Friday, March 01, 2019

Into the Dark: Treehouse

Peter Rake acts like Gordon Ramsay when he films his cooking show and he behaves like Harvey Weinstein when [mis]conducting the rest of his business. He is definitely a jerkheel, who is cruising for an EC Comics-style bruising in James Roday’s Treehouse, the Ides of March installment of Blumhouse’s monthly anthology series, Into the Dark, which premieres today on Hulu.

It has been a longtime since Rake has visited his family home (where there is indeed a tree house on the sprawling grounds), but he has returned, so he can lay low, while his lawyer settles his most recent harassment suit. He is not so psyched to be back, until he meets the bachelorette party staying nearby. He intends to woo them with a fancy dinner, but his excessive drinking and natural obnoxiousness nearly sabotage his plans. Yet, the women stick around anyway. In fact, they seem to know him better than he realizes and they have plans of their own: the payback kind. They might even have supernatural means to accomplish them.

Presumably, Treehouse was conceived as the #metoo edition of Into the Dark, but the execution is decidedly questionable. On one hand, most viewers will find themselves identifying with Rake, regardless of their biases, because the film shows events unfolding from his perspective, including some harrowing acts of torture perpetrated by the mystery women. However, if Rake did half the things he is accused of—and he never persuasively denies anything—than he gets off appallingly easy, all things considered.

Despite the tonal misfires, Jimmi Simpson shows great range and commitment as the sleazy Rake. Julianna Guill, Sophia Del Pizzo, and Stephanie Beatriz have their moments as the avenging women, but Nancy Linehan Charles upstages everyone as Agnes, the tart-tongued, judgmental family servant. She chews the scenery and her wonderfully caustic lines with relish.

Roday does a decent job building suspense and paranoia, but he lets it all deflate with a mediocre ending. It bears direct comparison to Sophia Takal’s New Year, New You in several ways, but the New Year’s edition was far better. Anyone interested in a genre take on the issues #metoo phenomenon will also find Natalia Leite’s MFA much more compelling. Only for series completists, Into the Dark: Treehouse starts streaming today (3/1) on Hulu.