Pooka! | “Live” Movies » Hulu

Published on December 13, 2022

The Christmas holidays are rarely associated with horror, the majority of fiction whose action takes place during this period tending to treat the subject through comedy or romance, where lightness, good humor and friendliness are legion. Like films that go against this tradition, Pooka! makes the opposite choice and delivers a story worthy of any horror tale with, as a trigger, a costume revealing the deepest and most murderous instincts of the wearer, pushing him to commit the irreparable.

Pooka! is above all an episode of the anthological and horror series Into the Darkproduced by Blumhouse Productions and uploaded to the Hulu streaming service since October 5, 2018, airing one episode per month. Each episode of the series is inspired by a holiday and broadcast the month of the event in question, in the form of a feature film, like certain classics such as BlackChristmas, Halloween, the Night of the Masks, Valentine’s Day murders Where Silent Night, Bloody Night. Inspired by series like Fantastic Stories, Beyond reality, Tales from the Crypt, Otherworld Stories Where Masters of Horror, Into the Dark brings together some big names in the genre in front of the camera including Patrick Lussier, Nacho Vigalondo, Sophia Takal, Daniel Stamm or James Roday Rodriguez, as well as various actors, mostly present for one episode. Pooka! is thus the third episode of the first season ofinto the Darkaired on December 7, 2018 and depicting the Christmas party.

The feature film is directed by Nacho Vigalondo (a Spanish director born April 6, 1977) from a screenplay by Gerard Olson. The director is known for his short film 7:35 from the Manananominated for the Oscar for best live-action short film, and the science fiction film time crimes (2007), nominated for the Goya Award for Best New Director. He continues in the field of fantasy with films Extraterrestrial (2011), Open Windows (2014) and Colossal (2016), while making segments for anthological fictions: A is for Apocalypse from the movie The ABCs of Death (2012), Sins of the Fathers for The Profane Exhibit (2013) and Parallel Monsters for V/H/S: Viral (2014). He then turned to Spanish television by signing episodes of series unpublished in France: El Vecino (2019) and Justo Antes de Cristo (2020).

Pooka! narrates the misadventures of Wilson, played by Nyasha Hatendi (Replicasthe series Casual and Alex Rider), a young man seeking to break through as an actor and chaining auditions. Thinking he had landed a big role during a casting, Wilson discovers that he is actually hired to slip into the costume of a mascot representing a new toy, called Pooka, and supposed to be a hit with children at Christmas parties. Christmas fast approaching. At first reluctant to this proposal, he finally accepts against a substantial salary. The budding actor will have to embody Pooka in several advertisements and make public appearances in stores and shopping centers. At the same time, he begins a relationship with his neighbor, Melanie (Latarsha Rose, the series Being Mary Jane), mother of a baby boy named Ty. Everything changes when the costume causes secondary effects on Wilson including hallucinations, temporary excesses of violence and loss of memory, causing him to gradually lose his reason.

Conceived as an episode of an anthology series more than a full-fledged film, Pooka! is a fairly nice show, with Christmas music and decorations as background, automatically creating a total contrast with the theme and the plot. The opus works on several levels, in particular its opening, where the spectator is directly immersed in this distressing atmosphere, in a disturbing tone, before moving on to a completely different register, much lighter and lively. The intelligence of the film is therefore partly based on this introduction, making its main character an unreliable narrator; an impression that the script makes more and more believable as the film progresses and the hero descends into confusion and potential madness. A brilliant ploy and one of the most engaging types of storytelling as it leaves the audience completely vulnerable. Impossible to know if Wilson is sane, if it is possible to trust his point of view and to distinguish the real from the imaginary, to the point that surprise and shock can arise at any moment, according to the evolution of the scenario.

Much of the near success of Pooka! lies in its assembly, detailed and precise. Chaining the scenes and keeping the mystery to the end, the film maintains doubt about the veracity of the events. The spectator therefore does not know if it is a memory, a leap in time or if it comes from the character’s imagination, to the point of questioning everything presented to him, even the scenes where the hero appears to be conscious, all of which causes a sense of disorientation and manipulation that serves the story as much as it complicates it. If the desire to offer an original plot and to encourage everyone to make their own interpretation is commendable, the opus ends up losing its audience by dint of overcomplicating the action, to the point of becoming anecdotal and spoiling the viewing. . Nacho Vigalondo’s direction nevertheless brings rhythm to this story of possession and loss of self-control, arousing dread, fear and unease at the right time, even during the calmer and more introspective scenes, in especially those where the main character seems at peace with himself.

The writing and development of the hero also plays a big role in the film, along with Nyasha Hatendi’s performance. The actor manages to bring out the distress and the fragility of Wilson who, at the beginning of the opus, seeks to prove his legitimacy as an actor and his capacity to play everything. It’s hard not to feel sympathy during his absurd and pathetic audition, during which the character is forced to wave his arms and spin around to the delight of Finn (played by Tim Daly , actor specializing in dubbing including animated series Big Mouth, family guy and BoJack Horseman), the marketing director in charge of advertising. Audiences get a glimpse of the ridiculousness of the audition process and how talent is often abused and dignity shattered and mocked in this cold, sad Christmas industry. The entire cast delivers a convincing performance, even if the antagonist’s vicious and psychopathic side is not always palpable, the fault of a costume that is more likely to smile than to scare. Similarly, if the main actor seems involved in his role, he has an easier time making his character sympathetic to the viewer than inspiring fear.

As a toy with a permanent “nice” or “naughty” setting with unpredictable controls, Pooka records random phrases spoken around him and repeats them in a soft or ominous voice. If its design can leave spectators accustomed to the horror genre stunned, its intonations are startling and make it more terrifying than it looks. The film allows itself here a rather incisive criticism of the consumer society and the sales of fashionable products, leading to irrational and violent behavior just to get their hands on one of its articles. Thematic elements of Christmas, the hypocrisy of shopkeepers to push the customer to consume and above all family pressure mixed with emotional blackmail are also part of it. Figuratively, Pooka! in many ways reflects this same idea. As his relationship with Melanie and Tye deepens, so does Wilson’s need to keep them happy. Christmas is a stressful time and Wilson’s character exemplifies that stress, as a man who fights to give his loved ones what they want, even if he has to lose his mind. With Pooka, the darker side of his personality therefore grows stronger as the stress builds up.

Pooka! also allows himself a comment on the way in which the actors become one with their characters. Nacho Vigalondo finds different ways to explore this idea, including when Wilson, after first donning the monstrous costume, finds he can’t breathe and has a panic attack both in the suit and on his back. outdoors. Gradually, the public witnesses the transformation of the hero, who ends up never taking off his costume, into a bloodthirsty monster with a troubled and dangerous personality. At the same time, it is interesting to see the hero use this new identity to try to please those around him and how his peers take him into consideration once he says yes to the role. The part where Wilson manages to get himself accepted by young Ty, who goes so far as to ask him to wear the suit on his birthday, is a clear example of this. The scenario transcribes here to perfection this sad idea according to which some feel obliged to play a role to integrate a group or just to win the heart and the affection of a member of their entourage.

When it is online, Pooka! receives mostly positive reviews, with most praising the contrast between Christmas and horror, its creativity, the rather dark plot and the final twist, as well as the performance of the cast. Nevertheless, the duration of the opus is pointed out, the specialists judging that it unnecessarily slows down the action and reproaching the abundance of transition scenes. The same goes for certain parts of the scenario, which are too complex for some critics. Despite this, the character of Pooka will return in the seventh episode of the second season ofinto the darkas a sequel that aired on April 4, 2020 and titled Pooka Lives!with a different cast and not taking up the concept of Christmas and the holiday season.

Pleasant to follow, tackling relevant subjects and inventive in its way of linking Christmas to the horror genre, all against a backdrop of psychological crisis and schizophrenia, Pooka! remains quite anecdotal and vain: the fault of an intelligent but disjointed scenario, a not very scary antagonist and too many lengths.


Pooka! | “Live” Movies » Hulu