Love knows no bounds and as far as Into The Dark’s latest episode Tentacles goes, neither does intimacy. The Valentine’s Day episode of Blumhouse and Hulu’s holiday horror anthology sees the return of the monthly series following a temporary COVID shut down just in time for romance along with Women In Horror Month. February’s episode focuses on a couple’s newfound romance that turns from infatuation to absorption in an intimate body horror portrait of love.
I had the pleasure of speaking with the ensemble of the female-fronted film including writer Alexandra Pechman (Channel Zero), director Clara Aranovich (In The Dark), and actresses Dana Drori (Freaky) and Kasey Elise (Mid 90s) to talk about where the idea for the story came from, the layers of physicality in the episode, and universality of relationships.
“I had a nightmare where basically what happened in Tentacles happened to me.”
Jessica Rose For Nightmare On Film Street: How is everybody handling going back to work? Was Tentacles a project that was proposed or lined up before production was paused?
Alexandra Pechman: It was in motion before the pandemic. Although, I think it’s taken on a new life, so to speak, or very new and cool meanings, all the themes that we were looking at, now that it’s coming out during this first pandemic Valentine’s Day.
NOFS: I definitely saw that with the elements of isolating yourself and being consumed with that person that’s close to you and coincidentally it’s women in horror month, so there’s a lot of relevant moving parts. Could you speak to how you got that story started? How did Tentacles come to life?
AP: I had a nightmare where basically what happened in Tentacles happened to me. I woke up to my partner and told him what happened and he didn’t immediately run in the other direction. He said, “I think that sounds like a really cool horror movie.” So we collaborated, me and Nick Antosca on the story and then I wrote a script that was a spec and it found its way into the Blumhouse family. I was so excited because they did so many incredible films from The Invisible Man to a lot of the Into The Dark episodes, so I was really excited to be part of that family.
NOFS: That’s so fantastic. Well-fit, too. As far as the character of Tara goes, how much of her is representative of you?
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AP: It’s a complete autobiography. This is my memoir.
Clara Aranovich: It’s actually a documentary.
AP: For real though, I think it’s universal. Like I think we’ve all been Sam, I think we’ve all been Tara. We’ve all had that early rush of feeling really excited about the new person that we’re dating and feeling like we want to lose ourselves in that person and then also having the feeling of like being in a relationship where you’re worried that you’re losing yourself in that person and you don’t like that you’re losing part of your identity. There’s a duality to that experience that this is trying to capture in a supernatural way.
“This is a true erotic thriller and what was so exciting was having actors who were down to just explore this version of intimacy…”
NOFS: One of the things that really struck me, and I’ve been covering Into The Dark since it started, but also what I really liked is how sexy it is. I like that this episode shows everything. It’s something that I don’t think any of the episodes have had the pleasure of giving viewers yet. Was that an artistic choice or was it just something that happened naturally?
CA: The intimacy themes are already very present in the script obviously. As we got the cast together and as I came on board, we just kept refining them. As far as the other episodes of Into The Dark go, one of the beautiful things about the anthology and why I think it’s such a successful anthology, is how much they really gave us our own room to be our own film. At no point did I ask myself, “Is this fitting in?”. I just knew that if we came in and made the best version of this as possible, we were doing the best service possible to the series. This is a true erotic thriller and what was so exciting was having actors who were down to just explore this version of intimacy, but we did set out to make it unique.
We were not interested in just telling and showing a bunch of heteronormative, male-female penetrative sex scenes. What does intimacy actually look and feel like? What does consent actually look and feel like? What does meeting a growth edge in intimacy with a partner look and feel like? How can we make it all be super fucking hot, but not beating you over the head with what has been ultimately, historically, the male gaze. The sex sequences, the intimacy sequences are the ones that were by far the most technical, by far the most intentional and labored and I think they came out really nicely because of that.
NOFS: I completely agree. The whole episode was such a nice experience and it was enjoyable and it was exciting. As you said, there was just something really intriguing about it and I love that it wasn’t just full of heteronormative elements. It was so organic and I think that that’s definitely something that people who appreciate really good horror now are really looking for in their narratives. Dana, how did you prepare for the role of Tara? Really a lot of the film just stays on you.
Dana Drori: It’s actually very interesting, having the time when we shut down and coming back to the project, because I think when I got cast we got into production right away pre-COVID and I worked on it as hard as I could, but I felt a little bit of a rush, I guess, but not necessarily since we were moving at a steady clip. When we came back to it in September, we came back to a window that felt like the only time we had so it also was a bit rough, but I had time to sit with Tara and I think that I was really lucky to have that extra time.
I worked a lot on her physicality, on the way she moves, the way she moves as she gains strength throughout the course of the film. The intimacy scenes, as Clara said, were surprisingly organic. Everything was negotiated in advance and I felt extremely comfortable. I think I had more reservations or a slight nerves going into them and then on the day I just felt so dropped in and so connected with Casey Deidrick, so playful and as Clara was saying, the scenes are not just like hinting at ideas of sex, they are these really intense specific intimate moments where there is negotiation, where there is communication in the actual scenes. That was just like candy to me, it was just so fun to explore. I just wanted more of it and I feel very grateful to have had such a positive experience to the intimacy scenes for this project. But yeah, it was a lot of physical work with the ways of understanding what this kind of creature is, how the creature would move, and how she would lure people in with it.
“I want people to have fun and go on this ride with us and be surprised and scared.”
NOFS: Dana, you did such a good job with her physicality. From the minute Tentacles opened, that’s immediately what I noticed. I just couldn’t take my eyes off of you because that opening scene shows so much of your physicality already and I was already sucked in. My last question is for everyone because there is so much to unpack and it’s universal, we’ve all been there on each side of that kind of relationship: what do you want the audience to take away from Tentacles?
DD: I want them to be thrilled and surprised and I want them to walk away thinking “My previous conceptions of this kind of storytelling have been cracked open.”
AP: I want people to have fun and go on this ride with us and be surprised and scared. And while they’re at it, think about what intimacy is and where it can be really sexy and exciting and where it can be a little scary.
Kasey Elise: I think finding someone you’re interested in is a scary experience sometimes and it’s not like this should frighten you, but you should really get to know the intentions of the person that you’re with and listen.
CA: What they said.
Into the Dark: Tentacles is currently streaming on Hulu along with all of the other awesome episodes of the series’ first and second seasons. Are you excited about the return of Hulu and Blumhouse’s second season of Into The Dark? What do you think of the intimate Valentine’s Day episode, Tentacles? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.