As steaming services play a bigger and bigger role in the film and television industry, a lot of attention is going to their original content–but mainly streaming television shows. What about streaming movies? What hidden gems or washed up flops are hiding under the “___ Original” tab? Lets see what is awash in the stream.
Into The Dark (2018)
Director: Paul Davis
Writers: Paul Davis, Paul Fischer
It’s October, so now is the time for Spooky Steaming! All Horror Movies All Month!
What is the difference from a television show and a movie? Setting aside how many television shows no longer actually air on a television channel, it’s a boundary that some high-end prestige shows and anthologies have been pushing. How is a 90-minute episode of Game of Thrones all that different from a Game of Thrones movie? That it’s serialized? That it airs in the typical time slot? Or Black Mirror, an anthology which actually did win Best TV Movie at the Emmys, for an episode that ran 76 minutes, just a few minutes short of feature length?
Thus brings us to Into the Dark, a Hulu anthology series that airs one episode a month, each revolving around a major holiday–Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, etc–and the first episode, the Halloween themed “The Body,” running over 80 minutes. It’s very easy to imagine a television network advertising a blitz of a new television movie every month–the Disney Channel used to have a Disney Channel Original Movie every month, though it seems they’ve slowed down a bit to make fewer, but “bigger” DCOMs–with a holiday gimmick for each one. While Into The Dark has been advertised as an anthology series, Into The Dark: The Body is labeled as a movie, the only Hulu original movie that isn’t a documentary. If that will change once there is a second “episode” remains to be seen.
Into The Dark: The Body follows a hitman, Wilkes (Tom Bateman), attempting to dispose of the body of a recent kill on Halloween, only to be waylaid at a costume party where the corpse he’s dragging around is mistaken for a costume prop. After killing an unnamed celebrity–somebody rich and famous and good looking, with 20 million Twitter followers–Wilkes wraps the body up in tape and drags it through the apartment lobby, seeming to delight in compliments on his elaborate costume. His car, and several others parked across the street, have been vandalized and the tires slashed. Wilkes literally bumps into Alan (David Hull), Dorothy (Aurora Perrineau), and Nick (Harvey Gullen), who are so impressed by the elaborate corpse prop that they invite Wilkes to a costume party, hoping to upstage Jack (Ray Santiago), an aimless trust fund artist that makes elaborate entrances to his own parties. Wilkes goes along to avoid the cops investigating the vandalized cars. While at the party, Wilkes ends up in conversation with Maggie (Rebecca Rittenhouse) a computer programmer working on a poorly thought out app for Jack and is attending the party out a sense of obligation. Wilkes has a completely arbitrary 4 hour time limit to get the body to a construction site, to make the death look like an accident (Wilkes shot him twice in the back, so it’s not clear what kind of accident he intends to fake).
Wilkes initially seems to delight in the costume subterfuge, accepting compliments on his amazing prop and bragging that he does ‘this’ every Halloween. Yet once at the party, he quickly becomes angry and hostile, and puts no effort at all into pretending he’s wearing a costume, literally snapping “it’s not a costume” when Maggie initially approaches him. Unsurprisingly, the other characters realize that it isn’t a costume. Wilkes does a generic ‘it’s actually insane not to kill people’ speech, and Maggie is instantly 100% into it. There’s a stabbing, and everybody else panics and flees, taking the body with them. After a confrontation with a cop (Max Adler) in the parking garage, Alan, Dorothy, and Jack flee across the city, body in tow, pursued by Wilkes and Maggie.
The plot is riddled with contrivances and dumb decisions, that don’t entirely make sense. The biggest question is “Why don’t Alan & co call 911?” and there isn’t much of an answer. Dorothy initially seems worried that they’ll be blamed for the death of the police officer in the parking garage, but later she asserts that Wilkes wouldn’t be able to frame them for that. Several plot points revolve around Alan’s phone–Wilkes sends him photos from Jack’s phone to frame them, and Maggie tracks them from the GPS on the phone–so it is very hard not to notice how easily they could rescue themselves with the phone. They also float the idea of getting an Uber and fleeing town, but reason that they won’t be able to get a ride with a full-size human body. Why they don’t simply leave the body behind to get a ride isn’t adequately explained. Instead, they inexplicably decide to destroy the body, as some sort of bid to get Wilkes to stop chasing them. How they think this will work isn’t entirely clear, and Wilkes later laughs at the idea that he would just leave them alone if he got the body back. This may also be some sort of attempt to raise the tension–if they destroy the body, then Wilkes can’t get it to the drop-off point to make it look like an accident, which would make his boss (an unnamed voice on the phone, played by Alex Winter) homicidally angry–but it’s hard to imagine anybody actually caring if Wilkes successfully makes two gunshot wounds to the back look like an accident at a construction site, and Wilkes already wants to kill them to tie up loose ends, so them destroying the body wouldn’t make much of a difference.
Into The Dark: The Body has a low-budget cheesiness that reminded me of Dimension 404, Hulu’s misbegotten answer to Black Mirror that had a single 6 episode season. Like Dimension 404, Into The Dark has an interesting horror premise, but relies on broad humor, resulting in a mishmash where the dialogue has too many jokes to raise any tension, but all the major setpieces are meant to be horror. Alan, Jack and Dorothy bicker like characters from a sitcom, which can be more engaging than typical workmanlike horror movie dialogue, but isn’t scary or tense, and I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anybody looking for a laugh. Maggie and Wilkes relationship never really makes sense–Maggie is introduced as a normal woman, with some feminist leanings that is sick of her life. The idea of her as a budding psychopath, willing to help a stranger kill her acquaintances, and latching onto a murderous hitman as boyfriend material because he’s handsome and well-employed, doesn’t hold. If Wilkes was charming, it make have some sort of Natural Born Killers spark, but he’s angry and clipped, and most of their interactions are Wilkes monologuing about how killing people makes more sense than not killing people if you think about it.
The whole thing is pitched at more of a tv movie vibe than a major release. Hulu is owned by television studios, who are uninterested in competing with theaters the way Netflix is. Blumhouse, the production company that specializes in low-budget mainstream horror movies and produced Get Out, the Purge franchise, and this months Halloween reboot, is involved, but the movie doesn’t overcome it’s budget the way those did, and there is a sense of sloppiness to some parts. Jack rips the tape off the body’s face, starting a running gag of everybody recognizing the corpse as an unnamed celebrity– “hey, isn’t that…?”– but instead of shooting around the face so viewers wouldn’t see it, the face is simply taped up whenever it is seen. Somebody will look at the body and recognize it, then 30 seconds later you’ll see it is still covered head to toe. A small thing, but impossible not to notice.
The climax, set in a funeral home where Alan, Jack and Dorothy intend to cremate the body, delivers some mildly interesting kills for the Fangoria crowd–one character gets stabbed in the stomach with an embalming tube, embalming them alive, and is then stabbed in the top of the head for good measure–once the film settles into being a straightforward slasher. But for the most part, it plays like a sitcom having a Halloween episode.
Washed Up Flop or Hidden Gem? Washed Up Flop