Halloween is that time of year where we can really reflect on the things we just need to release. Part of that is because the holiday has taken on the role of the party holiday. We get to dress up in costumes, live our best lives, and forget about anything that might be holding us back. Halloween is a period of rebirth and merriment, but there are rules to follow. And sometimes that reminder of reality, of the rules in which we have to live our lives, can come back to bite us. This is the lesson we learn in the latest Into The Dark installment and the official first episode of the new season titled UNCANNY ANNIE.
The Halloween-themed episode takes place on Halloween night in a house with a bunch of college students. They are all still mourning the loss of a fellow friend, especially Wendy (played by Adelaide Kane). There is unspoken tension between the college students, with the exception of Grace (played by Paige McGhee) who is meeting mostly everyone for the first time. None of them are much in the mood for partying it up college student style, so they all come to a general consensus about spending the night playing board games. However, this leads them to pick a game called UNCANNY ANNIE. As the game progresses and all start to learn the rules, they realize that this game plays for keeps and, if they are not careful, they will not make it through the night.
As I have done for nearly every episode we’ve reviewed from the Into The Dark series, I’m going to refrain from spoiling the episode as much as possible. This particular episode would be easy to spoil because it is a fairly linear, simple plot. It’s very much in line with recent films such as Truth or Dare or really a more fucked up version of Jumanji. However, despite its simplicity, the power of the script written by Alan Blake Bachelor and James Bachelor resides in its straightforwardness. Hear me out here. It gives the audience the rules of the game of UNCANNY ANNIE and leaves nothing open for interpretation in terms of how the rules of the game are played. The fun is the discovery of how each individual character interacts with these rules and how quickly they are to realize that they have to actively work with the game in order to survive. Throw in the terrifying, but brief performance of Karlisha Hurley as the titular character, and you can’t help but pay attention to the game.
Speaking of rules, the Bachelors don’t necessarily abide by them per se. Breaking my rule a wee bit regarding spoilers, arguably one of my favorite things about this film is the bait and switch moments. For example, there is a character that appears to be set up to be a final girl. There are special touches the Bachelors give this character in the story that all but convince the audience that she is going to be the lone survivor of this piece. But, in an unexpected move, they completely rip out the rug underneath us. This toying around with the horror genre construct of final girls is honestly a breath of fresh air because let’s face it, the people we think will survive sometimes don’t actually survive in real life.
The only real gripe I have about UNCANNY ANNIE is the heavy CGI work done in post-production. There are key moments in this episode that could have benefited from less of a heavy CGI brush because it took out from the grounded warped reality that director Paul Davis was trying to construct. I did appreciate though the homage to the early 2000s with the opening credits unveiling a plethora of warped imagery that had to be pulled from the game. To contrast with this, I definitely need to shine a light on the practical effects that were used in this film. As an immensely biased fan of the practical, seeing certain moments play out in a practical way (here is looking at you, bubbling dark blood tar stuff) really helped root the alternative realm that this game takes you to for the viewer.
Overall, UNCANNY ANNIE is a good start to what I’m betting will be an epic second season for the Into The Dark anthology series. Although considerably tamer in terms of in your face, memorable scares, you can’t help but watch as you wait to see whether or not the gang completes the game or not. Because in the end, UNCANNY ANNIE will always see her side of the game through, regardless of what the player ends up doing. It’s just a matter of how.
The new Halloween-themed episode UNCANNY ANNIE will be available for streaming on Hulu starting tomorrow, October 4th.
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