A single third-act glimpse reflects puppetry not far from MacIntyre’s previous experience with the Sesame Street Lite “Owl-Cat” in Patchwork. There’s more dedication to conception than countless other Into The Dark entries, but still, only a three-quarters delivery dictated by breakneck filming schedules. Oh, how I would have loved to see the “horror” elements of this “horror-comedy” go more beastly, truly unleashing Reuben.crossing-swords_s01_e10_primary_asset_02042020_v2-00_09_17_12-still005-1On the flip side, Judy Greer sells her character’s midlife crisis and eventual lovestruck relationship with Reuben. Whenever humans fail Maggie, Reuben proves why dogs are the owner’s best friend. With each gnarly attack, Maggie gains more confidence and pep in her step. Greer evokes the blackest comedy notes as she tiptoes around police investigations and scolds Reuben for devouring her problems, which is always the reason why Good Boy isn’t hokily perceived. Not to mention her chemistry with four-legged performer Chico (who plays Reuben) is off-the-charts adorable, which elevates comedic cheesiness when Reuben pitter-patters into frame covered in red juices. We are all Maggie, who still loves her little man unconditionally and values pet companionship over human lives.good-boy-judy-greerMacIntyre’s work on the practical-effects heavy Tragedy Girls and Patchwork help accentuate grotesque horrors after Reuben commits his vicious maulings. The likes of Steve Guttenberg and Ellen Wong are exterminated in brutal ways, whether it be spilled intestines into a bathtub or a lake of blood gushing from underneath the covering of Maggie’s bed. When possible, MacIntyre juxtaposes gruesomeness against the cutesy-and-goofier sequences where Maggie, for example, enjoys ice cream with her policeman crush Nate (McKinley Freeman). It’s needed, otherwise Good Boy would crumble beneath the weight of its Hallmark(ish) satire as Maggie learns the struggles of digital media writers or strikes out on another bum date. Reuben’s primary motivation is comfort, but his methods – while mostly off-camera – still land the gleefully grim genre punch that’s required.

 

 

REVIEW: INTO THE DARK – DELIVERED

Delivered (2020)

Starring

Natalie Paul (You)
Tina Majorino (Veronica Mars)
Michael Cassidy (Smallville)

Screenshot-2020-05-05-at-18.34.32Pregnancy is already not treating Valerie (Natalie Paul) well by the time she and her doting husband Tom (Michael Cassidy) meet fellow mother-to-be Jenny (Tina Majorino) at a crunchy yoga class (mama-ste!). She’s been ill, had to take a leave of absence from work, and is wholly disinterested in finding out the baby’s gender. Even more worrisome, her phone won’t stop buzzing, and the mix of fear and shame that accompanies every text and call from “RILEY” seems to send her down a new rabbit hole. When the peppy Jenny asks her what she’s most looking forward to, Valerie has a litany of ideas: getting her body back, not puking so much, going back to work — oh, and something about the baby, maybe?3ff57e10-902e-11ea-b1d9-1db46e27a597_800_420“Delivered,” the latest entry into Hulu and Blumhouse TV’s horror anthology series, “Into the Dark,” opens with plenty of fertile material about what it means to be a woman and a mother, and how those two pieces of someone’s experience can limit, not enhance, the other. Directed by Emma Tammi (best known for her recent feminist horror offering “The Wind”) and written by Dirk Blackman (a man! gasp!), “Delivered” roots its pregnancy-centric drama in Valerie’s perspective early on, one that might not seem “likable” to audiences seeking out that sort of thing, but one that is wholly realistic and made deeply human by Paul’s performance.rick-and-morty-fans-have-to-check-out-the-solar-opposites-trailerValerie is afraid to be a mother, and there are many reasons why that’s the case, though the episode’s opening shot, which finds a heavily pregnant Valerie speeding down a road in a nearly out of control car, hints that not all of them will prove to be quite as everyday as others. That Tammi and Blackman take pains to root the outing in the real world, before zinging out into some out-of-the-box tangents, helps the entire episode go down all the more smoothly. One part “Misery,” one part entirely realistic nightmare, “Delivered” doesn’t break much new ground, but it does offer an entertaining twist on some classic chills.MV5BNzA2ZDk2ZTUtMWU2Yi00NDVmLTk1ODEtMmFmMjQyNWYzODI0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTA4NzY1MzY@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,650,1000_AL_Unlike Valerie, Jenny (an appealing Majorino in a tricky role) can’t wait to be a mother. It’s what she’s always wanted, she tells her new pals, though she worries a bit about going at it alone. Laced through with strong table-setting and compelling pieces of backstory, “Delivered” might hit some familiar beats (OK, fine, most audiences will see its first act twist coming from a mile away), but it keeps up the tension long after other stories might run out of steam. Dark humor helps, most of which is centered around Valerie’s persistent nightmares, all of which have a biting edge. Effects work is a little more touchy, but an early silly nod to body horror gives way to an impressive last act sequence that is properly gruesome.blood-namWhile Valerie initially seems to fear what’s growing inside her — more “The Stranger Within,” less “Rosemary’s Baby” — she soon comes to realize that outside forces are the real villain. Mostly set within the confines of a secluded farmhouse, Tammi still finds ways to expand Valerie’s world through tricksy dream sequences and the lingering promise of an outside intruder coming to free her. Satisfying enough in its anthology-sized package, “Delivered” hints at a bigger world but never shifts too far from the limited terrors in front of it — heavy with the promise of something more but never trapped by it.

REVIEW: INTO THE DARK – POOKA LIVES!

Pooka Lives! (2020)

 

Starring

Malcolm Barrett (Timeless)
Lyndie Greenwood (Sleepy Hollow)
Felicia Day (The Guild)
Jonah Ray (Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return)
Wil Wheaton (The Big Bang Theory)
Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend)

Pooka Lives! (2020):You can go all the way back to the sinister Talky Tina from the classic Twilight Zone episode, “Living Doll”, to try and wrap your head around why the inanimate toy pulsing with sentient evil is just so damn effective. There’s just something about the ceaseless stare of a doll or stuffed animal spouting cuteness at you while their dead eyes stare into the abyss that strikes a chord of primal fear. I had a Teddy Ruxpin as a child; it’s perhaps the only thing that scared me enough to just give it to a friend hoping the nightmare would be over. True story. My mom was pissed!crawlers-into-the-dark-hulu-blumhouse-st-patricks-day-horror-2020-castSeason One of Into the Dark introduced us to Pooka!, a furry creature with glowing headlight eyes that played a game of sometimes nice, sometimes naughty. The Pooka doll garnered a cult following online, and the episode was the first of the series to garner some glowing critical acclaim. It isn’t perfect – it’s a very non-linear tale of madness and personal angst that’s hard to follow at times – but the artistic stamp is there, and the character is memorable.hulu_Into_the_Dark_My_Valentine_reviewThe urban legend of Pooka begins in the town of Spring Valley. Ellie Burgis (Rachel Bloom; Robot Chicken) couldn’t handle changes being made to her creation, her baby…and her husband (Wil Wheaton; Star Trek: The Next Generation) has had enough of it. Before you can say, “Don’t mess with the doll or you’ll regret it!”, he’s a human pin cushion and she’s set them both on fire in a show of devotion to Pooka. Fast forward one year later, and we meet Derek (Malcom Barrett; Preacher), a writer who pissed off the wrong social media influencer and is back in his hometown to get away from the madness (though he can’t stay off his phone!). Derek is staying with his old friends Molly (Felicia Day; Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) and Matt (Jonah Ray; Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return). He’s also reuniting with his old girlfriend, Susan (Lyndie Greenwood; Sleepy Hollow TV series), and his cop buddy, Benny (Gavin Stenhouse; Allegiance). During a night of pot brownies and remembrances of the good old days, they start an internet Creepypasta about Pooka and unwittingly breathe murderous life into the toy that’s just getting ready to hit the market. Will they be able to stop the savage beast? For that matter, will they be able to stop the irresistible force of the internet?Into_the_Dark_Crawlers_TV-303956896-largePooka Lives! isn’t subtle at all, and that’s okay. It’s not supposed to be. It’s pure satire. Into the Dark is truly in its wheelhouse when they go the route of biting satire (like Pure or Gigi Saul Guerrero’s brilliant Culture Shock). The contrast is a bit more extreme here than either of those examples, but that’s mostly due to the nature of the medium of presentation. Creepypastas have a cheesy aftertaste to them that all but demand you don’t take them too seriously. However, if you can get past the heavy-handedness of some of the dialogue (“I think the internet literally created a monster!” and “The internet won’t let Pooka die!”), you’ll find that the message simmering underneath is all too relevant in the day and age of overblown online personas and panic-fueled toilet paper shortages. The internet is our ultimate monstrous creation; it makes Pooka look like a harmless little bitch. There’s a point being made here, and Ryan Copple (Death Do Us Part) and Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead, Nightmare Cinema) make sure that you get it while sporting a goofy grin.pooka-coverPooka Lives! is fun, and the cast is a big reason. Felicia Day and Jonah Ray overact like their lives depend on it, and the amount of sexy gay jokes at Gavin Stenhouse’s expense are a joy. Malcom Barrett is the straight man here, but he does it with a fair degree of aplomb. Everyone seems to be having a good time making the film, and that is such an underappreciated thing that always pays dividends. And who doesn’t love a somewhat overweight, bearded, abusive Wil Wheaton? That’s a rhetorical question. The SFX aren’t splashy and gory, but it’s not really a splatter piece. It does open with that wonderful murder-suicide scene that’s shot very theatrically (love the VW Bug pulling into the drive with the headlights so eerily similar to Pooka’s eyes). The creature FX on the “new” Pooka are pretty cool, too. It’s a bit of a Donnie Darko rip-off, but hey – if you’re going to crib then you crib from the best. No shame there.pookaPooka Lives! is that sequel that goes in a different direction tonally and structurally than its predecessor and is generally better for it. I’m thinking of the criminally underrated Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows: take the audience on a wholly different kind of ride than they were expecting while showing them that the monster works in either setting. You know – show ‘em you can be naughty or nice, just like Pooka.

REVIEW: INTO THE DARK – CRAWLERS

Crawlers (2020)

Starring

Giorgia Whigham (Legacies)
Pepi Sonuga (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Cameron Fuller (Barely Lethal)
Olivia Liang (Dating After College)
Jude Demorest (Star)

Olivia Liang in Crawlers (2020)The premise of this a little bit out of order. We’re seeing a video of Shauna (Giorgia Whigham) who is into conspiracy theories. She gives us the background of the town she was born and raised. It is a college town that takes St. Patty’s Day very serious. We see a newer police officer, Dominic (David Carzell), call in when she sees a bunch of people who are intoxicated creating quite a ruckus. He’s told to stand down, but while he’s looking at some women, he hits someone. He gets out and checks on them. The person then bites him. Shauna then tells us that it’s not zombies, but aliens.Crawlers (2020)We then are following Misty (Pepi Sonuga) who is bummed that her friend, Chloe (Jude Demorest) didn’t invite her out. She’s been mopey and considers sending a passive aggressive text, but decides to just show up instead. Chloe is happy to see her and she introduces Misty to her new friend, Yuejin (Olivia Liang). Chloe seems like the queen of the bar and is running things. A guy orders her a drink and it looks like he’s the president of his fraternity. His name is Aaron (Cameron Fuller). Sitting with him is his friend Michael (Zachery Roozen). This man is the reason that Misty is in a funk. She believes she was drugged and woke up in his frat. She thinks he attacked her, but cannot remember. Chloe has distanced herself and Misty is upset that she feels her best friend doesn’t believe her.Crawlers (2020)Things take a turn when Misty thinks she sees Chloe leave with Aaron. Misty was talking to Shauna, the local drug dealer and conspiracy theorist. Misty goes to leave and just finds Chloe’s phone. Shauna knows how it feels to not be believed. She takes her to the fraternity house where things aren’t as they seem and Shauna is convinced it is aliens. What happened to Chloe and is Shauna right? Now I’m trying to be cryptic in this review, but to be honest, I didn’t even fix the synopsis as we learn this information within the first 15 minutes of this movie. To be honest, the reveal there isn’t really that important as it is more about seeing this group of people band together, solve their differences and save the world. What I like here though is the social relevance.Crawlers (2020)If you’ve been reading my reviews consistently, you know there was a certain major release that was a remake from Blumhouse that really tried to be feminist film. This movie here does so much better with that message they’re trying to convey. It really fits into the story and helps to build things. Misty believes that she was drugged and woke up in Michael’s bed. She believes she was assaulted. What I’m a bit confused is that I think she would know if she was or not, or if she suspects, she would get checked out. As a male I could be naïve to this so if that’s the case I apologize. I do want to give credit to the performance from Sonuga here though. She conveys the isolation of trying to come to terms with this. The police don’t believe her, her best friend doesn’t believe her and she’s now standoffish toward males. We really see this with Aaron in the movie. Where this works though, he does the right thing in learning from a mistake in not doing more and she sees that. They legit have a conversation and it progresses the plight in a way that is constructive. I will say that it does come off a bit cheesy, but still.CrawlersI also like how they introduce the problem of this movie. We learn through Shauna in passing about the meteorite that crashed 40 years ago. As I said, she’s a conspiracy theorist as well as a drug dealer so I like that building of the character to not believe her. I wouldn’t say that she’s unreliable, but she has things that we ignore when it comes from someone we don’t necessarily trust. If I do have any issues here though it is with the creatures themselves. They look like us so it really is a take on the Invasion of the Body Snatchers concept. The problem though is that people get bit and then they change. My question is then, are the people doing the biting have a look about them at first, because if they do, we never seen it. I think at least once we should have before the change is made. Currently that’s what I’m assuming and if anyone knows and could let me know, that would be great.crawlers-into-the-dark-hulu-blumhouse-st-patricks-day-horror-2020-castTo shift this to the pacing, I thought that overall it was good. The movie runs 90 minutes, it gets right into it with a cold open of seeing Officer Dominic encountering it and then getting our first back-story elements from Shauna. I do have an issue with the editing though where the movie will stop so she can give us voice-over narration. The voice-over wasn’t the issue I had with it, but more the stopping of the movie to do this. I thought it was jarring and glad they get away from it as it proceeds on. I don’t mind showing the video she is making even though I feel like it’s a bit of a spoiler, but I can get over that. I thought the ending was fine for the movie, but not great. That will take me to the acting here. I thought that Whigham was really good as the lead. I love the quirky character that she plays. She feels a bit slighted by college students in the town she grew up, but she won’t let them feel better than her. I like the aspects about her that make her unreliable. She’s also quite attractive. I’ve already covered Sonuga, but I will say I thought she was really good as well. Fuller is solid and I like the development of his character. Liang and Demorest are solid along with the rest of the cast. They fit their roles for what was needed.screen_shot_2019-05-23_at_8.44.45_pmAs for the effects, overall I’d say that they were good. This movie doesn’t use a lot of them though. I thought the bit of blood, both human and alien, we get was good. I don’t mind the effects of introducing the character’s names like we saw in something like The Babysiter. It did help me establish who was who. I did have some issues with blood splatter though as it was done with CGI. There’s not a lot of it, so it’s not a major problem. I also thought the cinematography was solid as well.Into_the_Dark_Crawlers_TV-303956896-largeNow with that said, I thought this was another solid installment to Blumhouse’s Into the Dark. There are some really interesting social elements that are worked into this story very well with the backdrop of an alien invasion. I even think that it furthers the feminist plight in a way that is constructive and not ham-fisted as well. They’re just a bit cheesy. The acting is solid to go along with it and it is paced in a way that keeps things moving. The effects were also pretty good, but I did have some issue with CGI blood-splatter. I also thought the stopping of the movie to explain things bogs it down slightly and I have minor issues with the aliens themselves. None of this ruins it for me and I would say this movie is above average for sure. It is fun where I would consider watching this again.

REVIEW: INTO THE DARK – MY VALENTINE

My Valentine (2020)

Starring

Britt Baron (GLOW)
Benedict Samuel (Gotham)
Anna Lore (Doom Patrol)
Anna Akana (Big City Greens)
Tiffany Smith (Vice)
Shaun J. Brown (The Great Indoors)
Sachin Bhatt (Bumblebee)
Alan Chow (13 Reasons Why)
Ally Maki (Cloak & Dagger)

britt-batonWhen Hulu’s original movie series “Into the Dark” premiered with its Halloween episode in 2018, I was impressed. Now, over a year later, I remain most impressed by that one entry. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some other standouts along the way but to say the anthology is a mixed bag is an understatement. The biggest disappointment being how very, very loosely some of the films can be connected with their associated holiday.Screen-Shot-2020-02-04-at-9.16.48-AM-e1580829860961Such is the case with My Valentine, which has more to do with the lead character’s name than it does the flowers-and-hearts holiday. If you want something that’s reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine (1981) or Valentine (2001)… well, you’ll just have to watch those movies over again. My Valentine doesn’t have a single Cupid’s arrow, poisoned chocolate kiss, or gore-soaked heart. There is blood, but it’s more like a box to check in this suspenseless thriller which pits characters locked together in a small concert venue.unnamedSo, what does My Valentine have going for it on its own terms? It’s a candy-colored, visually dazzling flick clearly made with tween audience in mind, right down to the cartoony bubblegum pop and cardboard cutout girls who are seemingly interchangeable. In fact, that’s the premise of this sneering satire: predatory manager Royal (Benedict Samuel) dumps his gal-pal/protégé Valentine (Britt Baron), only to steal her songs and remake her in the image of his new lookalike squeeze, Trezzure (Anna Lore). Clearly, the parable draws from the real-life strife between Poppy, Mars Argo, and producer Titanic Sinclair. While the cynical eye on how some men treat women in the music biz is 20/20, the focus is a little off; I couldn’t quite tell if writer/director Maggie Levin was trying to make a full-on comedy or not.Into_The_Dark_My_Valentine_Trailer_FBThe visuals are… interesting. Usually, I’m all about the split-screen (Brian De Palma fans, unite!) but they’re not only overused willy-nilly in My Valentine, they are further burdened with what looks like the overeager love child of Snapchat and the sparkle filter on Instagram. Having said that, the cinematography by Ana M. Amortegui is lovely—she’s got an eye for composition and knows how to work a color palette. Since this is indeed a story of pop stardom and how some people are willing to kill for it, the music and lyrics are apropos and believable. These songs could indeed be YouTube hits, especially the signature tune, “The Knife” by Dresage. The sets are also well-done, bringing to life the small, trendy club which serves as the backdrop to much murder and mayhem.hulu_Into_the_Dark_My_Valentine_reviewAs I mentioned, there’s gore but no suspense or any sense of dread. Not that it doesn’t have its moments and good points, but for those reasons, My Valentine really doesn’t actually qualify as a horror movie in my book.

REVIEW: INTO THE DARK – MIDNIGHT KISS

Midnight Kiss (2019)

 

Starring

Scott Evans (The Lovely Bones)
Adam Faison (Keep Hope Alive)
Lukas Gage (Angelyne)
Ayden Mayeri (New Girl)
Augustus Prew (Kick Ass 2)

imagesEasily one of the best of the series–in every way. The acting on almost all accounts was excellent, especially Augustus Prew (he was so natural and real), Scott Evans and Lukas Gage. Their dialogue and delivery was so natural. I even loved Will Westwater, who only had a tiny part, as well as Adam Faison (as Dante, a trick), whose part wasn’t much bigger, but both came across as real people. All of the characters were some of the most realistic gay men I’ve seen in film since “Looking” and “The Broken Hearts Club,” which was so refreshing. The film is also an example of how to make the most out of a small budget.unnamedThe story had a scene or two that were sort of…odd, as they didn’t add much, or the point wasn’t made well enough–a killing that left me, huh? why??–but I really liked the movie for so many reasons I don’t really mind. Especially when in this genre, I don’t care if at least half the characters do die, i.e. “Black Christmas.” I didn’t want anyone to die, even the vacuous female friend. Another thing I really liked–the disco scene! These NEVER work in low-budget movies, yet in this case it did! Into-the-Dark-Midnight-Kiss-Review-700x300Finally, to show how much I liked it? I would buy this movie. Even though I can see it on Hulu, I will be looking to see if I can own my own copy! Bravo to all involved with this movie!

REVIEW: INTO THE DARK – A NASTY PIECE OF WORK

A Nasty Piece of Work (2019)

Starring

Molly Hagan (Izombie)
Natalie Hall (Charmed)
Kyle Howard (Orange County)
Dustin Milligan (A Simple Favor)
Julian Sands (Warlock)
Angela Sarafyan (Westworld)
Nico Greetham (Power Rangers Ninja Steel)

A Nasty Piece of Work (2019)I was pleased to see that the December 6th release date was exactly after midnight in my region so I went ahead and watched it and I was not disappointed! I have enjoyed this series quite a lot despite the numerous flaws in several of them. Only a couple of the episodes have particularly stood out to me as more than just a part of the whole, this being the absolute best. A Nasty Piece of Work (2019)The episode is a genre blend, which is not necessarily unique to the series but it happens to get the tone down the best. The script is believable enough while still including some out there reveals. The acting is far above par from the rest and sets this episode up to be a very good standalone dark comedy thriller. The setting is very simple and somewhat cliche, a rich couple toying with others less fortunate than them, but with so many refreshing twists and turns. Its reminiscent at times of films like Cheap Thrills or Would You Rather, but takes on some interesting tonal shifts throughout instead of holding steady or just flat out being wacky and certainly holds no bars with the ending.This is not a particularly frightening episode, but it is the most compelling and interesting thus far, and leaves me excited to see what the next episode will hold. Even with the interspersed duds, episodes like this make the series worth watching. Overall, highly recommend viewing this one even if the rest of the series is left on the table.

REVIEW: INTO THE DARK – PILGRIM

Pilgrim (2019)

Starring

Reign Edwards (Snowfall)
Kerr Smith (Final Destination)
Courtney Henggeler (Mom)
Elyse Levesque (Ready or Not)

Babylon-5-Thirdspace-Loony-LytaI quite enjoyed this piece. I am one of those grumpy anti-Thanksgiving people, and it isn’t just based on celebrating that time the Natives Americans saved European settlers who turned around and slaughtered them. We are taught in elementary school that the pilgrims came here to find religious freedom, and then it isn’t really touched on again once we are old enough to understand the harsher aspects of our history.Howling0403The pilgrims were Puritans. They believed in extreme austerity and supposed moral purity as defined by the most intense parts of the Old Testament, generally disregarding the teachings of love and forgiveness embraced by other Christians. They felt it was their duty to impose their version of the religion on everyone around them. They weren’t seeking freedom for themselves, but wanted to get away from the freedom allowed to their peers back home. There were too few of them to force everyone around them into their strict lifestyle, so they felt they had to escape so that they could create a new home in order to control their community to the cruel and extreme degree they believed was right. To live in peace away from people who didn’t appreciate being judged and threatened, who offended the Puritans by not choosing to live as if suffering were a virtue.MV5BMTc1NzYzMTU1Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTYxODIwMjE@._V1_SX1480_CR0,0,1480,999_AL_In this episode, the pilgrims come in with an invite with an unhappy past from which they are trying to escape. The people welcome them with no idea what to expect, assuming that they will follow the standard decency of their own culture. The pilgrims were not satisfied with the society they left, and want to practice their cruel and extreme lifestyle. They are polite at first, taking shelter in the homes of the modern natives (in this sense, Americans who are typical of the current culture, not a particular race). They attempt to sway each person to their own beliefs, and when their efforts fail, they force it upon their hosts. It is easily the most accurate portrayal I have ever seen of the attitudes of those “freedom seeking” settlers, and the comparison to the way it originally happened is apt.hulu_Into_the_Dark_Pilgrim_reviewI actually found the women of the family to be multi-dimensional, with good and bad aspects that the viewer can empathize with by the end if they wait to judge. The kid is sweet and cute, and brings out the best in the other characters. With typical American family bickering in the beginning, it is a relief that both love him and do their best by him.Screen-Shot-2019-10-20-at-9.14.04-AMAs a horror movie, it isn’t particularly scary and some of the gimmicks feel kind of forced, especially the ending. It’s like they took a thriller and switched to gorefest at the climax. Both ends are decent, but the tonal shift is a little off-putting. But as commentary on the truth behind a part of our history we take for granted, I absolutely loved it.

REVIEW: INTO THE DARK – UNCANNY ANNIE

Uncanny Annie (2019)

Starring

Adelaide Kane (Reign)
Georgie Flores (Famous In Love)
Paige McGhee (Everyday Star)
Jacques Colimon (The Society)
Dylan Arnold (Halloween)

515627Hulu’s collaboration with Blumhouse had a bumpy first season with only a handful of the twelve episodes standing out, but the idea — monthly features, each tied to a holiday/theme from that month — remains a strong one. Happily, that means Into the Dark is onto a second season and a second chance to deliver a more consistent quality across the next year. To that end, season two’s premiere is quite possibly a series best as Uncanny Annie delivers a fun and creepy time with young adult characters who, wait for it, are actually likable?into-the-dark-uncanny-annie-full-trailer-hulu-fb-e562550760It’s Halloween night, and a group of college friends have gathered for a night of drinking, hanging out, and playing board games. They’re honoring the memory of a friend who died a year prior — he was a big fan of game nights — and while it’s a somber occasion they’re having fun in his name anyway. A pile of games are brought up to choose from, and it’s one called Uncanny Annie that they settle on. It seems simple enough, but soon the six friends realize that the game has taken over their reality. Everything outside of the house is gone, their phones don’t work, and events in the game bleed into the world including phantoms, a creepy-ass poltergeist, bloody violence, and more.Babylon-5-Thirdspace-Loony-LytaThe only way out is to finish the game, but will any of them be left alive by the time that happens? Uncanny Annie isn’t the first horror film to be built on the premise of a haunted/cursed/evil game of some sort, but it sets itself apart from the pack early on in a novel way — all six of its young characters are likable, believable, and distinct from each other. It seems like a no-brainer, but far too often horror films are content dropping assholes and blank slates into the mix knowing that viewers will be happy to see them offed in gruesome ways. Here, though, director Paul Davis and writers Alan Bachelor and James Bachelor give time to their characters before unleashing the Annie’s hellscape. The six are introduced naturally, and their banter and interactions continue apace with jokes, concern, and friendly chatter. They feel like friends, each with their own traits and histories, and while it’s far from a dense dump of character detail there’s more than enough here to see them as fully realized characters — who we know are in for some real trouble. Our concern elevates the horror of it all, and once the terror reveals itself and characters start dropping viewers are invested.Howling0403Both the script and the characters are well aware of the horror genre, and references are sprinkled liberally from Jumanji (it’s kiddie horror!) to Candyman. They’re smart in their responses to it all, and when fear or obstinance takes control it never feels cheap. Each new supernatural reveal works to build a game built on rules and fears, but the core running through it all is a required honesty — with each other, with themselves — that just might be their undoing. The Into the Dark series is often hampered by budgetary restraints, but the filmmakers do fantastic work here taking full advantage of resources to deliver a well-crafted, visually engaging, and occasionally frightening watch. Solid digital effects work well to create a phantom or two, and while the poltergeist ultimately resembles nothing more than a creepy old perv the combination of performance, editing, and direction make him a chilling presence.Uncanny AnnieThe six relative unknowns all do solid work with their characters, and they make for a compelling but believable little Breakfast Club of varying personalities. Paige McGhee‘s newcomer Grace is a standout with some fun dialogue — her ice breaker with the three guys regarding the statistical probability that one of them is a rapist is funnier than it sounds — and an exciting bravery that we rarely see in these films (especially from the women). Dylan Arnold‘s Michael looks and initially acts like a stereotypical “cool” kid, but you quickly buy into his personality and friendships. The others (Adelaide Kane, Georgie Flores, Jacques Colimon, and Evan Bittencourt) are equally good, and Karlisha Hurley deserves a nod too as the evil Annie. She’s a messed up little “girl.” These made-for-TV features will never measure up budget-wise to the movies hitting theaters, but they can surpass their bigger competition all the same with sharper writing and more interesting stories. Uncanny Annie does just that, and it deserves a bigger audience than the lesser likes of Oujia (2014) and Truth or Dare (2018) managed in theaters.

REVIEW: INTO THE DARK – PURE

Into the Dark (2018)

Starring

Jahkara Smith (NOS4A2)
McKaley Miller (Ma)
Ciara Bravo (A TEacher)
Annalisa Cochrane (Cobra Kai)
Scott Porter (Speed Racer)

MV5BN2Y1NzQ2OTEtY2RlYy00NTUxLWFmNGUtZjhmYjlkZDY2OTEwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTM3NzI3NjQ@._V1_In Pure, we are introduced to Shay, played by Jahkara Smith (NOS4A2) in just her second role, as she wakes up from a dream. She has been united with her father after not knowing who he was all of her life. Her father, Kyle (Jim Klock) has another daughter named Jo (McKaley Miller, recently seen in Ma) and he is taking his girls to a purity retreat. Basically, the girls are going to this Christian camp with their father to pledge their intent to remain “pure” until marriage. Jo has been doing this her whole life so she’s over it, but Shay is trying to build a relationship with her father so she’s giving it a chance. They meet other girls who are at different levels of agreement with this whole retreat.into-the-dark-episode-111-school-spirit-promotional-photo-01_595Every year at this retreat, the pastor tells the story of Lilith to steer them away from being promiscuous. Lilith is not in the Christian bible but is a demon in the Jewish faith. As the pastor tells it, she was the original first woman, but after she was found fornicating, God banished her to hell. It’s an intense story and it seems to startle Shay to hear this right away. However, that doesn’t stop the girls from doing a spell to summon Lilith when they sneak to a cabin in the woods with a group of boys. Immediately after, Shay starts seeing weird things as it appears their attempt to summon Lilith was successful.Howling0403Pure works the thriller aspect in two regards. On one hand, you have the supernatural part. We don’t know Lilith’s intentions and she keeps appearing ominously after the ritual. The movie is full of jump scares which some people don’t like, but they didn’t bother me here so much. On top of the supernatural aspect, you have a group of young girls sneaking around in the woods and hoping not to be caught doing so by their fathers. The fathers in the group have the vibe of cult leaders, and the pastor carries a gun so we don’t know what they’re capable of. We also see several girls disappear and come back seemingly broken and we don’t know what’s happening to them. For me, it also added another layer that Shay is a young woman of color and most of the people here are not. This includes her father and sister. She feels like an outsider in more than one way.Babylon-5-Thirdspace-Loony-LytaI really think it does. As I mentioned earlier, Pure does a good job of showing us people who think like this without making them seem like caricatures. Often in films made about people who disagree with the writer’s way of thinking, they tend to go too far in making them look bad. In this case, the ideology alone is enough. There are a minority of people who truly feel the way the men in this movie do, but the majority already see this level of control as monstrous and off-putting. Besides the language, the way certain situations are handled and then the images created, Pure does a great job of hitting the hypocrisy head-on. The girls question why boys aren’t held to the same standards of purity and also question why it’s just the girls and their fathers who are allowed to this retreat. The whole vibe is cringy!UntitledFrom the very beginning of Pure, I was given Midsommar vibes. You have an outsider entering a deeply religious group and trying to fit in. You have women wearing all white, at one point in crowns of flowers. Then you have the music, the wilderness, and the state of constant dread. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and would consider it a “must watch” if you are looking for something on Hulu.