|Into the Dark episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1|
|Directed by||Nacho Vigalondo|
|Written by||Gerald W. Olson|
|Featured music||Bear McCreary|
|Cinematography by||Scott Winig|
|Editing by||Andrew Wesman|
|Original air date||December 7, 2018|
|Running time||83 minutes|
"Pooka!" is an episode of American horror anthology web television series Into the Dark that aired as the third episode of the show's first season. It originally premiered in the United States on December 7, 2018, on Hulu. The episode was directed by Nacho Vigalondo from a script written by Gerald Olson  and stars Nyasha Hatendi, Latarsha Rose, Jon Daly, Dale Dickey, and Jonny Berryman.
Unemployed actor Wilson Clowes (Nyasha Hatendi), moves into a new apartment building to start a new life, befriending a fellow resident, an older woman named Red (Dale Dickey). He finds a vague audition announcement in a coffee shop and attends. After an unusual physical component, Wilson is offered the acting job by Finn (Jon Daly), the advertising director for a new Christmas toy called Pooka. A stuffed animal with large eyes, Pooka selectively repeats what it hears in either a "naughty" or "nice" voice, and Wilson's job will be to portray Pooka in a large, furry costume in both advertisements and live appearances. Wilson is informed that he will be the sole actor portraying Pooka. He accepts after realizing how much he will be paid.
Wilson portrayal of Pooka coincides with toy's skyrocketing popularity. However, the costume begins having strange effects on the actor. When wearing the costume in "naughty" mode, Wilson is prone to violent outbursts and hallucinations. Meanwhile, Finn manages to get Wilson the business card of Melanie (Latarsha Rose), a real estate agent to whom he has become attracted after seeing her first at a Christmas tree farm, then at one of his in-store events. Wilson attends an open house showing put on by Melanie, and the two hit it off and soon start dating. Wilson manages to get Melanie's son Ty (Jonny Berryman) a Pooka toy, much to the boy's pleasure.
Wilson's hallucinations continue, and he has a vision of himself as naughty Pooka entering Red's apartment and killing her. However, when he visits her apartment, she appears unharmed, and as they talk, Wilson remembers that he made his life change to get away from some sort of pain that he thinks he caused. Wilson offers to have Pooka appear at Ty's birthday party, and he appears in costume, but goes naughty and attacks a child. Melanie still has no idea that Wilson is Pooka.
The Pooka toy suffers a widespread malfunction, causing all the toys to repeat only the distorted phrase: "Look at all the pretty lights." Pooka's popularity plummets and Wilson is let go from his job. During an encounter in a bar, however, Finn tells Wilson that there never was a Pooka, and Wilson realizes the bar he's in is actually empty. As all this occurs, the costume appears to be inseparable from Wilson, who is seen visibly hyperventilating before putting the it on.
Wilson's hallucinations worsen. One night, he arrives at his apartment building to find that Red has fallen to her death, apparently thrown from her upper story window by Pooka. Wilson then receives a call from Ty telling him that they're going to the Christmas tree farm. Wilson goes to the farm and finds a sentient Pooka costume, which he attacks with an ax and seemingly kills. When he goes to Melanie's house, she no longer appears to be living there, and when he goes to the open house home where they first met, he sees the truth about his past. Wilson and Melanie were, in fact, husband and wife, and he was prone to violent outbursts. Wilson pleads with past Melanie to not listen to his past self as he watches the final scene play out, but she cannot hear him.
In the closing scene, Wilson witnesses his past self try to make up for his violence by driving Melanie and Ty to a Christmas tree farm. During the drive, Melanie attempts to distract Ty from Wilson's frantic driving by remarking "look at all the pretty lights," but Wilson crashes head-on into another car. He is thrown from the vehicle, and Melanie and Ty are killed when it explodes. The driver of the other car was Red, who was killed in the crash. Wilson and the Pooka suit watch sadly as the version of Wilson who was driving the car is taken away by paramedics, and the distorted voice of Ty's Pooka toy repeats the phrase "look at all the pretty lights."
On October 11, 2018, production designer Cecil Gentry revealed in an interview with Dead Entertainment that he was working on ten out of twelve episodes of Into the Dark and that an episode centered on Christmas titled "Pooka" would air in December.
The episode was met with a positive response from critics upon its premiere. On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the episode holds a 75% approval rating with an average rating of 6.11 out of 10 based on 8 reviews.
In a positive review, Bloody Disgusting's Daniel Kurl praised the episode saying, "More than anything, "Pooka!" will definitely be one of the most unique pieces of Christmas horror that you'll see this year. It doesn't take the same bait that other stories do and it's a creative, ambitious endeavor that deserves to be seen." In a similarly favorable analysis, Laughing Place's Mike Mack commended the episode declaring, "The plot of this episode is so perfectly dark and twisted, the cast is fantastic and Pooka himself is the perfect mix of everything this series is going for. If you’re looking for something creepy to watch this holiday season, look no further than "Pooka!"." In another encouraging criticism, The Daily Dot's Eddie Strait awarded the episode 3 out of 5 stars and said that it was, "a solid entry for Into the Dark. Not all of the creative choices pay off, but there are enough indelible images that you’ll remember "Pooka!", perhaps longer than you'd like. A movie this weird is the exact kind of thing you would expect to find on streaming sites, and that's perhaps the strongest feather in Into the Dark's cap. The show gives you want you want, and something you weren't expecting." In an additional acclamatory critique, Paste's Jacob Oller gave the episode a rating of 7.9 out of 10 and complimented it saying, "While it’s not especially tight—even when the cuts, transitions, and timelines are vague and strange on purpose—and opts for a few stilted narrative shortcuts, "Pooka!" is certainly the first time Into the Dark has filled up its tank with genuine nightmare fuel." In a further approving editorial, /Film's Matt Donato gave the episode a rating of 7 out of 10 and said of it, "Not the conventional Christmas nightmare one might expect, but sharpened enough to expose purposefully provocative seasonal traumas regarding control, regret, and the psychological toll holidays can take on those still nursing open wounds – self-inflicted or otherwise."
In a more mixed assessment, RogerEbert.com's Brian Tallerico gave the episode a rating of 2 ½ stars out of 4 and said, "While I admire its ambition, "Pooka!" kind of wears out its welcome before it's over." He added however that, "Still, there’s artistry at work in "Pooka!" that was lacking in the first two films, and the series is heading in the right direction, earning a half-star more from me with each release. At this rate, they'll be making masterpieces by Easter." In an outright negative appraisal, Film School Rejects' Rob Hunter criticized the episode saying, "The film’s overly surreal nature also makes it too clear where things are heading. We might not know the specifics, but regular viewers of genre fare will see the third act coming many miles away. Again, it’s stretched out to a length beyond what the narrative can handle — it would have made for a killer episode of Monsters (1988-1990) — and threatens to leave viewers dancing between expectation and frustration. They’ll know what’s coming and wish it was there sooner." In a separate unfavorable evaluation, Bleeding Cool's Jeremy Konrad was very critical of the episode saying that, "This was a frustrating watch from beginning to end and the payoff was not worth it. While a step up visually, this is going to end up being one of the weaker entries in the series. The nice thing about anthologies though is that there is always the next one."
- "Gerald Olson". IMDb. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
- Morse, Chris (October 11, 2018). "Interview: A Look into the World of Hulu's Into the Dark". Dead Entertainment. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- Zuniga, Paul (November 12, 2018). "Everything we know about Blumhouse's Into The Dark: Pooka so far". Hulu Watcher. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- Zuniga, Paul (November 26, 2018). "Blumhouse's Into The Dark: First trailer for Pooka is finally here". Hulu Watcher. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- Collis, Clark (December 6, 2018). "'Pooka' clip introduces terrifying costume from Christmas episode of Hulu's 'Into the Dark'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- "Into the Dark: "Pooka!"". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved January 19, 2019.
- Kurl, Daniel (December 6, 2018). "[Review] Christmas Comes Early as Nacho Vigalondo's "Pooka!" Delivers 'Into the Dark's' First Classic". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- Mack, Mike (November 27, 2018). "Review - Blumhouse's "Into the Dark: Pooka!" on Hulu". Laughing Place. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- Strait, Eddie (December 7, 2018). "'Into the Dark: Pooka!' is a weird, psychological Christmas treat". The Daily Dot. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- Oller, Jacob (December 7, 2018). "Into the Dark Keeps Getting Better with Its Christmas Episode, "Pooka!"". Paste. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- Donato, Matt (December 10, 2018). "'Pooka!' Review: December's 'Into the Dark' Entry is a Holiday-Tinged Tale of Madness and Mascot Costumes". /Film. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
- Tallerico, Brian (December 7, 2018). "Into the Dark: Pooka Movie Review (2018) | Roger Ebert". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- Hunter, Rob (December 7, 2018). "'Pooka' Review: A Man, a Costume, and the Space In Between". Film School Rejects. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
- Konrad, Jeremy (December 9, 2018). "Into the Dark's 'Pooka' is Not Going to Become a Christmas Tradition". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved December 17, 2018.