12:30 pm EDT, October 1, 2018

‘Into the Dark: The Body’ review: Gore galore but nothing more

Into the Dark’s “The Body” has all the gore and humor you’d expect from Jason Blum, but without the originality to keep you engaged.

“The Body” is the first of 12 standalone episode’s of Hulu’s new horror anthology series Into the Dark. With runtimes of about an hour and a half, they’re more like TV movies, and each will be released a month apart. The idea is that each episode will be themed on a different holiday of that month, starting with Halloween.

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Based on Paul Davis’ short film of the same name, “The Body” is about a hitman who must dispose of his latest victim at a specific location on Halloween night. Unable to use his car because it, along with every other car on the street, has been vandalized, the killer and his Saran wrapped victim hitch a ride with some college kids who think his ‘costume’ is super cool. Not quickly enough the story gets going and we’re treated to a typical slasher film.

The episode begins well enough, setting the tone with a long tracking shot that eventually reveals the victim’s body, and introduces us to Wilkes, the contract killer played by Tom Bateman, whose night is about to derail. What follows, however, is a set of contrived plot devices that create a predictable story, with barely developed characters you don’t care about.

To their credit, the actors give it their all for their relatively two-dimensional characters. Despite his outward appearance, Bateman perfectly portrays a charmless demeanor befitting a man who has zero patience for 20-something year olds’ frivolity. Rebecca Rittenhouse’s Maggie does her best to add an earnestness to her character’s unexplainable motivations. And Aurora Perrineau, David Hull, and Ray Santiago land their jokes with the right tone and timing, if only the jokes themselves were funny.

As a slasher film, perhaps unoriginal and uninteresting characters aren’t that necessary. After all, you’re mostly watching for the gore and horror of it. There are plenty of unexpected gory deaths that will keep you on your toes, some of which are cringe-worthy, and others that are morbidly funny.

Sometimes, however, it’s a bit difficult to immerse yourself in the story in moments where it’s trying too hard to make a point. A horror movie can just be a horror movie. We don’t always want to watch something with a message, particularly when it’s delivered with such a heavy-hand. Conversations between Maggie and Wilkes are more pretentious than profound, and are somewhat of a distraction to the story at hand.

With Jason Blum’s name attached to it, you’d expect Into the Dark to be of similar calibre to his previous work like Get Out and Upgrade. Unfortunately, “The Body” just isn’t as successful at blending humor and horror, or creating a twist you didn’t see coming. The plot is motivated by unnatural character decisions, and its attempts at subverting clichés fall flat.

Considering each episode is its own story, it’s probably worth checking out at least one more before deciding whether or not this is for you. After all, commitment is low given that there’s only one episode a month. Here’s hoping November’s “Flesh & Blood” delivers some horrors we can be thankful for.

‘Into the Dark: The Body’ premieres Oct. 5 on Hulu

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