4 out of 5
Directed by: Alejandro Brugués
You drop all of the overly clever shit, you drop all of the “smart” messaging nonsense, you drop any overly stylized affectations, and you just make a dang, dumb horror movie. This should be easy, Into the Dark. And yet, only a few entries have succeeded in this, I guess because ‘dang, dumb horror’ isn’t as high class as trying to blend in timely themes. Unfortunately, since the majority of us are shallow idiots (myself included), attempts at timely themes have proven to be dunderheaded, foul missteps at using the horror genre, and then the gaps are filled in by obnoxious quirk.
I love that a sequel to an ItD enry – last year’s Pooka! – managed to be one of the better entries in this series, and I love that the original committed some of these sins I’ve mentioned above. So eff you, Pooka!; but Pooka Lives! is forever, and I would love a yearly entry that continues in this same vein.
Here’s what’s important: you don’t have to have seen Pooka! You will quickly understand that this titular “character” is a popular, Furby-esque toy, which the first movie rather lamely used for some consumerism commentary, but which isn’t – in its capacity as a toy – really relevant here. You might think there’s some backstory you’re missing regarding Derrick (Malcolm Berrett), who’s fled to his hometown after some career-changing mishap in New York, but that’ll be added in soon enough as well: he had the tenacity to take down a popular internet influencer, which caused a large phalanx of trolls to turn against him and send him in to hiding. He’s now working as a copywriter at the Pooka agency.
I hear ya: now we can expect some forced something-or-other on the effects of social media, yes? Nah. Writer Ryan Copple’s script is just embracing that as part of the current tech landscape. While the aforementioned influencer is a dick, he’s not parodied in the overt fashion the 9,000,000 films attempting to criticize youtube culture use, so it simply is what it is: the internet exists; trolls exist.
And so, Derrick, gathered with his hometown friends, bemused and frustrated by the status quo changes in his life, jumps on to a coworker’s (and his long-ago ex) frustration regarding the Pooka job, and plots his own internet revenge: a “Pooka challenge” that turns Pooka into a scary, kill-ya meme. You already know how this goes – people start dying at the purported hands (claws) of Pooka – but that’s fine: Pooka Lives! leans into its familiarity, and is all the better for it.
There’s a current anime – In/Spectre – that does the “internet brings something to life” shtick with more psychological verve, but Pooka Lives! simplicity makes some of its innovations rather effective, and director Alejandro Brugués has an active, but not showy, camera that keeps the film light, darkly humored, and visually engaging. And yeah, Supernatural fans should rightfully gleefully giggle when Felicia Day mentions a Tulpa – again, this is a flick that’s on its viewers’ side in giving us a thoroughly enjoyable ride.
As a standalone flick, this is admittedly average (though very fun), but I felt this deserved some extra attention as being the kind of Into the Darks we should be getting more often. (Based on my opinion, anyway, which I pay high rates to have converted into facts.)