Every time I review a show, even if it may be an utter trainwreck of writing, directing, acting or anything in between, I always try to step back and give it due credit. After all, even a single episode on TV is a complicated dance between multitudes of people with different backgrounds, talents and work ethics all to create a (hopefully) cohesive work of art. It’s not too difficult to find at least some merit in a particular episode or series. “Into the Dark,” however, made it really, really challenging.
Hulu’s “Into the Dark” is planned to be a yearlong horror anthology series, with each month’s installation in the form of a TV movie centered around a holiday in that month. What better month to start than Oct.? In the series’s first episode “The Body,” Wilkes (Tom Bateman, “Murder on the Orient Express”) is an assassin who is billed as “sophisticated” and “overconfident,” but in reality has all the superficial charisma and sophistication of the dreary lobby of a Midtown corporate high-rise. On his way out after carrying out a job, he audaciously takes out the wrapped body, thinking that nobody will blink twice considering it’s Halloween. He encounters a group of L.A. bros eager to be the life of a party they’re on their way to, and what better way to shock and disgust than bringing an uncannily realistic dead body?
To get the good out of the way, the three bros seem cool enough. But beyond that, it’s difficult to point out anything compelling about the show whatsoever. At the party, Wilkes meets a young woman dressed up as Marie Antoinette named Maggie (Rebecca Rittenhouse, “Unfriended: Dark Web”) who shares Wilkes’s disdain over the superficial, materialistic “sheeple” at the party. They nosedive into a hackneyed romance at breakneck speed, sharing pseudo-intellectual diatribes along the way, which may have been somewhat original about 20 years ago.
I get the appeal of a stoic, reserved, philosophical assassin. But Wilkes shares none of the attributes that have made previous iterations (Patrick Bateman, James Bond) of the trope fascinating. Bateman’s acting is too flat and wooden to elicit any kind of empathy towards him. The others, including the trio of bros who eventually realize the horrifying reality of their situation, aren’t quite as let down by flat acting but rather poor writing and characterization. Perhaps each of the individual storylines could have been explored further, but at 82-minutes, the episode already feels stretched out to the limit. Maggie and Wilkes have barely any chemistry, and it’s not even hard to blame her.
I’ll admit that the premise of “Into the Dark” has at least some story writing merit. The actual “horror” parts are gruesomely entertaining. Beyond that, every aspect of the production feels so phoned-in and amateurish that it makes the 82-minutes it agonizingly takes up a waste of time.