When you think of the least threatening forms of entertainment, board games are likely to be at the top part of the list. Games like Monopoly, Clue, Battleship, Scrabble, and even Dungeons & Dragons are simple remedies for your average stationary boredom. You’d never expect a sinister force to awaken at the drop of some dice or the flip of a card, but Blumhouse and Hulu have brought pure evil to an innocent pastime in the first episode of the second season of their exclusive holiday horror anthology, Into The Dark.
Sure, the infamous Ouija can conjure dark spirits and Jumanji was pretty dangerous given the players’ levels of jungle survival knowledge, but there’s a new girl looming around the Lollipop Woods and Baltic Avenues of the game shelf by the name of Annie and she’s giving everyone a run for their rainbow-colored money. Paul Davis (Into The Dark: The Body) returns as the director for Uncanny Annie, the October episode that kicks off the Halloween season with a daring game-changer. Get it?
“You’d never expect a sinister force to awaken at the drop of some dice or the flip of a card, but Blumhouse and Hulu have brought pure evil to an innocent pastime”
Written by Alan Bachelor and James Bachelor (Dungeons & Derrick), Uncanny Annie unravels a comfy night in for a group of students mourning the loss of their friend to unfortunate circumstances just one year before on Halloween night. Georgie Flores (Dumplin’), Adelaide Kane (The Purge), Jacques Colimon (The Society), Dylan Arnold (Halloween 2018), Evan Bittencourt (Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists), and Paige McGhee (Meg’s First Dance) make up the ensemble of friends, all contributing authenticity, humor, and commendable young talent to the episode.
To commemorate his death, the friends ditch an evening of drinking, sex, and typical college activities to partake in a more nefarious pursuit far from the trivial variety. Finding an unusual board game, Uncanny Annie, the group decides to play. With the clock ticking, the tiles moving, and the cards forcing them to reveal some dark truths, Annie awaits the last player standing.
Follow The Rules…
Adhering to the pressures of exceeding expectations can weigh heavily, whether it be on people or subject matter. At times the content produced within the horror genre is pushed to defy audience expectations, seeking to be so unique and original that it often misses the mark and drags filmmakers back to ‘Start’. Davis and the Bachelors keep their episode grounded in a tenacious reliability on entertaining their viewers, rather than skipping the necessary spaces ahead to achieve a nuanced victory. The plot of Uncanny Annie follows the rules in the best way possible to produce a story that plays out like a twisted game of ‘Truth Or Dare’ and ‘Bloody Mary’ combined. Uncanny Annie has the guts not to fight against expectations.
The characters of Uncanny Annie are normal and average, facing relatable young adult pressures along with the awkwardness of young love and attraction. The true originality resides in the game itself as it’s simple enough to follow and works to Annie’s devious intentions with ease. I mean, it is appropriate for “Ages 8 & Up”. The rounds progress with tiered layers of wicked scares and terrors, never truly escalating beyond a place of entertainment or delving into unnecessary scenes of distress. This dark box of fun is a modern practice in generational horror standing on a solid base that may be familiar to audiences, but the creators utilize the rules to their advantage and choose to expand on their board with more substantial pawns.
Play For Keeps
To get things rolling, Uncanny Annie highlights some important horror film factors that may seem like small details, but greatly benefit solidifying the plot. The episode begins with some impressive opening credits with eerie artwork that is seen throughout the gaming pieces used and has an odd, dark early-millennium feel to it. The set designs add an attractive palette of color and evoke all the charm of Halloween decor. All of the dialogue between the characters seems genuine and remains fairly free from obnoxious adolescent vernacular. Full of cultural references and sarcasm, the exchanges are funny and relevant. Annie herself is a ghoul worth praising as her interaction with the group is both horrifying and mischievous. Regarding the creators’ way of following the rules, they smartly steer clear of delving into messy origins and craft their villain free from potential writing flaws to pass off her evil without rhyme or reason… well, maybe there’s a few spooky rhymes.
In the grand tradition of Halloween tricks and fun, Uncanny Annie brings on the jump scares…the good kind. This episode keeps the suspense building until the third act twists and turns its way into a dark game of ‘Snakes and Ladders’ (yes, that’s a real game). Adding a few interesting tiles to its young adult horror checkerboard, Uncanny Annie executes the isolation of its characters very well and boasts some pretty terrifying visuals from start to finish. The only Challenge Card Uncanny Annie seems to draw lies within some of the GCI special effects. Where it gains points in its practical visuals, it oftentimes loses them with heavy digital editing in a few key scenes. It’s a forgivable move and one that is made up quickly.
“Uncanny Annie is a strong addition to a series that has maintained such admirable horror traction over the last 12 months and is also a perfect start to the promising new season of Into The Dark for the months to come.”
This narrative of Uncanny Annie even boldly touches on the characters accepting the alternate reality they are experiencing with believable cause. They are aware that the supernatural events are “improbable”, but their resignation to accept the reality they are in validates the events quickly. The friends are sharp and hip to the scary things happening to them because of the game and react well to the scenarios by poking fun at themselves and the genre without making the content hokey. We can all relate to the girl running up the basement stairs after she hears a strange noise in the darkness. I appreciate those real moments as well as the increasing depth of secrecy, jealousy, and betrayal.
Overall, Uncanny Annie is a strong addition to a series that has maintained such admirable horror traction over the last 12 months and is also a perfect start to the promising new season of Into The Dark for the months to come. Follow the rules and don’t skip this turn because Uncanny Annie plays for keeps.
Are you streaming the second season of Hulu and Blumhouse’s Into The Dark anthology series? What did you think of the series’ first episode, Uncanny Annie? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!