Whoa, Check Out “The Body” on Hulu

I’m not waxing lecherous when I write that the inaugural installment of Into The Dark, Hulu’s new monthly anthology series, has a killer body. October’s holiday-themed film centers on a British hitman in Los Angeles who carries out an annual assassination on October 31st: the costumed revelry all around on All Hallow’s Eve provides the perfect cover as the deadly Wilkes works to transport and dispose of (in a strategic location, where the discovery of the corpse will have the greatest impact) his latest victim. On this particular night, though, Wilkes is bound for mishap with his plastic-mummified package; complications–and macabre comedy–ensue.

Make no mistake, the humor here is blacker than a vampire’s cape, yet also never batty. The laugh-out-loud moments (hardly few and far between) are not the product of mere slapstick. Thankfully, The Body does not resort to an endless array of silly sight gags. Halloween Weekend at Bernie’s this is not.

Not a mindless romp, the film shows itself to be quite conscious of its horror heritage, starting with an I-camera opening sequence that recalls Michael Myers’s first kills in the original Halloween. Early on, one character jibes at the nattily clad body-dragger (played, somewhat serendipitously, by Tom Bateman): “Are you like the British American Psycho or something?” The references range from the overt (such as when Jack Baker–his very name an echo of another monster maker, Rick Baker–makes an ostentatious entrance to his own Halloween party dressed as a straight-jacketed Hannibal Lecter) to the more subtle (the climactic scene in the “Angus & Sons” funeral home, a nod towards Phantasm‘s Angus Scrimm).

The Body is distinguished by some strong performances. Bateman’s Wilkes is no laconic automaton: this killing machine finds joy in his grim work, and frequently flashes a wicked sense of humor. Another side of his personality is expressed as a philosophical bent; this thinking-man hitman is prone to deliver lines like “Halloween is the closest we come to admitting that we are defined by death.” It’s the gorgeous Rebecca Rittenhouse, however, who steals the show as the smitten Maggie, Wilkes’s willing accomplice in the effort to retrieve the wayward cadavar. She makes a difficult role look easy, whereas a lesser portrayal could have resulted in a ridiculously unconvincing Maggie.

Credit, too, goes to the screenwriters, who take the time to develop the characters so that their curious motives are never mystifying. At the same time, the film is fast-moving (aided by the ticking-clock device, as Wilkes struggles to meet his deadline for delivery of the body). If I had one criticism of the plot, it’s that the climactic twist (unlike the stealthy Wilkes) can be seen coming from a long ways away.

Post mortem: the toe tag for The Body should read “Good Mean Fun.” This entertaining first entry in the anthology series has left me eager to see what Into the Dark will cook up next month for its Thanksgiving-related edition.

 

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