We all dread the coming of February no matter what our relationship status is. However, no one can deny that at least here in the United States, Valentine’s Day and all it has come to encompass is the absolute worst. And in an age where all of us are attached to our phones, swiping through apps, and shaking our fists at the air as to why we can’t seem to make a connection, it feels like maybe romance is a lost cause.

But what if someone were to take away our ability to check our phones? Even more so, what if someone created a scenario that forces us to look at the person in front of us and really connect? Would we welcome it with open arms or freak out? Hulu and Blumhouse come together to explore these questions in their latest installment in the horror anthology series INTO THE DARK. The Valentine’s Day episode is titled DOWN.

The episode primarily focuses on two characters, Jennifer (Natalie Martinez) and Guy (Matt Lauria). Both are office workers who just happened to have stayed late right before a three day weekend. They run into each other in an elevator as they both attempt to leave to go enjoy their holiday off, but something happens to stop the elevator from further descending. They find themselves trapped, which would have been hellish by itself. With no security around apparently, they both resign themselves to staying in the elevator. And it isn’t too long until they find themselves giving into their vulnerable states and embracing the dark romance of the situation.

However, this is a horror film. And we all know that romance does not last long in horror films. There is only one way to go at this point and it is DOWN. What transpires after the couple’s momentary lapse in sexual weakness will surely shock all who watch and, for many women, the developments may feel all too familiar. Fortunately, you won’t be disappointed in how everything plays out. That’s about as much as I’ll give away because I do want you all to watch everything play out. It’s truly horrifying.

Martinez and Lauria have a natural chemistry that really helped create a more realistic transition between strangers to would-be lovers. Working in such an enclosed environment also helped to further illustrate their intimacy and chemistry, making the betrayal the audience will feel even more difficult to digest later on in film. Lauria, in particular, stands out in his performance, pulling us in with a combination of vulnerability and charm before smacking us upside the head with a cruelty that cuts the air.

Keeping the setting simple also assisted in amplifying the intensity of the situation. Many people, including myself, have a fear of being trapped inside a broken down piece of machinery. Throw in a stranger you hardly know to be trapped with you and it’s a recipe for tension and defences being raised. It also made how the story developed feel very authentic because, in a situation similar to this, human beings are programmed to react more emotionally rather than logically. Director Daniel Stamm (The Last Exorcism) handles the logistics of this tight setting to perfection.

Overall, DOWN will have you thrown for a loop in terms of how the film’s genre appears to develop throughout the course of 80 minutes. At first, you think you’re watching a romantic comedy of sorts, with the two characters romantically clicking in a stressful, adrenaline rushing moment. However, writer Kent Kubena flips this on its head by quickly stripping away the romantic layers and peeling back the horror beneath for all of us to see.  

DOWN launches exclusively on Hulu’s service on February 1st. Just in time to serve as a cautionary tale this Valentine’s Day.

Sarah Musnicky
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