Review: INTO THE DARK is Back with UNCANNY ANNIE, a Perfect Halloween Entry Into a New Season of Fun Horror
Last year, Blumhouse and Hulu embarked on a venture of sizable magnitude: the give horror fans a holiday themed film, every month. When it was first announced, I was beyond excited. Obviously, horror is my favorite genre but as far as niche and subgenre fare goes, sign me up for anything holiday related. From in-your-face holiday grandeur in films such as Silent Night, Deadly Night to the reaching of the most minute details of celebration in Blood Rage, I love a good genre flick based on holidays. Thus, my excitement level was high and I have to say, I was not disappointed. As to be expected with twelve full length features, it was hit and miss, but we did cover almost all of them for the site and I have to say, we liked almost everything we saw. So when Hulu and Blumhouse announced a second “season” of Into the Dark, I was elated. Even better, they’re kicking things right back off where they did last year, with the most fitting day to base it upon, Halloween.
Paul Davis crafted the kickoff thriller last year, The Body, and he returns as the director of our premiere episode for round two, Uncanny Annie. Much like last year, we enter into our story on Halloween night. A group of college friends has gathered, deciding to stay indoors for the evening, and play some board games in memorial of a friend who has passed. They venture into his room to find a stack of games and find one they’ve never heard of, even the more veteran game players, in an odd little box titled Uncanny Annie. They soon discover that the game will force them to face fears and truths they’ve been running from and if not...they may be facing some deadly consequences.
Uncanny Annie essentially takes the entire premise of Jumanji but changes it to a horror lens, and this being a television Hulu event, a far smaller budget. This forces Davis to get more creative with some of his integration between the students and the game. He traps our players in the house, which creates for a single location shoot, throwing into an almost nightmare landscape. Nothing exists but the outer reaches of darkness outside and even when the characters make their way out there, it’s in stark black and white with minimalist set pieces. It’s almost like a stage play but ends up working out well because the surreal situation they’ve been forced into. The same goes with our antagonists. While a lot of what the teens must face and overcome is self inflicted turmoil by them not being the best of friends and or very honest, numerous cards are drawn during the gameplay the incite enemies that play deadly games with the kids.
We see some familiar faces in the cast, most notably Dylan Arnold as Michael, who took a turn as doucher boyfriend Cameron in 2018’s Halloween, and runs the risk of being typecast as he is also this features resident skirt chasing asshole. Jacques Colimon does a decent enough job as the all too nerdy Craig, but the real stars are our final girls, Wendy and Eve, played by Adelaide Kane and Georgie Flores, respectfully. Best friends and full of secrets, Wendy and Eve are smart and resourceful, fighting their way through to the big bad of the film. Flores is great as the unassuming and often reserved Eve but our beacon of light is Adelaide Kane, who runs the length of the film a bold, brave, badass and perhaps our only character with a solid moral compass and more than just a shadow of character depth. While it’s also really fun to Camden Toy pop in for a creature spotlight, Annie (played by Karlisha Hurley) is unfortunately perhaps the weakest of the bunch. A mixture of outlandishly made-for-television makeup and perhaps too childish characteristics, Annie is the overseer of the game but the least frightening piece of the puzzle.
Uncanny Annie has a lot of fun with a skeleton framework story and small scale budget. Alan and James Bachelor keep you on your toes enough with their script, between spooky gaming antics and solid twists and turns, that you’ll be entertained the whole way through. It feels like a more elaborate episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? That’s not a knock, it’s a perfect starting point for another year of full-tilt holiday horror.