Review: Kick Off The New Year Right With Sophia Takal's INTO THE DARK: NEW YEAR, NEW YOU
While all of the flicks from the joint venture between Blumhouse and Hulu have been successful and fun, the Christmas themed Pooka certainly hit a high point and now we get the chance to ring in the New Year with New Year, New You, which continues the upward swing of the series.
We’re introduced to Alexis, a young babysitter who is hosting a New Year’s party with her group of high school best friends (Danielle, Chloe and Kayla). We quickly learn that while Alexis once had dreams of grandeur, her rise to stardom never quite rose, and it’s inferred that the scar on her face may have something to do with it. While Chloe is still living at home with her mother and Kayla has done mildly well in her field, Danielle has become a millennial social media new age guru. “Get Well” Danielle is an influencer who pushes her own healthy agenda, not only of dietary suggestions, but self care tips, she’s an Instagram bohemian. When the girls meet up at Alexis’s childhood home, secrets from the past are brought up and things take a malicious turn once the clock strikes twelve.
The movie makes a lot of interesting moves, dabbling in numerous different genres. While it’s mostly a thriller, certain elements feel like a home invasion movie (but with neat fresh twists), the cat-and-mouse of a slasher affair, and the taut tense suspense of a thriller. Sophia Takal is a masterful composer, creating a wonderful cadenza. You’ll always have your finger on the pulse of what’s going on but you’re never quite sure about what’s going to happen, thanks in large part to Takal’s smart pacing and the script from herself and Adam Gaines. By playing with certain genre tropes, Takal commands her ship with a strong hand, pushing her narrative in whichever direction she needs to but it’s never rough or choppy, instead offering a smooth ride through uncharted waters. It’s admirable how much she is able to bounce around and yet still present a coherent and cohesive plot, especially one that rings true presently.
Ultimately, New Year, New You is about mania. It touches on ideas of social media stardom, instant celebrity, frenzied attention spans, bullying, and superficiality. Takal and Gaines script is strong enough to actually flesh out each of these ideas in their own fully realized ways, and Takal is bold enough to draw us into the film for the bulk of the run time by wrapping us up in the relationship of the girls as a group as well as each of their own individual friendships, before really punching the gas a little over halfway through. Of course, they wouldn’t be able to pull it off without such a great cast.
It’s exciting that this piece is all female fronted, with Takal at the helm and two female leads and two more female supporting cast. Suki Waterhouse, who you may recognize from the polarizing gonzo horror flick The Bad Batch, plays Alexis while Carly Chaikin is behind the Youtube sensation Danielle. Waterhouse is proving herself a hell of a talent in the genre, and she really gets a chance to show off her range with New Year, New You. Alexis is doing her best to play nice with Danielle and at times is even able to slip back into the world of high school familiarity, stories of prom nights and dance routines, but then the buzzing anxiety slowly rises back up to the top, and Waterhouse plays the role teetering on the edge of a cliff. One moment she’s planted firmly in reality and the next she’s daring to fall or sometimes ready to jump. Chaikin herself plays the role like a Valley Girl witch, charming her one time friends with every “oh my god” and celebrity gossip. Melissa Bergland is exceptional as Chloe, hiding her insecurities with humor and crassness, but able to switch to susceptible vulnerability on a dime. Kirby Howell-Baptiste also handles Kayla expertly, the moral compass of the group, and her and Bergland are so charming that they make it hard to choose with it comes down to picking sides.
Ultimately, New Year, New You is able to utilize New Year’s traditions to pair perfectly with it’s storytelling. Resolutions become our first inside look at the true character of Danielle and the countdown is a nervous moment of champagne guzzling that will have you wondering where exactly we’re heading in this New Year. Waterhouse and Chaikin are both phenomenal leads, both manifesting different forms of mania, and pushing each other to the limits. While Waterhouse carries the demeanor of a morally grey antihero, Chaikin bouncily floats through the film with a Lecter-like sociopathy.
New Years doesn’t have a ton of entries in the horror genre but luckily Sophia Takal has graced us a fierce, violent turn on the holiday. Thanks to a wildly smart script, chemistry between the actors, and Takal’s expert guidance, New Year, New You is yet another must watch entry of Into the Dark.