Uncanny Annie Review

(Blumhouse Television and Hulu have partnered for a monthly horror anthology series titled Into The Dark, set to release a full holiday-themed feature the first Friday of every month. Horror anthology expert Matt Donato will be tackling the series one-by-one, stacking up the entries as they become streamable.)

Welcome back, Into The Dark fans! Paul Davis directed Season 1’s inaugural October entry The Body, and he’s back to play a most wicked game in Season 2’s kickoff Uncanny Annie. A bit of tabletop terror on Halloween night that tricks us with an unexpected holiday plotline, but it’s all macabre flavored treats. Suckers for rules to live by in horror scenarios will remember “Uncanny Annie” and her stacked deck of “Truths” or “Mischief,” starting Season 2 with a bit more zip this time around.

It’s Halloween, but there’ll be no partying for Wendy (Adelaide Kane), Eve (Georgie Flores), and their crew. This somber October 31st is to be spent amongst friends mourning the death of Tony (Avery Bagenstos), who passed away one year to the date. In Tony’s honor, the gang breaks out his stack of strategy games for a night of remembrance. First up? A Gothic-looking black-and-white box called “Uncanny Annie,” which promises ghastly delights for the spookiest of nights if they can win. Instructions are read aloud, beverages topped off, and gamers find themselves transported to Annie’s eternal void – literally.

Guidelines are simple: abide by Annie’s demands and you earn a lettered tile. One for each A-N-N-I-E in her name. Fail, face her wrath. A multi-sided die comes into play during “wager” rounds, but it’s largely a repetition of drawn-at-random risks. Some tame enough, confessing fears or kissing your “Spin The Bottle” partner. Others malicious, like biting another player’s neck until breaking skin or piercing Death before he pierces you. The game’s design is simple yet addicting as a Bloody Mary and “Truth Or Dare” mashup. Honestly, I’d love an ownable version for myself – black “trap” box and all.

College co-eds are a predictable bunch, from horndog Michael (Dylan Arnold) to Eve’s awkward skittishness around ex-boyfriend Craig (Jacques Colimon). They play paranoid victims, dropping references to classic horror movies and Jumanji the whole time. Lambs to Annie’s slaughter and not much else. This means arrogance and stupidity drive multiple plot advancements, like when a player refuses Annie’s latest task *despite* witnessing deathly repercussions for such defiance. Grace (Paige McGhee) attempts to keep the game moving, gifted foreshadowing premonitions for some reason, but it’s a device forgotten once final acts start winding down. Uncanny Annie is always about winning or losing the game at hand, and rarely about trying to tell a larger story outside Tony’s mysterious cause of death. Details lost to the next card’s pull.

Horror’s grasp ushers in multiple ghouls such as the Grim Reaper, an invisible “Prankster,” and the schoolgirl creepiness of pale Annie. Competitions such as “Hide and Seek,” “Keepaway,” and other childhood playground adventures are morphed into life-or-death contests. These are fun, sadistic rounds of Annie’s game that Davis finds appropriate dread within, especially when the Prankster gets someone to flinch or as Death clops around what appears to be the nicest-kept college house in history. You’ll behold some bloody spillage, an ever-reaching blackness past front porch steps, and increased hysteria as Annie’s victory inches closer by the second.

As a sign of good Season 2 faith, Uncanny Annie fills out its 80ish minute running length. Few Into The Dark entries can boast such an (attainable) achievement thus far, but Davis sustains an albeit simplistic story of hidden sins and gnawing guilt. What starts with a “Dungeons & Dragons” campaign gives way to Annie’s “Dungeon Master” of a much viler mindset. Little details add to mythology all unto this Hellbound Hasbro title, such as claimed souls appearing on the game’s box artwork one by one. It’s more than enough to strike individuality amongst other “roll of the dice” survival gambles. Especially as a streaming selection.

Uncanny Annie boasts all the hallmarks of a slumber party shrieker amongst younger genre audiences, while older audiences can appreciate a modest horror framework that never requires any “How To” guide. It’s certainly one of the more entertaining and fast-paced Into The Dark segments. Not the highest praise considering Season 1’s canon, but praised earned nonetheless. Annie’s brand of demonic manipulation is no child’s play and approved for all ages. Alright, Season 2. Pass go and collect your bonus – but let’s see if quality withstands eleven more months.

/Film Review: 7 out of 10

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