By Kelsey zukowski
The monthly Blumhouse/ Hulu horror film series, Into the Dark, returns for Women in Horror month with a fittingly female ked, written, and directed Valentine’s Day body horror/ creature feature entitled Tentacles. While I can’t say it is necessarily a powerful or wildly memorable film, it worked for me and offered some strong metaphors, quite literally showing us what it’s like to lose oneself in the bliss of a new relationship. Too often this strips away ones individuality, identity, and clarity along the way. It can be intoxicatingly blinding and what better way to show that than through sexually charged body horror with a lurking darkness invading you from the inside out?
Tara (Drori) moves to Los Angeles, looking to leave her complicated past behind and find a fresh start. She meets Sam (Diedrick), a talented, but troubled photographer who is struggling with the loss and damage his parent’s death have left him with. The two almost immediately move in with one another, feeling they can heal each other’s breakage and build something positive together. They become utterly consumed as their lives quickly merge and they fall deeper for one another in a whirl of passion and understanding. Sam’s closest friend, Esther (Elise), wants him to be happy but can’t help feel that something is off- that this is all too soon, and he’s letting himself lose who he is for this girl he really knows very little about. Tara’s past catches up with her and threatens to tear apart the happiness they have created. Sam slowly accepts that there might be something following her that she isn’t being totally honest about- but is she the victim or the cause of it? He investigates himself, finding something far more sinister and unbelievable than he could have fathomed.
The film is a bit of a slow burn that enticingly contorts, revealing the darkness lurking just underneath. Its focus for most of the film is the steamy yet slightly odd romance. Then the creature and body horror take over in full force in the last act as the true nature of this all-consuming romance is unmasked. There are touches of darkness and clues that something isn’t right here with unusual bleeding, monstrous hallucinations, and one of our protagonists being told there’s obviously something infecting him in the environment, but no medical proof of what that could be can be found. Between the title, the basic premise, and knowing this is a horror film and these two likely aren’t going to live happily ever after, not without undergoing some torturous turmoil first, we have an idea of what to expect. Still, as the mystery is slowly uncovered there are some fun, exhilarating twists and a few moments that might take you by surprise. The acting isn’t anything remarkable, but the performances are strong enough and offer enough intrigue to make you want to watch and see where the story goes. Casey Diedrick as Sam works better and becomes more realistic and compelling as his characters evolves and becomes more relatable. The chemistry between Diedrick and Drori is strong as well. If not love you believe the desperation and raw desire between them, which fuels both the romance and the darkness of the film.
Tentacles is told through a female lens in story, visuals, and metaphor or what the tentacles themselves represent, which gives a lot of power to female forces. I didn’t find it to be anti-man though, which I appreciated. Female characters aren’t free from being hunted either, but there are some stronger roles for females that would normally be told from a more male dominated viewpoint. The turning of the gender tables and offering strong female roles without making it a total gender issue film was satisfying. The creature horror is somewhat minimal so some might be disappointed. While I would have loved more, I didn’t find it lacking, just something that was more cloaked for most of the story as a survival mechanism. I very much enjoyed the moments where we are able to see the raw, primal, huntress nature of the tentacles at work. There is some satisfying gore and gruesome moments, nothing very excessive, but the little sprinkled in had a strong effect and should appeal to horror fans.
I can’t say this is a fantastic film, but it was interesting, relevant, and primal view of humanity, sexuality, romance, and monsters wound up in one offbeat, yet satisfying film worthy of a view if you’re in to any of the horror subgenres it dips its toes… or I should say tentacles in to.
Starring: Dana Drori, Casey Diedrik, Kasey Elise
Written by: Alexandra Pechman, Nick Antosca
Directed by: Clara Aranovich
By Kelsey Zukowski
Kelsey Zukowski- Co-host/ Film Reviewer
Kelsey Zukowski is a screenwriter, film journalist, actor and internationally published model, specializing in conceptual gothic artistry and the horror genre through dark examination. She was heavily inspired at an early age by fellow Cleveland native, Wes Craven’s surreal and ‘fighting through the mind’ brand of horror in particular. She graduated from DePaul University with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Digital Cinema with a concentration in Screenwriting. Zukowski’s start with film criticism began at the age of 14 when inspired by Roger Ebert’s writing, passion, and understanding for cinema, she began writing film reviews of her own. Within a few years she was writing for an array of film and genre websites including HorrorYearbook.com, The Critic’s Word, and FilmArcade.net. She has been a published film journalist, heavily focusing on horror for the past 10 years. After graduating, Zukowski immersed herself as an actor and writer in the indie horror scene starting in Chicago. From there she worked heavily in Los Angeles where she made her first feature, the gritty and psychological horror film, Within These Walls. Zukowski has since relocated to Cleveland where she connected with Dino and joined The Late Late Horror Show.