'Into the Dark': 'New Year, New You' paints a very dark and toxic picture of social media influencer culture
Friends turn against each other as a result of the social media pressure that we are shrouded by in the 82-minute long episode directed by Indie filmmaker Sophia Takal
Horrifying twists to popular festivals have been a favorite trope of the horror genre for a while now, but Hulu's new anthology series, 'Into the Dark,' does a beautiful job of clubbing those festive horrors together in monthly thematic episodes.
Releasing once a month, these episodes focus on a terrifying twist to the festival that best represents the month it release in, which meant that the one releasing on December 28, 'New Year, New You,' had a lot riding on it.
First of all, there haven't been many New Year centric horror on TV or even films for that matter. Secondly, the episode focuses on the booming social media 'influencer' culture, a relevant and ubiquitous modern phenomena that is just being mined for its cinematic possibilities.
But the fourth episode of 'Into the Dark' does not disappoint, bringing out the vices that the desperate hunger to climb the social media ladder entails, and with its signature satirical twist to it, 'New Year, New You' is spot on, crisp, and relatable in ways that's often creepy.
Coming from Jason Blum's Blumhouse Productions - the geniuses that gave us the 'Paranormal Activity' franchise and 'The Purge' films too - every episode of 'Into the Dark' is so well executed that as a viewer it becomes almost impossible to dissociate oneself from the thrill unfolding on screen. Probably why the show decided to go ahead with a subject which is such a burning issue in the contemporary world - making the story just way more relatable than we would like a horror flick on the screen to be.
Friends turn against each other as a result of the social media pressure that we are shrouded by in the 82-minute long episode directed by Indie filmmaker Sophia Takal — who starred in Ti West’s 'V/H/S' segment and also directed the phenomenal 'Always Shine.'
The official synopsis reads: "This is the year you kill it. A social media star celebrates New Year's Eve with her childhood friends, but a fun game of secrets turns into a terrifying fight for survival."
Alexis (Suki Waterhouse), Danielle (Carly Chaikin), Kayla (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and Chloe (Melissa Bergland) are high school friends — with Danielle being the social media 'influencer' — who decide to reconnect for a much needed New Year’s Eve girls' night. But it is this rebonding through a round of the party game “Never, Have I Ever,” that proves to be their bane as reliving old memories and talking about the past unleashes some of their deep-rooted gripes that they have harbored against each other for a long time. And true to every horror flick, these grievances manifest in the form of murderous instincts.
Much like it's preceding episodes ('The Body,' 'Flesh and Blood,' and 'Pooka'), 'New Year, New You's focal element of horror is quite unique. It is a seemingly harmless social media influencer who is all about sunshine, smiles, clean eating and mantras of peace. But underneath the shint veneer lurks a maniacal killer, and through this very character of Danielle, 'Into the Dark' manages to put a fun, not so pleasant twist, into the idea of social media icons in general.
It makes a case that deep down all those layers of bright smiles and selling detox tea on social media could be extremely toxic personalities with murderous instincts. And that is extremely fun to watch - something similar to its rival anthology show Black Mirror's season 4 episode, 'Nosedive.'
What is also remarkable about the show is the maniacal portrayal of a closeted murderous psychopath that 'Mr. Robot' actor Carly Chaikin brings out in the form of Danielle. Over the recent past, inherent killers, criminal shrouding themselves with a facade of positivity has worked remarkably well in the genre, and 'New Year, New You' puts that lucrative idea to work. It gets even better as Danielle is also charming enough to convince one that murder is just another form of "knowing your worth."
In director Takal's own words to Refinery29, "We’re mimicking people who are presenting their lives in such a curated way, and then feeling bad about our own life. I think that’s a shitty way to live." Takal, who has spoken extensively about how she was asked to helm the episode due to her previous works showcasing 'female friendships and female dynamics', also spilled: "There’s something that feels dystopian to me about it. We’re turning ourselves into the product, and not selling anything besides ourselves. In the same way that products are disposable, we become disposable. We aren’t present in our own lives, we’re only aware of how other people are perceiving us."
This was pretty much the idea that the 'Black Mirror's 'Nosedive' starring Bryce Dallas Howard explored; but while nobody harbored murderous instincts there, 'Into the Dark' paints a very sinister and brutally honest picture of them in a light that brings out the inherent dark that might or might not be within them. And we are loving it!