The first episode of the new year of Blumhouse and Hulu’s Into the Dark series of holiday-themed anthology films, and the second centered around Halloween, Uncanny Annie offers what is basically a demented version of Jumanji. Lacking the commentary of the series’s stronger entries, but offering plenty of gore and thrills for horror fans, this passable horror flick is a fun enough time to watch as part of an annual Halloween binge.
The movie follows a group of college students who gather together on Halloween night to play a board game only to realize that a sinister force may be manipulating the progress of the game. From the beginning, it is obvious where the story is heading because of the fact that the script adheres so closely to the genre’s tropes. Yet even though every single decision made over the course of the film feels telegraphed, it still manages to be mostly entertaining.
Like other entries in Into the Dark, this movie clocks in at less than an hour and a half, and as such, it starts off at a running pace. After taking just a few minutes to set everything up, the characters, and the audience along with them, are swiftly launched into the film’s central game. Because of the nature of the game, the movie moves between the different “challenges” at a relatively quick pace, meaning that the strong parts are just long enough and weaker segments don’t get to the point where they are annoying.
That said, the film could have used some additional work in the character department. The characters are all very archetypal, although this can be mostly attributed to the short runtime and the fact that the movie simply didn’t have enough time to fully flesh out these characters in a way that feels substantial. The film does succeed in the bare minimum of making them sympathetic enough that the audience members will want them to survive, but nothing more.
Additionally, the movie includes a subplot about keeping secrets that feels unnecessary and excessive. In the opening scene, it is mentioned that the reason these characters got together on Halloween night is to pay their respects to a friend that died exactly one year prior to the events of the film. As one would expect, this is just foreshadowing for what is to come, though it ultimately feels like an afterthought.
However, despite the limitations of the script, the actors all do a very solid job in their roles. Paige McGhee is particularly impressive, showing the most potential of anyone in the ensemble to be lead a movie by herself in the future, but thankfully, all of the stars have really good chemistry together. As such, the audience will easily be able to buy into the friendship.
Director Paul Davis also does a very good job of bringing this world to life. A majority of the film is set in a single house, although there is some very inventive use of the camera and production design to make the setting look both intimidatingly massive and confining at the same time. Davis definitely brought a very clear aesthetic to the movie, and it fits quite well, allowing the film to feel more eerie (or maybe even… uncanny) than campy.
Uncanny Annie may not be among the best entries in Into the Dark, but it is still a fun (and surprisingly brutal) watch nonetheless. As far as Halloween-themed horror movies go, this could have been a lot worse.
Uncanny Annie is now streaming on Hulu.