[Review] Hulu’s First Homegrown Horror Icon Returns in the Fun Follow-Up ‘Pooka Lives!’

The Internet has literally created a monster.

From October 2018 Hulu and Bloomhouse will have a new holiday film dedicated to the dark every month. A series of anthologies still draws the horror of holidays like Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day, as well as deeper celebrations like Girls’ Day and Ida in March. If you have a spontaneous holiday in mind, there’s probably an episode in the dark. In some cases there are even two different episodes for the same holiday, depending on the length of the program. Like Christmas.

In both seasons the Christmas movies were shown in the dark, the first one was Nacho Vigalondo Puca! as early as December 2018. In this feature-length film, set in a series of horror flower readings, the combative actor takes on a seasonal role as mascot for the hottest new toy of the year – Pookie. In short, the life of the actor soon goes crazy, and it turns out that the Pook doll was something more than the product of the imagination of a fragmented mind. It’s not that Darkness ever made sequels, but Puka! left little room for action, even though the title character was in fact the first local horror icon in the series to produce his own followers.

Given Puca’s popularity, this character was reused for the film Alejandro Bruge Puca lebt! which is the only film in the In the dark project to date that refers directly to the previous film in the series. He is also the only one who breaks with tradition and invents his own party to which a fictitious Pookie Day can be linked. Not exactly a sequel to Pooka, Pooka Bruges is alive! exists in a world where the Pooka doll is actually a mega-popular children’s toy, created by a woman who eventually went crazy and killed her husband before setting herself on fire. This sinister prequel paves the way for Pooka to become an Internet viral meme, and what starts out as a creepy paste-like hoax eventually becomes very, very real.

The events of today Puca lives! immediately asserts itself as a kind of internet guilt to cancel the culture. We start with a performance by Derrick (Malcolm Barrett), a writer who was actually canceled by the internet mafia to destroy him. Running away from New York to escape the test tube that blew up his phone and destroyed his mental state, Derrick returns to his hometown with his childhood friends Matt (Jonah Ray) and Molly (Felicia Day). It was during the evening, together with other childhood friends, Benny (Gavin Stenhouse) and Susan (Lyndie Greenwood), that the gang used the viral nature of the internet news route to create their own momo character. And they find all the inspiration they need in the popular Pook doll.

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Pooka is alive! The script was written by Ryan Copple, who took the main character from the December 2018 film In the Dark and worked overtime to anchor him as a true icon of horror for eternity on the internet. Now it’s not just a toy or costume for kids anymore, Pooka with his legend and mythology has been transformed into a slim creature, and the fun part about Pooka’s Lives! concept is that the Bloomhouse allows you to really play with the character and, in many ways, completely rethink who and what he is. The general essence of Pooka Lives! is that the power of the internet can literally create monsters if enough people believe in it. In the course of the film, Pooka takes different forms based on different descriptions that have gained popularity on a discussion forum similar to Reddit. At first he’s sweet and cute, but at the end of the film Pook is skinned, bony and looks more like a Wendigo than a scarecrow.

It’s an interesting and clever approach to bringing Pooka back to life, and it’s exactly the kind of legend that allows the character to survive for years to come. It was immediately clear that Hulu and Pooka had his own horror icon in their hands, and it’s great to see how they really went to work and had fun with the character. And Pooka is alive! First of all, it’s really nice. Alejandro Bruges, known for his horror comedy Juan Dead and an excellent segment of the Nightmare Cinema anthology, is ideal for a film like this, and he is fully aware of the terrifying and unpleasant character of the puppet at the heart of the plot.

It helps that Pooka is alive! has something more than a rope doll, although he certainly has a lot of them. Copple’s scenario, full of funny dialogs, with which the excellent cast brings really cute characters to life, has a somewhat angry aftertaste and creates a kind of poisonous social media culture that continues to destroy life almost daily. Eventually we will discover that Derrick’s career has been undermined, not because he did something wrong, but simply because he dared to write a book about influential people in social networks, bringing the process of these problems to the top. Once he’s unloaded his legion of nearly a million followers on Derrick, our hero has virtually no choice but to go to the mountains – ironically, it’s the same unpleasant and powerful man Derrick later uses to spread #PookaChallenge, which ultimately leads to a real nightmare demon.

The social commentary Copple includes in the script gives Pooka Lives! more depth than is needed in a fairy tale, and thus perfectly reflects the period in which it was written and published. What we say on the internet has consequences, even though sometimes we feel like shouting nonsense in the void. Is it so hard to imagine that we can literally create monsters? Are we doing it yet?

If there is one disadvantage in Puca’s life, it is that the budget does not allow Bruges to become as wild as it is meant to be. Too much of Pookie’s strange work is due to sudden deaths, and the film suffers from this annoying problem with images as it flirts with the idea of going all the way. The final fight is not played live, but in the animation of the credits, and it seems quite understandable that the budget simply did not allow the film to be finished. And even though it can be said that it is not the worst crime when a film leaves much to be desired, it is a pity that such a delirious ending never takes place. On the other hand, there is enough space to continue the story in a possible sequel. And with a bunch of funny characters in the middle, I’d like to see it.

A bit scary and very funny, Pooka Lives! is another proof that Into the Dark has at least one thing the fans will remember for years to come.

And his name is Pooka.

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