Hulu Review – Into the Dark: POOKA LIVES!!!! – The Evil Doll Goes Viral (Ending Explained)

In the first Into The Dark sequel, the mischievous doll returns.

SUMMARY 

Pooka is a popular toy created by a woman named Ellie (Rachel Bloom) who quits the day that the company decides to change it without her approval. Her husband David (Wil Wheaton) yells at her, resulting in her killing him with scissors and then burning herself alive. Later, the Pooka company hires disgraced author Derrick (Malcolm Barrett) as a copywriter. Derrick is being harassed constantly by fans of an internet celebrity that he insulted, Jax (Motoki Maxted). He stays with his two friends, Matt and Molly (Jonah Ray and Felicia Day), and works with his ex-girlfriend Susan (Lyndie Greenwood). After getting annoyed by the internet’s harassment of Derrick, the four, along with their friend Bennie (Gavin Stenhouse), create a story about a ritual involving Pooka being summoned in vengeance. They post it online, only for the “Pooka Challenge” to go viral… and the monstrous doll to start showing up in real life.

PookaLives - 1Dolls
Somehow Rachel Bloom seems perfect casting to make a murder doll. 

END SUMMARY

It’s odd that Pooka! is the first Into The Dark movie to get a sequel, because it was also the one which was revealed to take place within the mind of the main character. However, after reviewing that film, the doll itself was in the “real” world so this movie doesn’t have to also be part of a hallucination. In some ways, that’s more disturbing, because the doll was a creepy idea already. Pooka will repeat things it hears in either a “nice” or “naughty” way, with no discernable way to know when or how. It’s basically a schizophrenic Furby.

PookaLives - 2Pooka
This is the friendly kind.

I will say that this has the best cast of any of the entries in the Into The Dark series. Even though Wil Wheaton and Rachel Bloom are only in it for a little while, Malcolm Barrett from Better Off Ted, Timeless, and Preacher manages to do a great job as the main character who has a major chip on his shoulder. Jonah Ray and Felicia Day make a great pair, having previously been on the reboot of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and Lyndie Greenwood is great at playing off of strange circumstances, as she did throughout the run of Sleepy Hollow. The fact that all of them work well as comedic relief allows for the film to have a lot of fairly explicit gore without ever feeling quite as heavy as it could be. It also drives home that this is, mostly, a tongue-in-cheek horror movie. 

PookaLives - 3Monster
Also, they mention they’re ripping off Slenderman and Momo.

When the movie is being more traditional as a horror movie, it’s pretty effective. When it’s being a goofy retread of a horror movie, it also works, mostly because the image of a giant stuffed animal attacking people is kind of inherently funny. However, the movie decided that it needed to have a “moral” about internet bullying and how it can get out of control, which kind of drags down the film’s momentum. It’s not that the message wouldn’t work in this kind of movie, but it really doesn’t mesh with the rest of the film. The fact that it becomes the focus of the third act doesn’t help either.

PookaLives - 4Bat
Rather than focusing on Felicia Day with a baseball bat.

Overall, not a bad entry, but it could definitely have been a bit stronger. 

ENDING EXPLAINED

While it’s kind of strange and indirect, at the end of the movie, it’s revealed that the Pooka army are actually composed of Tulpas (ideas brought to life by powerful beliefs) which were likely empowered into being by the angry spirit of Ellie, Pooka’s creator, because of the change to Pooka’s design. Because every person online added their own spin to it, each of the Pookas is different, reflecting the particular variant that went viral. Despite the fact that the main characters believe that they’ve figured out a way to make the monstrous Pookas vulnerable by adding a weakness to the creepypasta chain, they find that even though they killed the monster Pooka, the internet still decided that the Apookalypse had to happen, because that was more popular than the video of the group smiting the Tulpooka. Basically, since the internet is more focused on rooting for destruction than happy endings, the toys are going to go on a massacre. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Hulu Mini-Review – (Into the Dark) Crawlers: We’re Different People When We Drink

In honor of St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland, let’s drive some aliens out of America.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Shauna (Giorgia Whigham), a conspiracy theorist, relays a story for her Vlog about a crazy St. Patrick’s Day she had in her college town. She was at a bar when a girl named Misty (Pepi Sonuga), who had been through a recent trauma at a local frat house, came in with her friends Chloe (Jude Demorest) and Yuejin (Olivia Liang). Shauna tells Misty of the time many years prior that her mother (Virginia Louise Smith) saw a meteor crash on St. Patrick’s day nearby. Misty then gets a call from Chloe who is apparently attacked by a frat boy named Aaron (Cameron Fuller). The two abandon Yuejin to investigate and find themselves embroiled in an alien invasion, possibly involving the snatching of bodies.

Crawlers- 2Cast
They’re pretty badass for drunk college kids.

END SUMMARY

This movie resembles Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, only not as funny and with a more feminist viewpoint. It’s still got humorous parts, but while The World’s End involves the male bonding experience of a drinking fest, this movie carries a theme of saying that women can’t have the same kind of innocent fun. It also has a distinct undercurrent of advising everyone to believe women’s experiences, whether they’re saying that something bad happened in a frat house or if they’re saying that there are alien replicants killing people around town. While most male characters in these kind of films are worried they won’t be believed because they’ll sound crazy, the characters in this film are concerned they’ll be ignored because they’re women. Given that much of the film involves dealing with a group of frat boys who may be abducting women either because they’re drunk or because they’re aliens, the film isn’t super subtle.

Crawlers - 1Photo
It looked like it would be such a fun time.

On a second level, the aliens are analogous to the traditional revelers on St. Patrick’s Day. They start off as normal people before they start to engage in aggressive sexual or violent behavior. They also have green eyes, similar to the color of green that is usually tied to the holiday, and they keep trying to bring other people into their crowd. It’s not the best metaphor, but it does at least make the holiday connection that Into The Dark works for. They did add in the idea that St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland was just a metaphor for him repelling an alien invasion, which was kind of neat.

Crawlers - 3Leprechaun
Sadly, no leprechauns, but that movie already exists. 

The subtext works well, but the film unfortunately never quite gets the actual plot down as well as it should. The aliens are never particularly threatening, beyond the fact that, much like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Thing, they can abduct and replace people. However, they don’t seem to be doing it that much unless threatened, they don’t have to kill the person to do it, and they didn’t do anything for a long period of time. It honestly feels like they could have been negotiated with if everyone had just been made aware of the situation. I just never got a sufficient horror vibe. 

Crawlers - 4Nest
Some of the design choices didn’t help a ton. 

The frame-story narration doesn’t help much either. While it allows for some funny moments, the narration doesn’t add anything to the story and often makes no logical sense (she’s commenting on scenes we see in the film like she actually has access to the footage). It also has some random filming issues, but those don’t add anything to the narrative aside from making it feel cheaper. It really just wasn’t worthwhile.

Image result for into the dark crawlers film
At least she was here for this part, so her mentioning it makes sense.

Also, and this is just a personal thing that bugs me, when people have a way to determine aliens by blood, why does everyone prick their palm or their fingers? Why wouldn’t you prick the backside of your hand so that the blood doesn’t interfere with your ability to actually do useful alien fighting stuff? Because… duh. 

The performances were all above average for a low-budget horror film, but about on par for Into the Dark.

Overall, this movie did manage to use the horror genre as a metaphor for a real social anxiety, something that I love, but it just wasn’t too much of a horror film or sci-fi film. If you just like alien movies, then this will still work for you, but I wasn’t blown away as much as I was by some of the previous entries to the series.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Hulu Mini-Review – Into the Dark: My Valentine – Gaslighting As Horror

Blumhouse’s Into the Dark series turns a bad relationship into a mind-screwing horror story.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

On Valentine’s Day, a pop singer named Valentine (Britt Baron) plays a show with her partner Julie (Anna Akara), only to find that a group of fans of pop star Trezzure (Anna Lore) are in the audience harassing her. They claim that Valentine ripped off the songs, voice, and image of Trezzure, but Valentine claims that Trezzure’s manager Royal (Benedict Samuel) was her ex-boyfriend who stole all of her songs and created Trezzure. After the show, Royal and Trezzure show up to confront Valentine, and Royal is not planning on taking “no” for an answer.

Image result for into the dark my valentine
The show’s pretty great, honestly.

END SUMMARY

This film was the first feature written and directed by Maggie Levin and this is a hell of a first at-bat. While I have enjoyed several of the films that have come out in Into the Dark, this is immediately in the top tier. This movie basically turns the act of gaslighting into a monstrous act perpetrated by a cruel bastard, which at least a handful of people I spoke to say can be accurate in real life. 

Image result for into the dark my valentine
You will see someone you’ve met in his performance.

The strength of the film is the interaction between Valentine, Royal, and Trezzure. Benedict Samuel almost perfectly captures a level of sinister egotism in order to sell the premise to the extreme that the film takes it. The best part, and also the most unnerving, is how well he uses common lines from other films or that abusers frequently recite. Most of his abuse is given in flashbacks to his relationships, which appear almost the same whether it’s Valentine or Trezzure. This is magnified by the fact that Valentine and Trezzure intentionally look nearly identical. Both of them were willing to give him power over them because of his manipulations and their own fears, but he always couches his abuse in targeted language. He tells each of them that “no one will ever love [them] like [he] loves them,” something that sounds romantic until you consider it also tells them they are incapable of doing better than him. He constantly covers his threats with “unless you make me,” always putting the onus on the other party.  That’s how abusers get victims to forgive them, something he explicitly gets his victims to do in this.

Image result for into the dark my valentine
I shouted “YOU DON’T OWE HIM ANY EXPLANATIONS OR CONVERSATIONS” a lot.

I don’t want to go into the whole episode, but let me tell you that it is well paced and captivating. I really recommend this film if you like horror. The cinematography is more akin to a rock video at times, but since some of the cuts are literally to pop performances, that works. Give it a shot sometime.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

 

Hulu Mini-Review: Into the Dark: Pure – A Feminist Horror Film

Blumhouse gives us a film about a young woman at a purity retreat dealing with her inner demon.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Shay (Jahkara Smith) and her sister Jo (McKaley Miller) are taken by their father, Kyle (Jim Klock), to a purity retreat to affirm their commitment to staying virgins until marriage. Jo, a rebel, has been before and hates the retreat, while Shay agrees to go because she has only just met Kyle. He had an affair with her mother years ago and never found out she was pregnant. At the camp they’re met by Pastor Seth (Scott Porter), the head of the retreat, who gives a sermon condemning Lilith, the first wife of Adam from the Bible, who was sexually unchaste. That night Jo convinces Shay to join her and two other girls in a ritual to summon Lilith as a figure of female empowerment, something which appears to give Shay strange powers and visions. As the “purity ball” approaches, Shay starts to believe that there may be something deeply wrong with the retreat, and with her.

Image result for into the dark pure
Pretty much the most badass you can be looking like a chaste wood-nymph.

END SUMMARY

One man’s devil is another woman’s angel. That’s an actual line from this movie (paraphrased, maybe, I’m not rewatching it just to see) and it’s pretty much the central theme. Lilith, a figure who plays a role predominantly in Hebrew mythology, was the first wife of Adam, the first man. She was made out of Earth, just like Adam, and that led to a massive conflict between them because she refused to be subservient. They were created equally, so she wanted to be equal. Naturally, Adam refused this and she left him, leading to the creation of Eve, who is born of Adam and thus below him. Lilith is usually portrayed as a demon for this, even though her sin was just asking to be equal to Adam, not even above him.

Pure - 1Lilith.png
This is the least demonic picture I could find of her. 

This movie uses that as a jumping off point, because we are watching a “purity” ritual which directly requires women to be subservient to men. First, girls are subservient to their fathers, to whom they must devote their purity, and then to their husbands, to whom they devote their fidelity. The film points out that, while this may seem to be upholding God’s law upon Christians, the truth is that most of the time men are given more leeway. When Jo asks if their husbands are also expected to be virgins, the Pastor says that “we all know some things are a little different for men.” Even if men are asked to be chaste, they’re allowed to monitor their own chastity, whereas the women are required to place theirs under a man’s watchful gaze. It’s also shown that women are punished at the retreat for being impure and not just with a stern talking to, despite the fact that many of the men are shown to do much more “impure” acts. Basically, the film is a commentary on the fact that programs and traditions about “protecting” women are really just an excuse to guarantee their subservience. 

Image result for into the dark pure
Shay was literally born because of her father’s infidelity and he blames her mom for it.

While the film’s supernatural and demonic elements are focused on Lilith, the real evil in the movie is sexism and religious practices used to justify it. It gives the movie a much greater impact that a plain monster movie. If you like horror movies that have social messages, this is one you should check out. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.