October is stuffed with more horror/thriller content than ever thanks to the wide variety of video platforms that exist now as compared to, say, Oct. 27, 1978, when Halloween was released in theaters.
One major content provider, Hulu, steps things up Friday with the premiere of Into the Dark, the streamer’s original anthology series that employs a novel twist. A new “super-sized” episode will drop each month, inspired by a holiday that falls within that period.
It’s only fitting that Into the Dark launches this month with the 90-minute, Halloween-tinged “The Body,” which, like the series, comes from Hulu’s partnership with Blumhouse. Jason Blum’s independent studio produced such films as Get Out, Split, Insidious, Ouija and Paranormal Activity.
Another hit Blumhouse horror movie, The Purge, crossed over to television, where the company’s 6-year-old independent TV division found success (and more Emmys for HBO) with the true-crime documentary The Jinx and Ryan Murphy’s historical HIV/AIDS rom-dramedy The Normal Heart starring Mark Ruffalo.
For “The Body,” think more along the lines of Get Out, only with more gross-out humor, far less racism and absolutely no scary teacups. While the script from the episode’s director, Paul Davis, is not as socially groundbreaking as Jordan Peele’s for Get Out, it is about as clever.
Davis, a Brit who has specialized in the horror genre as a film journalist since the late ’90s, begins his story with English hitman Wilkes (Tom Bateman, the titular Jekyll & Hyde from the 2015 ITV miniseries) standing over a body he has just made no more in a swanky New York City apartment. Wilkes’ employer is on a cellphone with instructions regarding relocating the corpse, so the assassin drags the body, which is wrapped in plastic—except for the feet sticking out—outside and in plain view. This is no problem because it is Halloween night and the streets have been overtaken by revelers who assume Wilkes is in costume as a hitman—right down to the “fake” blood on his face—dragging an oversized prop.
Unforeseen circumstances force the meticulous Wilkes to catch a ride with some young people to a nightclub where none other than Sasha Grey is deejaying. They are convinced the stranger can win the costume contest, but he only consents to one drink before he and his bag of flesh are to be taken to their ultimate destination.
However, when party master Jack (Ray Santiago, who is Pablo Simon Bolivar on Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead) gets a look at the stoic Wilkes, he has other ideas. The artist/trust-fund baby wants to take the hearty partying mobile with his exceedingly incensed guest and the pals who brought him along.
Things go murderously haywire, and Jack and his pals Dorothy (Aurora Perrineau, who was Giselle in Jeff Wadlow’s recent horror thriller Truth or Dare) and Alan (David Hull, who is White Josh on the CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) find themselves in a deadly cat-and-mouse game. Their pursuers are Wilkes and a love interest he has picked up along the way, Jack’s unfulfilled assistant Maggie (Rebecca Rittenhouse, who was June’s doctor and Moira’s fiancée Odette on Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale this past season).
Davis, who also boasts acting credits, gets pitch-perfect performances out of his cast, whether they are delivering during the comedic moments or the truly disturbing ones.
“The Body” actually would have worked as a microbudget indie release in theaters, which is what Blumhouse specializes in. I can’t wait to see Into the Dark’s take on Thanksgiving.
Halloween, which opens countywide Oct. 19, may be the most anticipated horror-thriller genre reboot of the year. It’s certainly the most anticipated reboot of Jamie Lee Curtis, let alone the Michael Myers character. But David Gordon Green’s take on the John Carpenter classic is not the only big-screen scare-a-thon this month.
Already showing countywide are Hellfest, The House With a Clock In Its Walls, The Nun, The Predator and, opening Friday, Venom.
Heading up a roster of one-off or limited-run screenings is Saturday’s Camp Frida: Undead, an overnight marathon with 12 hours of gory and creepy movies to be announced at the Frida Cinema in Santa Ana.
This week also brings: Beetlejuice (Directors Cut Cinema at Regency Rancho Niguel, Tues.); Deep Red (the Frida Cinema, Mon.-Tues.); Little Shop of Horrors (1986, Regency South Coast Village, Wed.); MFKZ (countywide, Thurs., Oct. 11 and Oct. 16); Psycho (1960, the Frida Cinema, Thurs.-Fri., Oct. 4-5); The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Art Theatre, every Sat.); The Serpent and the Rainbow (the Frida Cinema, Fri.); Split (Fullerton Public Library, Thurs., Oct. 4); and Suspiria (the Frida Cinema, Fri. and Mon.-Tues.).
For those who really live on the edge, there are two screenings this month in cemeteries. The 1968 black-and-white classic Night of the Living Dead is shown Saturday at Sunnyside Cemetery in Long Beach, while Suburban Nightmares: A Horror Shorts Film Festival spooks out Fairhaven Memorial Services in Mission Viejo on Oct 20.
Another special cinematic event is Silent Spooky Night at the Exhibition Room-Long Beach Craft Cocktails on Oct. 18. Silent films The Haunted Castle, The Infernal Cauldron, The Fall of the House of Usher, Frankenstein (1910, Edison Studios) and the Silly Symphonies’ The Skeleton Dance screen. Speaking of pre-talkies, 1922’s Nosferatu is shown with its score performed live by the Jack Curtis Dubowsky Ensemble at Art Theatre on Oct. 29.
Other frightful films through Halloween include: Bad Times at the El Royale (opening countywide Oct. 12); Ouija: Origin of Evil and It Comes at Night (Fullerton Public Library, Oct. 18 and Oct. 25, respectively); and Train to Busan (UC Irvine’s McCormick Screening Room, Oct. 31).
Into the Dark: “The Body” premieres on Hulu. Fri.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.