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[Review] Christmas Comes Early as Nacho Vigalondo’s “Pooka!” Delivers ‘Into the Darkish’s’ First Traditional

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“Into the Darkish” creates a brand new Christmas custom with its disturbing, cuddly tackle break up personalities and the character of excellent and evil in “Pooka!”

“They could be a little unpredictable…”

The duality of man and our battle to be good or evil is a basic theme to discover in storytelling, particularly in one thing like horror the place regular folks reworking into monsters has been a staple of the style since its earliest days. Nonetheless, this can be a theme that’s particularly related to Christmas. That is, in any case, a vacation the place some shady all-knowing determine makes a sprawling checklist that retains tabs on who’s been naughty and who’s been good. Christmas has so many flashier signifiers that it’s simple to overlook about this part of the vacation, which is what makes it such an impressed focus for this story.

With Christmas as Into the Darkish’s designated vacation this time round, it’s frankly higher that “Pooka!” doesn’t go the killer Santa route, as not solely is it the apparent (and laziest) alternative, nevertheless it’s been executed to demise at this level, too. One other think about “Pooka!’s” favor is that the unbelievable Nacho Vigalondo is the director on board for this episode. Vigalondo by no means disappoints, whether or not it’s with Timecrimes, his VHS: Viral section, “Parallel Monsters,” or his most mainstream (however nonetheless terribly bizarre) function, Colossal. “Pooka!” feels prefer it pulls from Colossal most out of Vigalondo’s earlier works (though there’s a trace of Timecrimes in its last act), however that is nonetheless extremely completely different, even when they each do take care of folks’s makes an attempt to return to phrases with the truth that they’re a monster.

“Pooka!” tells the story of a struggling actor (Nyasha Hatendi) who thinks he lastly catches his massive break when he nails the gig of Pooka, the vacation’s subsequent massive toy sensation. A professionally skilled actor, Wilson is initially skeptical of his new job, however the firm behind Pooka stresses that they don’t simply desire a man in a go well with, they need him to be Pooka and convey this concept to life. Wilson actually takes to the position, however the extra time he spends within the costume as this character, the extra he feels himself start to slide and lose monitor of who he’s. He begins to really feel that Pooka is gaining a persona of his personal; one which takes management of him and he’s more and more helpless in opposition to. The entire novelty of the Pooka toy is that it has an unpredictable “naughty or good” function and it’s this basic Jekyll/Hyde dichotomy that begins to plague Wilson.

Vigalondo works laborious to make Wilson stand out and join with the viewers early on. He’s instantly a sympathetic character and the installment painstakingly depicts his dedication to his craft and that he’s really a gifted actor. This makes it all of the extra miserable to see Wilson put his soul into intricate monologues after which find yourself in a glorified mascot costume for the vacation season. Vigalondo additionally isn’t afraid to let surrealness invade the story and there are frequent moments that develop into fairly absurd, nevertheless it’s all the time executed in favor of alienating Wilson and never simply to get an inexpensive chuckle. This sense of not understanding what’s occurring is a part of the expertise and Jon Daly actually sells that dynamic because the particular person on the company aspect of all issues Pooka.

“Pooka!” excels with its character work and it helps set up Wilson as a loner. He’s usually remoted and his cautious, little life is obvious proper from the beginning of the story. “It may be harmful to be alone,” he’s informed by his neighbor, but the corporate he finally finds isn’t precisely of the traditional nature. Nonetheless, there’s additionally a refined sense of dread that’s current from the start of the story and begins to swell and develop as extra of Wilson’s life is proven.

Outdoors of Wilson’s Pooka-based duties, he finds himself turning into smitten over Melanie, a single mom and actual property agent. The 2 have nice chemistry and Melanie turns into Wilson’s supply of pleasure, nevertheless it doesn’t take lengthy for Pooka to develop into jealous over Wilson’s new fascination. All through “Pooka!”, Wilson’s furry alter ego continues to attempt to tear down his assist methods and depart him alone and defenseless. Melanie and her son are so harmless by all of this and it’s troublesome to see them get caught within the crossfire of this.

One other actual energy of “Pooka!” is that it doesn’t waste its time. The story begins to play bizarre and disturbing methods on each Wilson and the viewers early on to the purpose that it turns into unclear what’s actual. Moreover, Vigalondo and Hatendi make Wilson’s ache over his confusion really feel actual and scary. You don’t know when the subsequent “assault” might strike and the spiral that he falls down is horrible. The second half of “Pooka!” might develop into a little bit predictable at instances with the path that it takes and its lucid actuality doesn’t all the time work, nevertheless it by no means stops being entertaining and also you by no means cease caring about Wilson.

“Pooka!” finds success in its frightening story and its robust performances, however that is additionally simply probably the most visually thrilling installment of Into the Darkish thus far. Vigalondo explodes the display with colour, frenetic lighting, and makes use of perplexing digicam angles to intensify Wilson’s slipping psychological state. Not solely does Vigalondo achieve making this costumed critter legitimately scary, however he additionally places collectively among the most placing visuals that I’ve seen all 12 months. “Pooka!” doesn’t simply heart itself round Christmas, however the story finds scary methods to make use out of parts of the vacation like Christmas lights or bushes.

“Pooka!” expertly juxtaposes photographs of Wilson in opposition to related frames of the titular creature. The story finds a number of efficient, disturbing methods to play these two parallel to 1 one other and replicate that their two sides of the identical twisted coin. It turns into an unhealthy symbiotic relationship the place it seems like Wilson can’t dwell until he’s within the Pooka costume. The thought of taking part in a cutesy child’s track over menacing footage may also all the time be horrifying. Vigalondo relishes to find new methods to splay out the peculiar Pooka costume and refill the body with its unintentional creepiness.

There are additionally many moments the place Wilson sports activities half of the Pooka costume and appears like some weird creature out of Greek mythology that’s half man and half monster, which fairly actually depicts the bigger themes that the story is keen on. There are additionally some actually nice musical alternatives on this entry and the rating additionally is aware of when it’s the correct time to develop into extra experimental and eerie. It simply helps provides to the already robust package deal that’s in place right here.

The earlier two entries of Into the Darkish have felt padded to fill out their 80-minute runtimes, however “Pooka!” is an entry that mainly justifies its feature-length period. If the sequence first episode skewed in direction of Tales From the Crypt and the second was extra paying homage to Are You Afraid of the Darkish?, then this one seems like an precise film. The story is neatly structured and it finds a pacing that works. Vigalondo doesn’t squander this chance and treats this like a movie somewhat than some episode of an anthology sequence. That being mentioned, this story would nonetheless have extra of a punch if it had been executed as a brief.

“Pooka!” can also be sensible sufficient to trace at Wilson’s previous and if these “episodes” have been a recurring factor for him, nevertheless it’s by no means overly indulgent within the matter. The story is assured sufficient to let the viewers make their very own conclusions whereas not spoonfeeding them exposition and solutions. Mysteries really make this story stronger.

“Pooka!” isn’t good and it typically will get a little bit too melodramatic for its personal good, nevertheless it’s satisfying to see Vigalondo let free right here with such a darkish story. The ending specifically actually goes for the jugular with a vengeance. Not the entire beats land and typically Hatendi doesn’t precisely rise to the event with Wilson’s extra hyperbolized and aggressive materials. He’s undoubtedly higher at taking part in the extra fragile aspect of the character. That being mentioned, there’s sill way more good than unhealthy right here and the evil Pooka design alone is sufficient cause to test this out. It will not be Vigalondo’s finest work, nevertheless it’s undoubtedly up there and a really robust addition to his filmography. Greater than something, “Pooka!” will certainly be one of the crucial distinctive items of Christmas horror that you just’ll see this 12 months. It doesn’t take the identical bait that different tales do and it’s a artistic, formidable endeavor that deserves to be seen.

Now let’s please get Vigalondo free on a brand new Critters movie.

“Into the Darkish’s” “Pooka” premieres on Hulu on December 7th.

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