REVIEW: ‘Pooka!’ is a Descent into Holiday Madness

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Into the Dark: Pooka!

In October, the Blumhouse anthology series began on Hulu. The series will be 12-episode long with one episode airing every month. With the run time of a movie, past episode “The Body” and “Flesh & Blood” were well done. Effectively, with each story being self-contained, Blumhouse has 12 Hulu exclusive movies coming out this year. December’s episode for the Christmas season is “Pooka!,” a story where nothing is as it seems.

This episode — and I would like to say I see them as movies — focuses on Wilson (Nyasha Hatendi), a struggling actor, trying to get on his feet during the Christmas holidays. After intensely prepping for an audition, he ends up finding out that the job is really dressing up in a furry costume. After he lands the job as Pooka, the plushie animatronic toy that is aimed to be the hottest toy of the year.  Now, the toy itself is terrifying. Pooka mimics whoever it hears in either a “good Pooka” voice, with his eyes lighting up green or a “naughty voice” where the color is red. Good and naughty Pooka, as well as the colors associated with the moods, serve as a way to set the tone in the scenes.  At first, it’s a job that Wilson doesn’t love but serves as a distraction from the day to day, eventually leading to a new romance in his life. However he slowly develops two personalities-one when he’s in the suit, and one that’s outside it, all while he and Pooka start to become one.

As Wilson and Pooka start to become indistinguishable from each other he begins to lose time, and Pooka appears as a monster. The design of Pooka is terrifying in and of itself and the ways that film uses angles to make him seem giant in the frame gives the feel of a creature feature. Directed by Nacho Vigalondo, the man behind one of my favorite films of 2016, Colossal, every minute of the episode is packed with twists and turns that you’ll miss if you’re not paying attention.

Into the Dark: Pooka!

From a visual perspective, the use of darkness and red light is perfect to set up the disturbing children’s toy come to life. But the biggest reason that the film is both disturbing and engrossing is Hatendi’s performance as Wilson. As he loses his mind and questions reality we see the darkest parts of Wilson’s hopes and desires and when the twist is revealed and the pieces start to come together, Hatendi sells it. The rest of the cast is good but not as memorable, and this may be by design. We see everything through Wilson’s eyes and at some point, as a viewer, we start to question it.

I truly appreciate that by the middle of the film I started to questions the characters’ actions and thoughts but at the same time the reality-bending can be too disorienting. The episode definitely requires a second watch and that may not be a good thing for most viewers. The slow pacing should help follow the twists of the story but it doesn’t and if you’re not a fan of an uncomfortable psychological horror than you won’t watch it the second time.

That being said, this is by design and I feel like Vigalondo means for the questions to be asked when the credits roll and the entire hour and 10-minutes before to be called into question. It’s for that reason that I can’t recommend this to non-horror fans. But if you are one and you’re looking for some new Christmas horror, definitely check Into the Dark: Pooka! out and pay close attention. With episode four coming next month, Pooka and the previous episodes have been a good body of work for Into the Dark and are, in my opinion, keeping Blumhouse in the minds of moviegoers while also becoming more and more credible among horror fans. The latter of which I say because although I have personally loved Blumhouse’s style of cheaply produced horror, some have not.

Into the Dark, episode 3, “Pooka!” is now streaming on Hulu.


Into the Dark: Pooka!
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    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

If you are one and you’re looking for some new Christmas horror, definitely check Into the Dark: Pooka! out and pay close attention. With episode four coming next month, Pooka and the previous episodes have been a good body of work for Into the Dark and are, in my opinion, keeping Blumhouse in the minds of moviegoers while also becoming more and more credible among horror fans. The latter of which I say because although I have personally loved Blumhouse’s style of cheaply produced horror, some have not.