Into The Dark is Blumhouse’s straight-to-Hulu series of holiday-themed horror movies. It kicked off in October, but didn’t really gain momentum until Nacho Vigalando’s Christmas-set Pooka and Sophia Takal’s twisted frenemies thriller New Year, New You. February brings a Valentine’s Day-themed tale of terror, but whether you love or loathe that holiday, you’ll want to skip Down.
The premise is simple: a man and a woman get trapped in an elevator over Valentine’s Day weekend. You probably already know where this is going. No? Okay, how about if I tell you there’s no supernatural element? Yup. You got it.
Natalie Martinez and Matt Lauria star as Jennifer and Guy, two office workers who have the seemingly bad luck to get trapped together. But it’s not all bad. Sure, Jennifer’s romantic plans for the weekend are foiled and she is forced to piss into her empty thermos when she can’t hold it any longer. But hey, Guy is cute, vulnerable, and considerate. He has wine. She has chocolates. This might not be so bad after all. Except that it is. Only after being excruciatingly dull.
Spoilers below for Down.
Did you guess that Guy is secretly a creeper who plotted to trap Jennifer in this elevator so he could convince her they are meant to be together? Yeah. It’s obvious early on because where else could a Valentine’s Day-themed trapped in an elevator premise go? And yet Down subjects us to the tedium of these two getting to know each other through bland exchanges, twee portrait-drawing time, and randy sex stories. They have no chemistry and their banter has all the sex appeal of the Weather Channel. It’s only after the pair have sex in a public elevator that contains a pee thermos that Guy reveals his true nature. And Down won’t get any less predictable, though it will get dumber.
Written by Kent Kubena, the script is the most basic take on the premise of creeper stalker traps his prey. (At least, Passengers had a pretty spacecraft setting.) You’ll witness Jennifer realize to her horror she’s trapped with a maniac, and then witness her making a galling series of mistakes in how to bring an end to this nightmare. She hits him once and STOPS. She’ll take a break from fleeing to insult her abductor, which clues him into her escape. And each mistake falls so hard into the tropes of badly written female heroines that I began to wish Guy would just kill her so this movie would be over already.
It’s a shame because this premise comes from an all too real horror and fear that overwhelmingly targets women. Recently, we’ve heard the true and terrifying story of Dirty John, which followed a man who sought out lonely hearts on the internet to steal their money through deception, blackmail, threats, and worse. We’ve learned of the harrowing survival story of Abducted in Plain Sight, which detailed how a young girl was groomed by a child predator right before her parents’ eyes. And we’ve seen the late-to-the-party fascination with You, a Lifetime series now on Netflix that tells a story of obsession, abduction, and violence from the twisted perspective of its selfish stalker. Then comes Down, which spends virtually no time exploring the inner life of Jennifer before leering at her breasts as she rapturously humps a random dude on a gross elevator floor. She’s subjected to the Male Gaze with a galling matter-of-factness, while regarding Guy’s muscular body lustily is never considered. You could try to argue this was meant to put us in the mindset of Guy, but why? Up to this point, the film has suggested they are duel protagonists. It’s only the predictable premise—and possibly the viewer’s own alertness about rape culture—that raises suspicions.
Ugh. This movie. It’s grim and ugly and has nothing new or interesting to say. Director Daniel Stamm took a subject that is ripe for a horror movie spin and turned out an execution that is bland and sexist, giving us little reason to root for Jennifer, but plenty of opportunities to leer at her. Watching it, I thought back on Jason Blum’s tone-deaf comments about female directors and couldn’t help but wonder why Blumhouse was so dedicated to get a female perspective on New Year, New You, but not on Down, which could have been a scorching thriller about rape culture, problematic rom-com expectations, and toxic masculinity. Instead, it’s just a mediocre and meaningless made-for-TV movie that’s not worth anyone’s time.
Header Image Source: Hulu