Hulu and Blumhouse’s Into the Dark anthology series has given horror fans kooky, terrifying, genre-bending feature-length stories each set to a different holiday celebrated the month they air on the streaming platform. POOKA! was the first Into the Dark episode I watched. Set on Christmas, the film followed the descent into madness fueled by a popular Christmas toy. Now, just in time to celebrate “Pooka Day,” POOKA Lives is extending the story around the creepy talking plush.
Directed by Alejandro Brugués and written by Ryan Copple, POOKA Lives has an entirely different look and feel than the one that came before. Focused on Derrick (Malcolm Barrett), a social media pariah who has gotten on the bad side of one of the internet’s most famous influencers, POOKA! Lives shows what happens when fun viral myths turn deadly. When Derrick comes back to his home town, he stays with his high school best friends Molly and Matt.
After getting a copywriting job with the company that makes Pooka, the group of thirty-something friends create their own Creepypasta about Pooka for laughs. But when the story goes viral the friends are shocked and it actually manifests more murderous versions of the creature, with new users adding to his legend and morphing the killer Pooka as the story moves from keyboard to keyboard.
At first, I was hesitant about a new story with a familiar character that’s so completely different than the original. That said, POOKA Lives quickly outgrows the previous installment and thrives on its own as a supernatural slasher that is utterly fun and thrilling. There is a dark humor that flows throughout the film and it executes a story we’ve seen before really well. While the idea of an urban legend coming to life and taking on the ways that people change it as it kills people isn’t a new concept, the way that Copple writes its execution works. There is a balance of camp and slasher that creates a new perfect mix.
The cast of POOKA Lives is amazing is truly what you should press play for. While the varying Pooka designs are both hilarious and terrifying, its the dynamic between the friends that really solidifies the feature. Their comedy is perfectly in sync and overall, their characters provide a balance to the film’s presence. That said, while Day is pure joy on film, Barrett rightfully has the best performance as the focus of the story. His angst in the first half of POOKA Lives is a wonderful extension of our online culture and as the Pooka becomes real and seeps into their world when he joins the rest of the cast, everything comes to life.
The only critique I have for POOKA Lives is that it runs too close to “Hook Man,” an episode of the first season of Supernatural, down to nature of Pooka, and this is accentuated by Day’s connection to the Supernatural franchise. That said, it’s charming all the same, and for Supernatural fans you’ll feel like you have an insight into the film that others might not.
Overall, POOKA Lives is a hell of a lot of fun. It’s a horror-comedy that uses amazing acting personalities that bring the film to life in a way that makes it charismatic and endearing. While it isn’t a perfect addition to Into the Dark, it’s well worth the watch and the perfect salve to a monotonous day of self-isolation.
POOKA Lives is available now, exclusively on Hulu.
Into the Dark: POOKA! Lives
OOKA! Lives is a hell of a lot of fun. It’s a horror comedy that uses amazing acting personalities that bring the film to life in a way that makes it charismatic and endearing.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.