×

How Hulu Horror Anthology ‘Into the Dark: The Body’s’ Tone Ranges From ‘Pulp Fiction’ to ‘Get Out’

When Paul Davis and Paul Fischer initially set out to expand their 2013 short film “The Body” into a feature, they did so on spec, not knowing Blumhouse was going to set a deal with Hulu for a monthly horror anthology series called “Into the Dark.” Although their story — about a hitman who is lugging the corpse of his latest victim on Halloween — lent itself perfectly to the holiday theme Blumhouse was going for and became “Into the Dark’s” premiere piece, there was one big change they wanted to make in the adaptation.

“The hitman, Wilkes, he got away with it in the short — he got pranked by a couple of guys that you thought were police officers, but were actually two guys dressed for Halloween, and they kind of sent him on his way, the joke’s on him, ha ha ha. But in this one, I said to myself, Wilkes, at the end of the movie, has to get a taste of his own medicine,” Davis, who co-wrote and also directed “The Body,” tells Variety.

Wilkes (Tom Bateman) is the kind of character who Davis wanted the audience to find charming, despite knowing he was a bad guy from the beginning — “a little bit of Malcolm McDowell in ‘A Clockwork Orange,'” he explains. But he is intentionally countered by Maggie (Rebecca Rittenhouse), whose story, Davis says is either “a superhero or super villain origin story, depending on how you look at it.”

“Both Wilkes and Maggie have this very distinct way of looking at the world. She feels as though she’s trapped, and he’s like the personification of a liberated being, and that’s her awakening — her seeing him do this. And he’s so matter-of-fact about it, it’s his job, and it’s the way he is, and you can do what you want to do. He awakens that in her,” Davis says.

Between Wilkes and Maggie is the body itself. Davis says production had only two versions of it, which they called “Bert and Ernie.” The first was a “clean look” used for the earlier sequences, while the second was the beaten up version that is seen later in the film, after it has been dragged around the street and attempted to be destroyed. The most important part of using the prop body, Davis says, was to “see people reacting to it but never find out who it is.”

“We use it in the film as kind of like the briefcase from ‘Pulp Fiction,'” he notes. “You know it’s someone important, but that’s it. The idea with that was that I want everybody to watch it and put their own person inside. It can be whoever you want it to be — whoever you’re mad at.”

Davis says his usual benchmark for a horror movie is John Landis’ “An American Werewolf in London,” and he wanted “The Body” to fall in line with that tone. But as he got deeper into the process, he also found himself drawing references from more contemporary horror films such as “Scream” and “Happy Death Day.” When it came to the political subtext of “The Body,” “Get Out” was an inspiration, as well.

“Both Paul Fischer and myself, we have things to say — we have our own little soapboxes — and we wanted to use the movie to thread subtext. And it kind of came at the right time. It wasn’t intended when we were writing it, but it kind of became a #MeToo movie,” Davis says. “CNN was influencing us as much as Wes Craven and all those guys.”

However, as much as Davis points out there is “stuff in there about racism in the world right now, about control, about the way police treat civilians, and sexism,” at the end of the day, they wanted to entertain people first and foremost — whether that entertainment came in the form of scares or laughs.

“One of the funny things I love about this story that plugs a lot of logic and plot points is that it is a movie that is driven by each one of the principle characters making one bad decision. And we’ve all been on a night out — be it Halloween or any night — where we’ve made a bad decision,” Davis says. “We’ve all had those nights where we’ve done something we shouldn’t have, but [‘The Body’] just takes it to the next level.”

The Halloween backdrop lent itself to the storytelling, Davis says, because of the wildness of the night, where characters are naturally drinking, taking drugs, and partying. In order to fully immerse the audience in the slightly surreal world, he wanted to “really amp up” the opening party sequence — “where Halloween thrives,” he notes — in which characters, including Maggie, assume the dead body Wilkes is dragging is just a dummy — an elaborate costume and true commitment to the occasion. Once he established the “debaucherous environment,” Davis could take his characters on a downward spiral that led, in part, to a dive bar “where Halloween goes to die.”

Characters such as Jack (Ray Santiago), Nick (David Hull), and Dorothy (Aurora Perrineau) learn that the titular body really is a dead man and get sucked into the disposal. “Thinking on their feet … or not thinking at all,” Davis says, they end up trying methods they’ve seen on “Breaking Bad” and look up on Wikipedia.

“That was kind of the fun for us in telling the story and keeping it entertaining, keeping the shock value there, keeping it moving,” he says. “Keeping that blend consistent is first and foremost, [but] you never make fun of the threat. If you do that, then you can never scare the audience, it’s game over.”

Into the Dark: The Body” streams Oct. 5 on Hulu.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Sterling K Brown SAG Awards

    Sterling K. Brown to Produce Drama Series 'Everyday Insanity' in Development at Fox

    Fox is developing a one-hour drama that boasts Sterling K. Brown among its executive producers. Titled “Everyday Insanity,” the series is inspired by the life events of series creator Laura Bensick. It is described as an uplifting drama about three wildly different families who form a “created family” to support each other after their loved [...]

  • Karyn KusamaGovernors Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles,

    Survival Drama 'Yellowjackets' Lands Showtime Pilot Order, Karyn Kusama to Direct

    The hour-long drama “Yellowjackets” has been ordered to pilot at Showtime, Variety has learned. In addition, “Destroyer” director Karyn Kusama has come onboard to direct the pilot in addition to serving as an executive producer. The series was created by Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, who will also executive produce and serve as showrunners. Drew Comins [...]

  • Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter,

    'Downton Abbey' Movie Sequel? Producers Tease That They Have 'Some Ideas'

    “Downton Abbey” holds the record as the most-nominated international show at the Emmy Awards with 69 nominations and 15 wins — and now, it stands a chance to nab an Oscar. More than three years after the beloved series signed off the air following six critically-acclaimed seasons, “Downton Abbey” is making its big-screen debut. “It [...]

  • Bob Bakish Viacom CEO

    ViacomCBS Leaders Talk NFL Negotiations, Streaming Wars and Merger Focus

    Viacom and CBS aim to prosper in the streaming arena by covering both ends of the marketplace, blending Viacom’s focus on ad-supported platforms with CBS’ strong head start on subscribers for CBS All Access and Showtime. ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish and incoming ViacomCBS chief financial officer Christina Spade outlined the combined company’s vision for how [...]

  • Bill's Brain Netflix

    TV Review: 'Inside Bill's Brain'

    A certain type of documentary has grown in prevalence and popularity lately — the piece that marshals evidence in service of the case that a very widely known contemporary figure is actually even greater than one had previously thought. The vogue began in summer 2018 with the features “RBG” (about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader [...]

  • Kiefer Sutherland'Forsaken' film premiere, Toronto International

    Kiefer Sutherland to Star in 'The Fugitive' Remake at Quibi

    Kiefer Sutherland is heading to Quibi. The “24” actor will star in a series remake of the 1993 Harrison Ford movie “The Fugitive,” which has been given the greenlight at Quibi. Sutherland will play legendary Detective Clay Bryce who is trying to apprehend Mike Ferro, played by Boyd Holbrook. Stephen Hopkins, who previously worked with [...]

  • Thandie Newton and Regina King70th Primetime

    Emmys 2019: The Ultimate Party Guide

    The 71st annual Emmy Awards may be going hostless this year, but that doesn’t mean the big night will be any less of a celebration. For all the details on the biggest bashes happening this week and throughout the weekend, check out Variety‘s Ultimate Emmys Party Guide below. Tuesday, Sept. 17 Variety’s Showrunners DinnerEveleigh, 7:30 p.m [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content