Into the Dark: Pooka!
into the dark | into the dark: pooka! | nacho vigalondo | gerald olson | nyasha hatendi | latarsha rose | jon daly | psychological | psychological thriller | thriller | united states | dale dickey | jonny berryman | bryan billy boone | caden dragomer | blumhouse
Film: Into the Dark: Pooka!
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Writer: Gerald Olson
Starring: Nyasha Hatendi, Latarsha Rose and Jon Daly
I remember when this episode of Into the Dark dropped as it is one of the first episodes that came out. Pooka seemed to be popular amongst some and disliked by others. Heck, I knew of it without seeing this until now. I figured that since this is was the first Christmas episode of Into the Dark and they made a sequel to it that came out in 2020, I could pair these up as a double feature for Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast. The synopsis here is a struggling actor takes on a seasonal holiday job as the mascot for the year’s hottest new toy: Pooka. However, after putting the costume on, he develops two personalities – one for himself and one for Pooka.
For this movie, we start off hearing the phrase repeated over and over again: look at the pretty lights. Something seems to be on fire and there are the red and blue police lights that are going. We also see a person in them. This then cuts to the apartment of Wilson Clowes (Nyasha Hatendi). He’s the struggling actor from the synopsis. He’s just moved into this apartment and is getting acclimated. We see him as he goes by his mundane routine of riding the bus, going to a coffee shop and returning home. He does see a flier for an audition. Wilson locks himself out of his apartment and needs his neighbor of Red (Dale Dickey) to let him in. The two of them become friends as she is lonely herself.
Things change for Wilson when he goes to the audition. He studied his lines inside and out, but things don’t go as planned when he arrives. The casting director, Diane Sellers, hears a line from him and cuts him off. Wilson asks some questions and on a balcony above him is Finn (Jon Daly). They have him do weird things which end up being a dance. Wilson does them well enough and he’s given the part. The part isn’t what Wilson was expecting though. It is to be inside of a large Pooka suit. The money is amazing though and no one will ever know it is him underneath.
For a bit more back-story, Pooka is the new hot toy in town. It will listen to what you say, record it and will say them back to you. It can be nice where it will say them with blue eyes or it is naughty with red eyes.
Wilson’s life is looking up, even more so when he meets Melanie Burns (Latarsha Rose). She’s a real estate agent that he’s seen a couple different places. The two of them hit it off and Wilson does what he can to impress her son of Ty (Jonny Berryman). The problem though is that Wilson is losing himself in Pooka. Bad things are happening and Wilson isn’t sure what is going on. When things turn violent and aggressive, can Wilson get his life under control before it is too late?
Now I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what to expect coming in. I’ve already said that I knew about the character, but wasn’t sure what type of movie this would actually be. I didn’t even realize that Nacho Vigalondo was the director until settling into watching this. Not saying that just seeing his name made me enjoy this more, but I can see some of his talents going into what they do here. Before I move into my first point, this is really a psychological thriller mixed with horror.
I’ll first breakdown the character of Wilson. He’s leery about taking on this role, but it allows him to not be struggling anymore due to the money. He can have the life that he’s wanted. When he meets Melanie and they hit it off, he’s on top of the world. I believe there’s a bit of social commentary here about success going to his head. He’s losing himself in the role that he’s playing. The Pooka portion of his personality allows him to do some bad things. This all makes sense as well at the end for the final reveal. I was a bit shocked there and found it to be interesting.
Next I want to delve a bit into Wilson’s relationship with Melanie and Ty. Ty’s father was abusive. It doesn’t say if it was physical or emotional, but Melanie is damaged from it. Wilson is doing everything that he can to help her through her issues. The problem becomes though, as things in his life falls apart, it causes her to distance from him. He can’t handle this. I will say I could connect with this. I’ve been broken up with and have done everything I could to get that person back. Looking back I see that I shouldn’t have. It was toxic and not helping any of the parties involved. It has taken me to do some growing up to see that, but it allows me perspective on what we’re getting with this movie.
The last thing for the story I’ll briefly go over is the toy of Pooka. I love that we’re seeing capitalism here as this is really poking fun at things like the ‘Tickle-Me Elmo’ or ‘Furbys’. This toy is actually pretty dumb and conspiracy theorists could have a field day that it is recording things that we say. It is funny though to see how this toy is so popular and then fades quite fast. It really is a situation of getting out of Dodge before everything falls apart for it.
Where I want to go next would be acting since it really is character study of Wilson. I thought that Hatendi does a great job. We get to see him as the normal version of himself. We see him on Cloud 9 and then as things fall apart, we see him become unhinged. This all culminates to the truth of his character which works. Rose, Daly, Dickey, Berryman and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed in developing and interacting with this character for sure.
Next would be the effects. We really don’t get a lot and what we do is subdued. Most everything is done practically from what I could see. I think the bit of blood that we get was good. Making Wilson looking more disheveled as his life falls apart makes a lot of sense. I do have to give credit to the cinematography here as well. The use of color filters, especially red really works. It makes a lot of sense since it is associated with rage and naughty when it comes to Pooka.
The last thing I’ll go over briefly would be the soundtrack. I’d say that the selections fit for what was needed. It was interesting to see that Bear McCreary did the score. Not his best, but it works. What I did really enjoy was the theme song for Pooka. If I can find it I will throw it on the podcast episode for sure.
So now with that said, I thought this was a solid little movie. I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen a bad one of these Into the Dark episodes. I thought that the performance of Hatendi as the lead was solid. I like the social commentary that we’re working with. The ideas they are exploring are relevant. The rest of the cast rounded this out, the effects we get are solid and the soundtrack fit. To rate this movie, I would call it above average overall.
My Rating: 7 out of 10