Hulu Introduces Blumhouse Anthology Series ‘Into the Dark’ With Gory Halloween Tale ‘The Body’
Just in time for Halloween, Hulu is jumping on the dark anthology bandwagon. “Into the Dark” is above all else a new Blumhouse project. The studio that has given us this year B-movie absurdity like “Truth or Dare” and more fun fare like “Upgrade,” now enters the streaming world with a 12-episode, monthly series offering weird and gory yarns. Every month will see a new tale focused on a specific holiday. If the series premiere is any indication, the tone of this series will fall somewhere in the area of “Twilight Zone” meets “Black Mirror,” but downgraded to bad acting and stretched out running times.
“The Body” kicks off the inaugural season with a Halloween plot centered on Wilkes (Tom Bateman), a well-dressed hitman trying to get a job done. After accomplishing his latest gig, he needs to find way to get rid of the body, which he has conveniently wrapped like a mummy. Dragging the corpse down the street makes Halloween revelers think Wilkes has quite the costume idea. He soon finds himself being dragged to a party by a group of festive millennials, Jack (Ray Santiago), Alan (David Hull), Dorothy (Aurora Perrineau), and Nick (Harvey Guillen). Wilkes reluctantly tags along and at the party meets Maggie (Rebecca Rittenhouse), a chatty, progressive-minded type with an edgy curiosity. When the party animals realize Wilkes’s wrapped up dead body is indeed a real dead body, they take off with it, leaving Wilkes and Maggie to try and hunt them down.
For its first few minutes “The Body” works like a midnight movie in good bad taste. It opens with an eerie panning shot across a luxurious apartment to the sound of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” Wilkes has murdered his prey and sits down to try a bit of Casu marzu, a Sardinian cheese served with live maggots (it would be interesting to know if Bateman did indeed munch on real larvae). The moments where Wilkes finds himself stuck at a Halloween party with drunk party goers loving the dead corpse are hilarious. But once the chase begins and Wilkes tries to get the body back, the episode becomes a bit of a slog. Part of the reason might be that it’s based on a 2013 short film by director Paul Davis and Paul Fischer. Both also write the script for this episode (with Davis directing) and are obviously trying to find ways to stretch out something that worked well for 17 minutes into nearly an hour and a half. By the halfway point the idea loses its charm.
Part of the allure of binging on streaming shows is precisely that each episode can feel like a chapter, or short story. The obvious precursor of “Into the Dark” is Netflix’s award-winning “Black Mirror,” which also tells stories that dabble in dread and shadows. Rarely does that show ever deliver an episode that’s more than an hour in length, and it features more sophisticated writing as well. “The Body” never tries to reach for true midnight movie mayhem, devoting most of its middle section to Wilkes and Maggie sitting around and sharing unconvincing metaphysical discussions about evolution, morality and the joy of killing. We almost welcome the funnier scenes where Jack and the others desperately try to get rid of the dead body, going so far as to seek guidance from the disposal process shown in “Breaking Bad.” That particular dilemma could have made for an entire and more entertaining episode.
There are few scares in “The Body” and little tension. Wilkes is simply a walking shadow of doom, with Maggie tagging along like some demented sycophant until she realizes he doesn’t care much about her. But the plot revolving around finding the body never picks up steam, it’s reduced to just the group dragging the thing around and Wilkes occasionally hacking into their phones to blackmail them if they ever approach the cops. Throughout we get a good laugh or two, but by the end the whole episode spirals into a simple chase as Wilkes catches up to the body snatchers and harasses them down hallways, corners them in a morgue and starts stabbing people in the head. It’s easy to imagine a much more wickedly entertaining version of this episode if it were trimmed down and had more of a satirical feel. Even the theme of Halloween is somewhat lost after the first rowdy minutes.
With only “The Body” being made available for review, it remains to be seen what other storytelling avenues “Into the Dark” will take. With anthologies it is inevitable that some stories will be better than others. “The Body” opens with some great material, but soon becomes an example of how less is more.
“Into the Dark” premieres Oct. 5 on Hulu with new episodes airing monthly.