Saturday, October 05, 2019

Into the Dark: Uncanny Annie

Blumhouse definitely enjoys playing games, whether it be a friendly round of Truth or Dare, or a laidback session with the Ouija Board. This game will not be so easy for viewers to play at home, but why in the world would they want to? The rules are rigged and the stakes are life-and-death in Paul Davis’s Uncanny Annie, the first instalment of the second season of the Blumhouse-produced Into the Dark, which is now streaming on Hulu.

In honor of their late gamer friend, a group of college students will stay in this Halloween, playing one of his beloved board games and drinking heavily (naturally). Unfortunately, they chose the strange looking one nobody recognizes, named “Uncanny Annie.” Of course, once they start playing, they quickly discover they are in over their heads, but have no choice but to play the game through.

Technically, they are playing against Uncanny Annie, sort of like one of the Shining twins, aged-up two or three years, but she will have help from a few other supernatural entities. Each player must successfully complete the challenges they draw from the magical, ever shifting deck of cards, or they die and become emblazoned on the game’s vintage box. Needless to say, they are rarely given a sporting chance.

Davis exploits the claustrophobic, minimalist setting and the terrifically creepy art and design work to crank up the tension. There is no question this is the scariest feature-length episode of Into the Dark we’ve reviewed. It could also be the darkest, in purely visual terms, but cinematographer James Kniest never lets the encroaching blackness obscure the on-screen action.

Karlisha Hurley is wildly unsettling as Uncanny Annie. Arguably, she is the most important cast member, even though she has considerably less screen-time than the other “players.” However, Adelaide Kane. Georgie Flores, and Paige McGhee all exceed genre expectations with their sporting conviction, thereby giving us three valid contenders for the final girl/sole survivor.

Frankly, the twisted mechanics of the Uncanny Annie game are on a par with the delightfully gory Game of Death and it even manages to hang with Beyond the Gates, even though it does not have the benefit of the great Barbara Crampton. Highly recommended for horror fans, Uncanny Annie is now available to watch on Hulu.