INTO THE DARK
Episode 1 – The Body
Starring: Tom Bateman, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Aurora Perrineau, David Hull, Ray Santiago, Harvey Guillen
Director: Paul Davis
Writers: Paul Davis, Paul Fisher
Reviewed by Sidney Morgan
This review CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
Anthologies are quite the rage these days. Black Mirror, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, American Horror Story, Castle Rock and so many more. And why not? It allows directors to tell a variety of stories. And if something doesn’t quite work, change it up. It’s also easier for viewers to follow. In that vein, Hulu recently released the first entry of a new horror anthology, Into the Dark. Produced by Blumhouse Television, the studio behind the Paranormal Activity and The Purge series, as well as the fun Happy Death Day, each episode is inspired by a different holiday. And so, being October, it wasn’t surprising that this first one, The Body, was inspired by Halloween. But what could have and should have been a strong start to the anthology, turns out to be rather average, though not bad.
The Body stars Tom Bateman as a sophisticated-looking hired killer who reminds me of Hitman 47 (with hair). He’s just finished a job and is sitting at the table, drinking the victim’s wine whilst commenting on the Casu Marzu cheese. Ya, that’s the cheese created by seeding it with maggots. Tasty, right? And now, Wilkes has to move the body. You would think it’s difficult to do, but it’s Halloween night (oh right, almost forgot about the inspired by a holiday theme). So he walks out, dragging this corpse wrapped in plastic. A group of three friends stop him, mistaking the scenario for a Halloween costume. Impressed, they invite him to a party. See where this is going?
While at the party, Jack (Ray Santiago, Ash vs. Evil Dead) and his friends quickly figure out Wilkes isn’t disguised and that the body isn’t a prop. They create a diversion, during which two life-sized evil-looking dolls drop from the ceiling. Confused and believing they might be human, Wilkes attacks them, allowing the others to escape, with the body no less. Clown dolls? Isn’t Wilkes supposed to be a confident professional hitman? Anyway, so for a large part of the show, Dorothy (Aurora Perrineau), Alan (David Hull, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and Jack walk around with this body.
Meanwhile, Wilkes needs the body back, and with the unsolicited help of Maggie (Rebecca Rittenhouse, The Mindy Project), sets out to do just that. But Maggie has plans of her own. She’s tired of being told what to do and how to live her life. In Wilkes and his profession, she sees an attractive alternative. She wants to be his apprentice, his partner, but as Wilkes often reminds her, there is no we.
So that’s the pretty much the premise of the movie, ahem, sorry, episode. And the result? Well, our three characters think they can outsmart Wilkes. Yes, they’re trying to outsmart a professional hitman. However, they quickly find out how serious a mistake that was. In what could have been an interesting antagonistic play between these two groups, actually turns out to be a journey of stupid decisions after stupid decisions. It’s as though the director wanted us to feel that they deserved their fate. And it worked. When it all went down, I didn’t feel bad.
When Wilkes and Maggie meet at the party, he acts in a way that implies surprise, and perhaps even intrigue about this woman. He appears interested, albeit uncomfortable that she’s found a way to affect him. How could she? He’s a cold-blooded killer, one who’s in full control of his actions and environment. Heck, presumably it’s why he’s so good at his job. But nothing is made of this relationship. In the end, Maggie is made out to be no better than a petulant love-struck teen, even though she’s the smartest one of the bunch. Their relationship should have been better developed. But that wasn’t the most bothersome part.
Wilkes is supposed to be this cool-headed perfect killer (he’s got a 10-year perfect record), yet makes so many mistakes in a four-hour span. And why is he so reliant on Maggie to find the body? Worse, how can he kill someone, yet fail to do so correctly? He’s a professional killer for crying out loud? He may act sophisticated and spew off lines that intend to make him scary, but ultimately, he acts like a rookie. And let’s not even start with the decision-making process Dorothy, Alan and Jack engage in. Theirs is almost a three Stooges-like interaction. And that’s what I felt was wrong with The Body.
First, the episode is too long, clocking in at almost ninety minutes. Too many scenes were similar, just in different locations. And second, though it’s announced as a horror anthology, it’s actually more comedic than horrific. The situations, the interactions, if watched with the preconception that it is a comedy first and horror second, are actually quite enjoyable. And don’t get me wrong, there are horror elements (mostly gore, no scares). All it takes is a different perspective, and it changes the results.
It does sound like I didn’t enjoy the show and that there are no redeemable qualities to it. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was enjoyable, and the performances were good. However, selling a show as a horror anthology without specifics leads to certain expectations. Blumhouse is known for their low budget fare, but they’ve churned out some good horror movies.
I still have high expectations for subsequent episodes of Into the Dark and am looking forward to the next installment. Let’s just hope that it will be true horror and that it will involve the holiday that inspired it, rather than being just a passing footnote to the story.
Into the Dark: The Body is now available on Hulu.