Blumhouse's Tentacles a Romantic Horror to Cuttle By

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Hulu's Into the Dark: Tentacles

Ah, sweet romance, that burning, all-encompassing drive of two souls that seek to become one. Yet is there a way to know with absolute certainty who you are allowing into your heart? Many a tragedy has been begat by passion’s fire, and such musings abound in Tentacles, one of the releases from Blumhouse Films’ new Into The Dark series, and the questions posed about trust and identity are given dark psychosexual dressing that infuse an otherwise stale B-movie plot with dangerous, eldritch intensity. 

The movie opens with Sam (Casey Deidrick), a photographer-for-hire with Ansel Adams aspirations grieving for his recently deceased parents who seeks to renovate his childhood home with the intent to sell. Enter Tara (Dana Dori), a charming young woman with plenty of cash and no place to stay; she claims she’s on the run from a stalker who almost destroyed her life, and when she and Sam meet, sparks fly. Their steamy, sexually-charged  relationship quickly blossoms into something more, much to the chagrin of Sam’s friend and business partner Esther (Kasey Elise), who begins to notice behavioral changes in Sam and questions what kind of influence Tara exerts over him. Sam himself begins to wonder, too, when he starts experiencing debilitating, ear-piercing headaches and insidious hallucinations. Complications arise after Tara’s ex, Grant (Evan Williams), shows up; far from being a stalker, he delivers dire warnings to Sam that Tara isn’t as innocent as she seems, and insinuates she may not even be human...

It’s the performances that attempt to elevate Tentacles above its simplistic doppelgänger plot: actress Dori in particular runs an astonishing emotional gauntlet; she is by turns vulnerable, seductive and predacious, manipulative, self-serving and, by film’s end, a full-fledged homicidal beast. Similarly, Deidrick’s Sam is chewed up in a harrowing spiritual meat grinder; his story begins amid existential indecision and finds hope in the blossoming physical relationship with Tara, but as she enacts her plan to quite literally take over his life the struggle becomes one of pure survival. Yet there’s a humdrum quality to the proceedings that even the best presentation can’t cover; the tale, as scribed by Alexandra Perchman and Nick Antosca, is indeed fraught with constant, foreboding tension, but when that steady, deliberate pace finally kicks into high gear during the final act, the flurry of bloodied, disturbing imagery doesn’t make up for the fact that there’s nothing original or unique to show. It’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers by way of Species and imbued with the faintest echoes of Lovecraftian mythology, stitched together and painted up with cinematic thriller stripes.

That said, there’s more than enough energy to compensate for the overly-familiar, underwhelming tropes; the exact origin and nature of Tara’s monstrous menace is never explicitly explored and such ambiguity only enhances the on-screen dread; unlike the vast majority of terror offerings, real concern develops for Sam as it becomes startlingly clear he may not emerge from the unfolding events the same person he was, if at all. The alarm throughout is only heightened by the haunting, sparse, synth-throb soundtrack and the capable directing from Clara Aranovich that showcases a respect for the material that’s oftentimes misplaced in genre auteurs: she never shies away from the gut-wrenching and gruesome, and the march to the climactic confrontation is rife with unsetting, deathly peril.    

In the end, Tentacles is one of the continuing wave of complex, competent horror entries that has developed on television, in movies and over the internet during the last fifteen years that takes its subject matter seriously and seeks to transform the realms of the fantastic into something concrete, earnest and identifiable, even if what’s identifiable has been seen countless times before. “I’m motivated,” Tara says at the film’s onset, but the final results unfortunately aren’t likely to motivate repeat viewings.

I give Tentacles an adequate 3 (out of 5) on my Fang Scale.

3.0 / 5.0