In the first Into The Dark sequel, the mischievous doll returns.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Overall, not a bad entry, but it could definitely have been a bit stronger.
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.
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