[Movie Review] Into The Dark’s POOKA LIVES!

[Movie Review] Into The Dark's POOKA LIVES!
Courtesy of Blumhouse and Hulu
Since the introduction of Pooka to Blumhouse’s and Hulu’s horror anthology series, Into The Dark, I’ve been minutely obsessed with the fuzzy, mood flipping toy. Its design is unnervingly adorable and its unpredictability keeps all of us on our toes. With each toy-based trend, these critters can fade easily into obscurity, especially after the holiday shopping season. However, Pooka has managed to maintain its longevity and relevance to the horror realm through the creation and consistent usage of the Naughty Pooka account on Twitter. Through the blunt and relatable tweets, the account has been able to build upon its popularity since its introduction to the Into The Dark Universe. Why am I mentioning this exactly? Because the power of the internet and fans of the lovable plush directly contribute to the shenanigans that take place in Blumhouse and Hulu’s latest Into The Dark installment, POOKA LIVES! And, by God, it just really works!

The film starts off with viewers meeting the creator of Pooka, Ellie Burgis (Rachel Bloom) engaging in an argument with her husband (Wil Wheaton) before completely snapping and murdering him before killing herself. This is important because this scene is the basis for the entire story created much later. We jump forward a year after that fateful day where we are introduced to Derrick (Malcolm Barrett). He has escaped to his hometown of Spring Valley after an influencer didn’t appreciate what he wrote and sicced his followers on him. This opens up a giant can of internet-related career and psychological destruction on the poor man. However, Derrick has managed to get a job working for the same company that created Pooka. And, lucky for him, his old hometown friends Molly (Felicia Day) and Matt (Jonah Ray) have allowed him to stay at their place until the internet drama dies down.

Derrick arrives at his new job at SEI where he runs into his ex, Susan (Lyndie Greenwood), who is one of the ones involved in the new re-design of Pooka and has unfortunately awkward run-ins with the General Manager of the company and his much-younger immediate social media supervisor. After finding his car vandalized in the company parking lot, he carries that influencer-inspired angst into his hangout later that night with Molly, Matt, Susan, and cop friend Benny (Gavin Stenhouse). After Molly and Matt’s daughter, Lauren, has a nightmare about the Creepypasta-inspired Momo and learning about Ellie Burgis’s murder-suicide, Derrick becomes inspired to create his own Creepypasta Pooka story. The entire adult gang comes together to create the story but thinks little of it until the next day when it becomes viral. However, as the story of Pooka starts to grow and fans start adding onto it, it quickly becomes clear that the power of the internet has brought the beloved plush to life in far more sinister ways than expected.

Courtesy of Blumhouse and Hulu

Look. I have a clear bias when it comes to Pooka, but I loved the heck out of POOKA LIVES! Unlike the installment that introduced us to the thiccc plush of my dreamy nightmares, the tone of POOKA LIVES! is remarkably lighter. The story itself is straight forward, which I think many viewers might appreciate more than the psychologically disjointed Into The Dark’s POOKA. And, with Pooka coming to life once more, there are a couple of nods to films such as Child’s Play, Gremlins, and – dare I say – I’m getting a little “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV inspiration from this, which monster critter fans will greatly enjoy. While the story itself is straightforward, there’s a ridiculousness to the overall plot that normally wouldn’t work. However, the direction and delivery of lines from all involved help to make the most skeptical of viewers jump on board. The actors are seemingly aware of the levels of silliness they are being taken down and they lean heavily into that. Because of that, it helps immensely.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the different Pooka redesigns. As a fan of the classic Pooka design, it was fun seeing the original costume come out of the closet. However, being able to see the evolution of the character as the internet started to build upon the story and the original image of the character was quite something. As the character starts to take on a more physically sinister change, it becomes taller and more imposing. And seeing how the character’s physicality changed with each suit change (because I believe each level up was a complete practical suit redesign) was also quite impressive. As someone who really enjoys seeing how conceptual designs are brought to life, it was fun to see how the “fan art” featured in POOKA LIVES! was accurately constructed once the critter decided to start punishing people some more for being naughty. And, by leaning into those sinister designs, it also helped provide the necessary horror needed to make this overall ridiculous scenario more jump-inducing for viewers.

Overall, POOKA LIVES! is a film that embraces its silliness in a way that warms the cockles of even the most darkest of hearts. The script itself leans into the ridiculousness of its horror-filled scenario onscreen while also providing social commentary on how much power we’ve given the internet in dictating who and what has relevance. It also manages to provide an easy comparison between how easily we can be deemed naughty or nice by the most influential party. Whether it’s the most obnoxious influencer or the most adorably dangerous creepypasta-leveled-up Pooka, the power we give over can do more harm than good. And, with nothing ever truly being gone on the internet, there’s plenty of potential for Pooka to make a reappearance in later installments. PS. Make sure you watch all the way through the credits. It gives me hardcore “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” comic vibes.

Into The Dark’s POOKA LIVES! will premiere on Hulu on April 3, 2020. Need more Pooka related shenanigans to read? Check out our four reasons why POOKA is so important right now HERE. And don’t forget to join the Twitter Watch Paty of the new episode with the cast/crew joining along! The party begins at 8:30pm ET/5:30pm PT.

Sarah Musnicky
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