Hulu’s Into the Dark pairs the streaming service with Blumhouse, one of the hottest production companies around at the moment. The series brings a unique genre-tinged anthology to subscribers that’s kind of like the service’s version of, say, a Black Mirror-type series. The difference being, instead of a new season consisting of several different episodes of varying tones, themes, and, certainly, casts, Into the Dark offers a single feature-length story once a month that’s tied to a particular theme of the month. It's like a cake of the month subscription where instead of tasty treats, you get bloody horror and dark comedy. It makes sense, then, for the series to kick off in October, with the Halloween-themed installment, The Body, which takes full advantage of the upcoming holiday.
The combination is an interesting one, as Into the Dark: The Body doesn’t play into the usual horror tropes one might expect with regard to October's spooky celebration. Instead, the movie, from director Paul Davis, who co-wrote with Paul Fishcer, and adapted from their own 17-minute short film of the same name from 2013, offers a more grounded, darkly comedic approach that blends slasher film tropes with those common to hitman/murderer stories. The result is an oftentimes funny genre mashup that’s a little like a Friday the 13th film, if rather than a bunch of teens being stalked by Jason Voorhees, it was instead a group of partying twenty-somethings being hunted down by the president of the Patrick Bateman fan club.
The non-supernatural approach works well, not only for budgetary reasons, but because The Body doesn’t have to spend much time explaining the rules of its world. It’s a good bet the people most likely to tune in will do so with at least cursory knowledge of what a story about a hitman entails, and, similarly, they’ve likely seen a movie or two wherein characters exist as fodder for the killer in question, and are picked off one by one in methodical, increasingly gory fashion. Thanks to this tacit understanding, Davis and Fischer don’t waste much time in getting to the good stuff.
Tom Bateman (Snatched, Murder on the Orient Express) plays Wilkes, a well-dressed contract killer with a taste for the finer things in life, even if those things include Casu Marzu, a foul-sounding cheese that contains live maggots. Bateman plays Wilkes with the familiar sort of steely demeanor common to your typical movie psychopath. Wilkes’s manner plays well against the rest of the cast, as the unlucky fodder, Alan (David Hull), Dorothy (Aurora Perrineau), Nick (Harvey Guillen), and Ash vs. Evil Dead’s Ray Santiago as the horror-film obsessed Jack, all have oversized personalities to compensate for the killer’s more reserved nature.
From the beginning, Wilkes comports himself like any number of slow-moving, seemingly invincible killers seen in horror films. Once the bodies begin to drop — after the titular body he was hired to eliminate, anyway — the hitman’s similarities to the aforementioned Voorhees or, not coincidentally, Halloween’s Michael Myers come immediately into focus. But Bateman infuses Wilkes with a personality — a monstrously cynical one — which not only sets him apart from his murderous contemporaries, but makes him (temporarily) attractive to the characters in the story, if not those watching at home.
That means Wilkes is prone to the sort of monologues viewers have come to expect by characters who live life according to their own code, one that positions them on the margins of society, by virtue of their belief system. This may be where The Body most obviously comes up short. How many times have films asked viewers to consider the ramblings of a psychopath who feels he's achieved a rare kind of enlightenment and personal freedom by adhering to a bleak code that eschews societal norms like, you know, don’t kill people for money? Still, even though listening to Wilkes spout bromides, saying things like there’s “no art in the natural world. There is murder,” can sometimes come across as vapid, it does open the door for the unique relationship he develops with a young woman named Maggie, played by Rebecca Rittenhouse (The Handmaid's Tale).
Once it becomes clear to the other characters that Wilkes is in fact a killer and not simply a guy with a deceptively simple and convincing hitman outfit, and that the body he’s dragging is in fact an actual body and not an elaborate animatronic prop, the unlikely relationship between Maggie and the killer helps turn The Body into something a little less conventional. That irregularity strains credulity at some points, but only as a way of further heightening the already heightened circumstances of the story. Rittenhouse plays Maggie as a dissatisfied young professional, a woman whose obvious disaffection finds her attracted to that which should repulse her. In that regard, she's not unlike Wilkes. This makes The Body Maggie’s story more than Wilkes’s, considering the arc her character goes on is so much great than his.
At roughly 122 minutes, The Body is longer than expected, but it never overstays its welcome. The pacing is swift, the action is bloody and well choreographed — especially the showdown in a funeral home — and the characters (i.e., the victims) all have just the right sort of personalities that make them feel relatable and somewhat likable, but watching them be picked off one by one is still a lot of fun. As such, The Body makes for an entertaining slasher film and hitman story genre mashup that gets Hulu and Blumhouse Television’s Into the Dark series off on the right foot.
Into the Dark: The Body is currently streaming on Hulu. The next installment, ‘Flesh & Blood’ will be available on November 2, 2018 on Hulu.