'Into the Dark: Pooka' actor Nyasha Hatendi hates holiday films, explains this episode is an exception
"Once that mask goes on, it's easier to be mischievous, it's easier to be less palatable, you can just get away with more," Hatendi said of the episode's premise
Hulu managed to garner rave reviews over the span of just a couple of months with the launch of its new anthology horror series, 'Into the Dark.' The uniqueness of the show is that every month it releases just one new episode, and each of these episodes revolve around a festival that represents that month. This sets it apart from other anthology horrors like 'Black Mirror' or 'American Horror Story'.
And now, anticipation is heating up for the show's third installment arriving in nearly a day's time - the inevitable Christmas nightmare 'Pooka.' The title derives from the main source of horror in the psychological thriller, which will also have a pinch of dark humor in the form of social satire, as both the preceding episodes of the show has portrayed.
It is the titular Pooka viewers have to watch out for. It's basically a kids' toy and the latest rave in town this festive season, with children obsessing over it and their parents fighting to get their hands on one. And, enter Nyasha Hatendi as the lead character, Wilson.
Wilson is a seemingly harmless guy who has moved to a new town (the same town where kids are raving about the Pooka toy) and helpless without a job, he decides to take up the task of putting on the giant, excessively creepy rabbit costume which is basically the Pooka toy.
At first, things go decent for him. He has a job, a girlfriend and there's a peaceful balance. But then, gradually, the nightmare begins. Mysterious murders happen around town and the Pooka costume always seems to be involved with them somehow. Things get to a point where people begin questioning Wilson himself, and thus begins his turmoil - is the Pooka a sinister evil spirit or just a figment of his delusion?
"Wilson is a poor guy, who's very complicated, and I think he fails to deal with his vulnerabilities in the way men in the modern era should," Hatendi said, explaining his character, noting "he's kind of representative of that. He's a good man. He's a sweet man, a loving man who has every desire to be a good father, a good friend, and a good husband."
So, what seems to be the drawback for the guy with good intentions? "He hasn't dealt with the issues he has in his life, in a way that has allowed him to become all the things he wants to be," remarked Hatendi. "And hence we end up in this horrifying situation - where we walk, and witness his failures, in a way that's excruciating and painful for him."
At the end of the day, no matter how intensely driven by the elements of a psychological thriller the episode gets, it's still based around a holiday. Sort of like a short holiday film, if you will. And, that's funny because our man Hatendi here cannot bear holiday movies for the life of him.
However, there are exceptional cases. "Am I a fan of holiday movies in general? No, I'm not. I hate them. I hate them with a passion," confessed Hatendi. "I often find them very saccharine, and sort of deliberate and manipulative. But that said, my inner Scrooge, comes to life when it comes to holidays, where I always sort of despise the notion of them and then being forced to actually enjoy these things. But then, I'll always end up very drunk at the end of a holiday, sitting on the couch watching a very old nostalgic movie, and I will actually kind of like it. So initially, no, but eventually, yes."
Still, there's something that sets 'Pooka' apart from other stereotypical holiday movies. For sure the elements of horror are one thing, but it's also the scope of being under a mask that Hatendi seems to find particularly intriguing.
"When Wilson was Pooka, he would be - rather I would be - in the suit. So, as soon as you're in the suit, you know, it's like mask work - sort of different aspects come out," he elaborated. "You're allowed to do things that you wouldn't normally do if you weren't wearing a suit at this end, so that has been kind of easy in that respect. Once that mask goes on, it's easier to be mischievous, it's easier to be less palatable, you can just get away with more."
And while the scope for playing the role out was definitely a winner, the concept of Pooka itself is no less fascinating to Hatendi. "I think what's surprising is that it's such a unique piece; it's like nothing you've seen before," he assured us. "Again, it inverts the genre. It subverts every idea you might have about a Christmas show - this episode takes it and puts it through a meat grinder and gives you a burger that you're gonna enjoy and remember for the rest of your life because it's so unique. I think visually it's going to be very exciting, and Nacho is a genius filmmaker. He understands the medium of filmmaking, so I think it's going to be a very trippy experience for the audience and they're gonna love it!"