It has the Valentine’s Day themes spot on, but Into the Dark: Tentacles can’t build the characterization or suspense to match.
This review of Hulu’s Into the Dark: Tentacles (Episode 11 of Season 2) contains no spoilers
After an extended hiatus mandated by the pandemic, Hulu’s Into the Dark is back right on schedule for the most romantic time of year. And the anthology’s latest tale, Clara Aranovich’s Tentacles, penned by Alexendra Pechman and Nick Antosca, feels about right for Valentine’s Day in the same way that The Current Occupant felt right in a climate of turbulent American politics. It’s about instant attraction, insatiable lust, and ultimately being consumed by your partner in disgusting and violent ways. Fitting!
It’s also, disappointingly but hardly surprisingly, not very good. It begins with a meet-cute, of a kind, with photographer Sam (Casey Deidrick) meeting cash-flush but suspiciously homeless Tara (Dana Drori) at an open house. Half a bottle of booze later and they haven’t just done the no-pants dance but he has inexplicably moved her into his inherited family estate so that she can spruce the place up while he works. A whirlwind romance ensues, against the better judgment of both the audience and Sam’s friend Esther (Kasey Elise), and then the obligatory oddities begin. Tara is being stalked by a vengeful, dangerous ex, and Sam’s health is rapidly deteriorating for mysterious reasons. You’ll never guess!
You will, though. Filmed under pandemic restrictions, Into the Dark: Tentacles nonetheless has problems that could have been solved within a socially-distanced production. Sam and Tara’s relationship never takes, seeming to occur on fast-forward, and leaning against sexuality that isn’t particularly sexy. You never get the sense that it might all work out, but at the same time, you never care about precisely how it’s all going to go wrong. The expected horror elements, when they arrive, feel perfunctory at best and silly at worst, and even if they were better the fate of either lead character hardly seems worth bothering about.
A lot of the ridiculous aspects of Sam and Tara’s relationship, especially the speed at which it develops, are part of the point. We’re supposed to be seeing the consequences of unchecked lust, watching as a smitten guy rapidly loses himself in one bad decision after another. But any commentary on transactional relationships that the film is hoping to make quickly gets lost in the murky Lovecraftian depths it descends into. When a character in a film called Tentacles mentions living underwater, it doesn’t elicit dread so much as a chuckle at the obviousness of it all.
If it were shorter and more concerned with its central relationship rather than teeing up rote horrors, there’s probably the kernel of a solid seasonal idea here. But it’s blown out of all proportion by a runtime as elongated as the slithering appendages of its title; at 90 minutes it feels both damagingly rushed and at least an hour too long. The payoff for wading through it all is hardly worth the effort.