×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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.

More TV

  • Adam Lambert, of Queen, performs at

    Adam Lambert Back to 'Idol' to Mentor Finalists Through Queen's Catalog

    Adam Lambert famously launched his career on “American Idol” a decade ago performing a brilliant audition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He wrapped that amazing eighth season performing with the band on the season finale, and years later earned his current spot as the front man touring as Queen + Adam Lambert. On April 28, Lambert comes full circle as he steps [...]

  • Lily Tomlin SAG Lifetime Acheivement Award

    TV News Roundup: Netflix's 'Laugh-In' 50th Anniversary Tribute Sets Premiere Date

    In today’s TV News roundup, Netflix sets the premiere date for its 50th anniversary special of “Laugh-In.” DATES “Laugh-In: The Stars Celebrate,” the 50th anniversary tribute to the original series by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, will premiere on Netflix on May 14. The special, which was taped at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, pays [...]

  • Texas Tech's Norense Odiase (32) shoots

    Live+3 Ratings for Week of April 8: NCAA Championship Game Dunks on Competition

    The final of the 2019 NCAA basketball tournament, in which Virginia triumphed over a spirited Texas Tech team, unsurprisingly finished way out in front in the Live+3 ratings for the week of April 8. Although the sports broadcast’s scripted competition made some gains, its 5.4 ratings still more than doubled that of “Grey’s Anatomy” in [...]

  • Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million

    Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million Total Viewers Across TV News

    Coverage of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice unsurprisingly caused a ratings bump across TV news yesterday. In terms of overall viewership, around 11 million people tuned in to see Attorney General William Barr’s news conference regarding the report’s release, and the news coverage surrounding it. According [...]

  • Neilsons Measurment Problems TV Digital

    WarnerMedia Pulls Out of Audience-Targeting Alliance Open A.P.

    WarnerMedia is going its own way when it comes to helping advertisers find specific groups of TV-watchers. The company, a founding member of the audience-targeting media alliance known as Open A.P., said Friday it would withdraw from the group, citing its desire to pursue its own strategy under owner AT&T. AT&T purchased Time Warner in [...]

  • BLESS THIS MESS - "The Chicken

    Listen: Lake Bell, Dax Shepard on Returning to Broadcast TV With 'Bless This Mess'

    Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety’s television podcast. In this week’s installment, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, chats with Lake Bell and Dax Shepard, stars of ABC’s “Bless This Mess,” which debuted on Monday. The show centers around a newly married couple, played by Bell and Shepard, who decide to ditch their shoebox New York City [...]

  • superstore renewed season 3

    'Superstore' Showrunner Justin Spitzer Steps Down as He, Gabe Miller, Jonathan Green Renew Overall Deals at UTV

    “Superstore” executive producers Justin Spitzer, Gabe Miller and Jonathan Green have all renewed their overall deals with Universal Television. In addition, Miller and Green will take over showrunner duties on “Superstore” while Spitzer — who also created the series — will shift to develop new projects for the studio beginning with the 2019-2020 season. “I [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content