It may have taken 7 month due to a raging pandemic but the horror anthology series, Into the Dark, has returned with an all-new Valentine’s themed episode titled TENTACLES. In the psychosexual horror-thriller TENTACLES, Tara (Dana Drori) and Sam (Casey Deidrick), a young Los Angeles couple, fall head over heels into a new romance as their lives become intertwine and their intimacy transforms into something terrifying.
For the release of the film, Nightmarish Conjurings had the opportunity to speak with Director Clara Aranovich, writer Alexandra Pechman, and actors Dana Drori and Kasey Elise about everything from how the pandemic impacted filming, the importance of creating a safe work environment, and more.
INTO THE DARK: TENTACLES really takes the viewer on a very wild journey. How did this story come to be?
Alexandra Pechman: Yeah, it started as many horror movies do – as a nightmare. I dreamed that something akin to what happens in TENTACLES happened to me. I woke up, told my partner, Nick Antosca (“Channel Zero”), and he was like, “That’d be a really cool horror movie”. So we collaborated on the story together and we also are now married. I wrote a script that was a speck that made its way to Blumhouse, which I was so excited about, and into the Into the Dark family. We were able to really just have this amazing blank canvas to play with, with the show having all these different facets of the horror genre, and Director Clara Aranovich just made this incredibly moody, disturbing, unsettling sexy thriller.
The turnaround time for Into The Dark films is relatively fast. That said, how did the pandemic impact the filming of INTO THE DARK: TENTACLES?
Clara Aranovich: We shot a third of this in March 2020 and then got shut down and then shot the remaining two thirds in September. So we were literally straddling the bulk of the shutdown. It was kooky. It was probably what you imagined it to be like – stressful and kind of scary. Obviously, when we shut down that day, it was quite somber cause we didn’t know if we’d even come back at all. And for a lot of us, myself included, this was our first feature. For a lot of us this was a big deal, to arrive at this moment in our career with a production company as seminal as Blumhouse. So it was somber, it was scary. I mean, think back to March 2020, how little we knew and then by September we knew more. So we were in some ways we were even more scared. But the beauty is Blumhouse stuck very strictly, as they should, to the safety guidelines put forth by our guilds and our unions. So we were super safe, super protected, but that also meant like talking through a mask and face shield all day for 10 hours, you’re like slowly losing your mind. And getting your temperature checked twice a day, if not thrice a day. Three days a week you’re getting swabbed up your nose on set. But all said and done, it was so worth it because we don’t want to put anyone at risk for a movie, no matter how cool it is. So it was stressful, it was scary, but ultimately, I think, made us stronger.
Sex has a significant focus in INTO THE DARK: TENTACLES and probably the most we’ve seen in any of the Into The Dark episodes. What was your approach in tackling those scenes in order to bring them to life? What logistical challenges were you presented with and how was it done to make everyone comfortable?
Clara Aranovich: The sex was obviously front and center from the scripting point forward. What I loved was that Allie was bringing her own perspective without shoving anything down anyone’s throat, no pun intended (laughs). She brought her perspective as a female body person and that is tragically a fresh perspective because there’s not a lot of us who’ve gotten to make movies in the history of cinema. It was something that from scripting onward was something we knew we had to respect. And if we didn’t buy Tara and Sam as a couple, the movie was going to die. I was very excited about trying to bring less classically heteronormative sex scenes to the audience, things that weren’t just always culminating in male orgasms or culminating in penetrative sex. The first time they hook up, and this isn’t a spoiler – it’s in the first act, it’s literally a cunnilingus scene, and we don’t even see them kiss technically, and I was very excited about that approach. I was excited about showing a different perspective on intimacy while doing it safely. Because that’s the other tragic thing, there are so many people, and you’ve heard these stories, of actresses essentially being assaulted on set, for what? In the name of a movie? That’s so stupid and it damages a person for life. So, I’m also very passionate about doing things ethically. We had an incredible intimacy coordinator, Corrin Evans, and my conversations with Dana about the intimacy in this film began before she was cast. I had those conversations with actors before we cast them, when they were in the callback phase, to make sure we were aligned.
Dana Drori: When I first got called back for the script, and Clara and I were talking about notes that she was giving me for my callback, the big question that we had was the sex scenes and how they were going to be tackled. All of that was negotiated in advance. As Clara said, we had an amazing intimacy coordinator, Corinn Evans, who was just so present, so attuned to mine and Casey Deidrick’s boundaries and desires. We had a really open, really fruitful conversation before we even started filming about what we were into and what our boundaries were and what we didn’t want to do and what we thought was hot. It was a nice way to start a communication. Also, having a female director, having a female intimacy coordinator, I felt very supported, I felt like I had people in my corner. Casey Deidrick was so understanding, so supporting, had an open dialogue from day one with him and I felt really, really safe. And I really enjoyed doing the sex scenes for that reason. They were really fun. My background was a fashion model and, like Carla was saying about experiences on set, I had a decade of just awful modeling experiences in terms of my body and objectification of it. I was really nervous about that going in, even though we had a super understanding director, just because you never know how things are going to be shot or edited, and you never know what website they’re going to end up on, even if it is sort of innocuous. I’ve just had things like that happen in my past that I was not uncomfortable with, but just sort of left a sour taste in my mouth, so to speak. I had a bit of apprehension of that going in, but, honestly, from the moment I spoke to Clara, all of that was gone. There was such a maturity and such a female-pleasure dominant way of storytelling that I was so eager to get behind that. I’m really, really proud of how they turned out, actually. It was a positive experience to say the least.
Dana, let’s talk about your character Tara for a bit. What was your favorite part about exploring Tara and what was your approach in tackling the character without revealing too much?
Dana Drori: I think she has an incredible character arc, to say the least. She really changes and grows a lot over the course of the film and becomes increasingly powerful and that was really fun. Clara and I worked with marking Tara’s power dynamics because obviously we didn’t shoot everything in order, we shot out of sequence. So just knowing where Tara was on her strength, you know, like growth, was really fun to map out. For a lot of the physicality stuff I worked with my movement coach, Julia Crockett, who is a dream and has opened me up in so many ways. But exploring her off-set, like on my own, on what the physicality of the thing would look like, how it would feel in my body, and how would it drive me, that is something that I’m going to take with me in every role. Tara is stuck in me now forever because it was so empowering and so in my body in a way that I’ve never really had the permission to explore in other projects, not in the same way.
For you Kasey, what initially drew you to this project? Because of the limited screen time, what was the approach that you and Clara developed for Esther to make sure we got that information on screen in your performance?
Kasey Elise: I did a lot of work with just my own personal experience of…I think we’ve all had that experience when you have a best friend or someone in your life that gets in to a relationship with someone they don’t know and you know intuitively that it isn’t right. So I brought a lot of that real-life experience to Esther. When I spoke to Sam about it, there was a lot that he didn’t understand about Esther’s feelings for him. Esther’s very complex, she has like an inward battle happening inside and there’s moments where Sam just kind of overlooks those things and Esther has to deal with that. When I was working with Clara with the character, she helped me with my approach because in real life I would tell my friend, you know, I would approach it a little differently (laughs). She had different ideas on how Esther’s character can be more nurturing, so it was really fun exploring that. Esther’s an important character in the movie and I think a lot of people in life need an Esther.
My last question for whoever wants to answer it is if you were presented with a shape-shifting creature that wanted to absorb you, what would you do?
Clara Aranovich: A part of me might be like, “Oh, this is how it ends. Okay. That feels okay to me. It feels pretty epic.” Having a very epic death is second best, I think, to having a very comfortable death (laughs).
Kasey Elise: I guess if some powerful creature… I don’t know… maybe I’m just like, okay, well this is going to end in one of two ways. I either kill it or it kills me, so let’s try (laughs).