Friday, February 12, 2021

Into the Dark: Tentacles

According to Bob Dorough and vocalists like Irene Kral and Carmen McRae, love is supposed to come on stealthy fingers. This isn’t exactly the same thing, but there is stealthiness involved. It is also a case of a spoiler right there in the title. Sam is going to fall for Tara hard, but there is something different about her in Clara Aranovich’s Tentacles, the latest, Valentine’s Day-themed feature-length installment of Blumhouse’s Into the Dark, which premieres today on Hulu.

Thanks to the death of his parents and career frustrations, Sam had already been going through a boozy rough patch when he meets Tara. When viewers first spy her, she is burying a bag of cash in the desert, so she could very possibly be trouble. She wastes no time picking up Sam at the open house, where he was working for his real estate photography day gig (now really full-time work). Soon thereafter, she moves in with him, ostensibly to help remodel his mother’s home. Things are moving way too fast for Esther, Sam’s business partner and torch-carrying best platonic pal.

However, it is not all pure love and red-hot lust. There is also the stress of Tara’s stalker, who apparently knew her when she went by a different name. He has some strange stories to tell about the debilitating effect she supposedly has on people, which awkwardly seems to match Sam’s recent health problems.

Tentacles follows the basic seduction-horror template established by dozens of vampire and succubus films and then cribs the slithery romantic elements of Moorhead & Benson’s Spring, but Aranovich’s slow-burning execution is still highly effective. Watching Sam fall under Tara’s influence and deliberately ignore her suspicious history that he uncovers is compelling and all-too believable, in the manner of a traffic accident unfolding in slow motion.

As Tara, Dana Drori manages to be suitably seductive while deliberately setting off all our horror movie watchers’ alarm bells.
 Likewise, Casey Deidrick credibly plays Sam’s wounded masculinity and meatheaded horndogness. They generate plenty of heat and uncomfortable chills together. In addition, Kasey Elise really brings some interesting energy and attitude to the film as Esther.

We basically know the trajectory
Tentacles takes (because it is called “Tentacles”), but Aranovich pulls off at least one clever bit of third act sleight-of-hand. Still, by LA standards, this relationship might not be particularly unhealthy. By the standards of Into the Dark, Tentacles is pretty good, ranking somewhere in the upper half to upper third of feature-episodes. Recommended for fans of steamier horror in the tradition of 1982’s Cat People, Tentacles premieres today (2/12) on Hulu.