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Into the Dark - Season 1, Episode 12: “Pure” TV Episode Review

Written by Stuart D. Monroe

Released by Hulu and Blumhouse

Into The Dark S01 E12 Pure Large

Directed by Hannah Macpherson
Written by Hannah Macpherson, Paul Davis, & Paul Fisher
2019, 90 minutes, Not Rated
Released on Hulu on September 6th, 2019

Starring:
Jahkara Smith as Shay
McKaley Miller as Jo
Annalisa Cochrane as Kellyann
Ciara Bravo as Lacey
Scott Porter as Pastor Seth
Tara Parker as Lilith

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Review:

There are numerous types of horror films, but all of them can be grouped into one of two major (general) categories: those that serve to entertain and scare (where message or theme are often a byproduct or left up to the viewer’s interpretation) and those with “something to say”, as the expression goes. The latter is much trickier – the filmmakers run the risk of coming off as preachy, clumsy, or heavy-handed (bad) or simply being unentertaining (even worse).

Episode 12 of Hulu’s anthology holiday film series Into the Dark, titled Pure, firmly and boldly places itself in the latter. It pulls you in from the first frame and ensures that you’ll be held in place by not just the delivery of the message but the skill it’s delivered with.

Shay (Jahkara Smith; NOS4A2) has recently met her extremely pious biological father and not-so-pious half-sister, Jo (McKaley Miller; Ma), following her mother’s death. She joins them at a wilderness retreat to celebrate the sanctity of purity and the father-daughter relationship. There she meets stunning Kellyann (Annalisa Cochrane; Heathers) and perfect Lacey (Ciara Bravo; Nickelodeon’s Big Time Rush), the daughter of Pastor Seth (Scott Porter; 2008’s Prom Night). Pastor Seth carries a gun on his hip and preaches purity from the heart, telling the story of Lilith, the strong-willed harlot who God made before He made Eve and subsequently banished to Hell for her lascivious ways. The girls of cabin number four sneak out one night and attempt to summon Lilith (a yearly tradition). This time, however, it works. As her power grows, the girls begin to see how they’re being controlled and mistreated by their creepy and possessive fathers. What’s unleashed is purity of a sort that dear old Dad never bargained for.

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The cinematography maximizes the lush and nearly pagan wilderness setting to maximum effect while the location itself hearkens to Sleepaway Camp and the all-white-all-the-time costumes ratchet up the creep factor. Shot after shot is framed to show who’s in charge as the story progresses. One particularly lovely shot has three of the girls (and two of the boys they snuck out to see) shown from above during the summoning ritual; their body positioning forms a perfect pentagram. It’s a deft touch that shows attention to detail.

As well-constructed as the technical aspects are, it’s the message of female empowerment and breaking the cycle of male-dominated religious manipulation that makes Pure stand on its own two feet not only as a dominant entry in the Into the Dark series, but as a standalone film that’s more than worthy of wide theatrical release as well. The father-daughter photo sessions alone are the epitome of razor-edged satire, dripping with all the inappropriate implied sexuality you don’t want to face. It’s so ugly it’s literally beautiful.

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The entire cast crushes their roles, be they broad strokes (like Lacey) or multilayered and nuanced (like Shay). The character of Lilith (Tara Parker) is glimpsed only in snatches until the finale, bringing a heavy number of jump scares and unease with her leering, overarched smile. She’s a classic archetype of the pagan-styled goddess, gauzy and ethereal in her beauty. And speaking of that final act…

The Purity Ball rivals the power of the prom scene in Brian DePalma’s Carrie. Your eyes don’t deceive you; I just said it rivals Carrie. It’s not so much in terms of the sheer violence or body count as it is the delivery of the message and the hard snap when the power shifts and your heart soars (violence or no) for the girls as they claim their power and throw off the veil of paternal abuse and domination. It’s truly heady stuff that shows the genre’s ability to tell a story with meaning and a truth behind it all that will make you stop and genuinely question several things.

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A number of statements in the film make the intention clear. When it’s mentioned that Lilith isn’t in the Bible, Jo says it’s because of “…male, revisionist history.” (hard to argue that’s a big biblical influence). During one of his sermons, Pastor Seth uses a piece of gum as a comparison for women – at first, it’s tasty and delicious, but after he’s chewed it no one else will want it (who wants used merchandise?). Kellyann tells Shay, “I used to get so excited for this when I was a little girl. Now I just feel exhausted.” The kicker comes in the climax when Lilith (finally possessing Shay) says, “One man’s demon is another woman’s angel!” The idea that men have been narrating the story throughout our history and that there’s another side to the story is a truth that we’re all coming to grips with in various ways, not just in American society but across the globe.

Good horror will rattle some cages and tell a story that’s bursting at the seams with power and aching to be told. You may want to be sure you’re ready for this one and what it has to say.

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Grades:

Episode: Fourandahalfstars Into The Dark S01 E12 Pure Small
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About The Author
Stuart Monroe
Staff Writer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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