The month of April is the benchmark of many pleasantries, but this time around the start of spring is also a time to commemorate… Pooka Day. That’s right: the Pooka is back! As the Into The Dark series continues to bring horrifying themes to the holidays that we celebrate throughout the year, April’s episode uses artistic license to create a national milestone all its own with the latest episode, Pooka Lives. The return of this familiar foe has been highly anticipated by fans and will please followers who have waited for the unofficial National holiday to mark its arrival.
Directed by Alejandro Brugués (Nightmare Cinema: The Thing In The Woods) and written by Ryan Copple (Death Do Us Part), the seventh installment of Hulu’s anthology series resurrects the Toy Of The Year to cause more mischief and chaos. This time, however, the fuzzy icon shifts focus from hunting down the Naughty List to cyber attacking the Not List.
“…a fun romp [that] sees the evolution of Pooka into a progressive, more interpretive threat.”
Starring Malcom Barrett (Preacher), Lyndie Greenwood (Sleepy Hollow), Felicia Day (The Guild), Jonah Ray (Mystery Science Theater 3000), Gavin Stenhouse (Skybound), Amir Talai, (The Circle), Laurel Toupal (The Alley Cats), Ben Weinswig (Midnight Runner), YouTube star Motoki Maxted, Wil Wheaton (The Big Bang Theory), and Rachel Bloom (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend), Pooka Lives is stacked with talent, impressive artwork, and even some backstory material that culminate into a hip move across virtual platforms.
Running a cool ninety minutes, Pooka Lives begins when “A group of thirty-something friends from high school create their own Creepypasta about Pooka for laughs, but are shocked when it becomes so viral on the Internet that it actually manifests more murderous versions of the creature.” Relevant endeavors, creative effects, and the fascination of online lore effortlessly calibrate and make for an amusing dark comedy that will have viewers cheering for Pooka’s return… and wanting some real Pooka merchandise this time around.
As an icon, Pooka represents so much more than just a brand. Brugués continues the toy’s tremendous presence by maintaining the off-putting aesthetic and bizarre imagery set by manufacturers. Beginning with a gory cold open and wicked title card, the episode manages to possess rapid movement that navigates time with precision and keeps the narrative fresh. Nightmares, both of the supernatural and the natural kind arise and connect in a smart fashion that all point to the demonic Toy Of The Year. The bear is always the focal point as each scene whips into the next, which charges the story with unstoppable Pooka energy.
Spliced with a conscious musical effort by Kyle Newmaster, Pooka Lives executes a well-balanced mood of whimsy and menace. The third act ramps up the action and ends with surprising satisfaction. If you think the live-action ends just before the good stuff comes to life, stick around for the animated credits that will fulfill that sudden wish to see more.
“Beginning with a gory cold open and wicked title card, the episode manages to possess rapid movement that navigates time with precision and keeps the narrative fresh.”
Pooka Lives establishes its own cult following, both on the screen and amongst viewers with its powerful teddy idol. By setting an appropriate tone hugged by humor and fueled by horror, this episode provides an original level of camp sure to acquire a following of its own. Every detail, from the characters to the dialogue to the direction, contributes to the episode’s self-aware content which really brings out the factor of entertainment above all.
The dynamics between the cast are engaging in all the right places as fan favorites of the sci-fi and fantasy world reunite and add their own touch of intrinsic humor and energy to the story. Each performer owns their role and leans into having fun while portraying a relatable character. The relationships between friends, their enemies, and others are authentic and relevant. As Pooka becomes a social media magnate, the older and younger cultures counteract one another in a balanced, horrifying social commentary.
I dare you to try the Pooka Challenge! You actually might want to refrain from performing the “Bloody Mary meets Ice Bucket Challenge” conjured up in Pooka Lives in real life. However, in the world of film fiction, this plotline is exceptionally relevant. The mass market of Pooka not only as a toy, but as an icon is an effectively ambitious endeavor that pays off on many levels. Bringing a fun, but sharp modern edge to the legend of the evil bear, online content plays a secondary villain. The use of media influence, especially that of a viral challenge, is familiar territory.
However, Pooka and the elements at work in this episode come together to give the concept a quirky, yet unique canvas that is well-utilized. The narrative refrains from taking on a hokey vibe and instead takes on the challenge of realistically turning one of Into The Dark’s most recognizable characters into a trending sensation. Commenting on social media dependency, devastating consequences, and virtual obsession, Pooka Lives earns a top spot in the digital limelight.
“Commenting on social media dependency, devastating consequences, and virtual obsession, Pooka Lives earns a top spot in the digital limelight.”
No chapter of the Into The Dark series shies away from applying strong social commentary to individual stories, and Pooka Lives is no exception. Daring to tackle online toxicity using such a complex notion, continuing the story of a troubling children’s toy, is a major leap, yet runs fluidly from start to finish. The scenes and characters are decorated in allegorical nuance to the impact of our social media driven society and the subsequent “cancel culture” that could banish anyone who falls against the masses into oblivion. The many meanings found within Ryan Copple’s writing range from online toxicity to obsession are entertaining and important to the world we currently occupy. While Pooka himself adds a drastic, more exaggerated layer of horror to the episode, the real frights are ones we scroll past everyday. Pooka Lives takes on the challenge of incorporating a teddy bear into a new-age horror story, adds a hashtag, and deservedly cashes in on the views.
Best Behave Or Else You’re Dead
The rules of naughty or nice still apply as Copple’s story continues the strange and deadly legacy of the mysterious Pooka doll. While Pooka set the foundation for the toy’s unique abilities to punish the bad, Pooka Lives expands on the universe of its origins and impetus of lore. In our age of digital myths and online urban legends, Pooka moves past details whispered around the campfire and word-of-mouth curses that bring evil to the unfortunate.
The modern world of the internet has given a new meaning to the words ‘lore’ and ‘hoax’ and Pooka Lives adapts to it with coherence and a flair of contemporary magic. The contributions of Pooka variations and artwork are eerily realistic to something straight out of a popular Creepypasta, or in this instance, Eeriepasta. As the writers of the content write their own rules, setting up a major issue of self-destruction, Pooka Lives takes on useful behaviors that manifest a wild experience.
“The modern world of the internet has given a new meaning to the words ‘lore’ and ‘hoax’ and Pooka Lives adapts to it with coherence and a flair of contemporary magic.”
With imagination at the forefront of creation, the villain holds up in exceptional form. Pooka Lives sets the bait for deaths confused as pranks, plays with streaming points of views, and tackles jump scares with common placement. While a good portion of the episode treads the waters of general horror, there are many thrilling points that follow Into The Dark’s signature standard of work. As the demonization of Pooka is enhanced, as is its physical being.
For a story that concentrates on the artificial brilliance of the internet and modes of technology, the application of the monster remains strikingly practical. The special effects and puppetry of turning the star of the show from a small, cuddly companion into a fully grown, terrorizing entity are commendable and proudly display a commitment to quality visualization. The fantastical components at play are viscous and dead-on. In all of the episode’s whacky events and logic, the deadly elements of Pooka bring on a true horror vibe.
Some viewers may struggle to grasp the campy campaign that Pooka has infiltrated, but should appreciate the fact that this narrative does not take itself too seriously. Like so much online content, it is available for the sake of being consumed and indulged. It’s a fun romp through the pressures of internet presence, the complexities of imagination, and the horrors of putting yourself out there for the world to see. Rather than keeping the popular villain restricted to the initial Christmas tradition presented in the third episode of Into The Dark’s first season, the seventh episode of the second season sees the evolution of Pooka into a progressive, more interpretive threat. While you don’t have to see Nacho Vigalndo’s (Timecrimes) Pooka episode to enjoy Alejandro Brugués’ Pooka Lives, you most definitely should… or else.
Pooka Lives brings the beloved, but dangerous teddy bear back to stream exclusively through Hulu on April 3rd, 2020. Happy Pooka Day! Are you watching the second season of Hulu and Blumhouse’s Into The Dark anthology series? What do you think of April’s trendy episode, Pooka Lives? Are you a Pooka fan? Were you excited for Pooka’s return? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!