Thanksgiving is nigh, and Hulu’s Blumhouse-produced anthology series Into the Dark offers us Pilgrim, a comedy-creeper boasting satire and blood in vast quantities. It’s about pilgrim reenactors bringing a “true” Thanksgiving experience to a rich family, and if that seems far-fetched, one subtitle reads, “based mostly on a true story” — prompting us to wonder how much “mostly” that may mean.
INTO THE DARK: PILGRIM: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Being a typical American teenager, Cody (Reign Edwards) can detect bullshit from a zillion paces. That’s why living in such close proximity with her phony-smiley Stepford stepmom Anna (Courtney Henggeler) is insufferable. Her dad (Kerr Smith) is terminally addicted to eyeballing the financial markets on his tablet, and reminding her that she goes to a school that’s $65,000 a year. Her only solace is playing cute hide-and-seek games with her younger half-brother Tate (Antonio Raul Corbo). Oh, and the weed she hides in a cross-shaped tin — say it with me: holy smokes! — and vapes with her boyfriend and his Kid ‘n’ Play/Eraserhead fade.
For Thanksgiving this year, Anna hires some “highly authentic” reenactors who are “fresh off the Mayflower” and ready to “prepare the feast” and “creepy as hell.” Cody thinks Thanksgiving is a grotesque celebration of Native American genocide (can’t really argue with that), which makes such an exorbitant charade even more offensive. Director Marcus Dunstan makes a big deal of head “pilgrims” Ethan (Peter Giles) and Patience (Elyse Levesque) crossing the threshold into the home, their shoes with the big dumb buckles clomping on the floor, further confirming the veracity of Cody’s squeamishness. And do we hear a children’s choir on the soundtrack? NEVER TRUST A CHILDREN’S CHOIR ON THE SOUNDTRACK.
Ethan and Patience arrive a few days ahead of schedule, and Anna just goes with it. She doesn’t hear THE EERIE VOICES OF THE CHILDREN, obviously. She also doesn’t see Ethan make an O-face when he stomps an injured crow to death, or Patience thumping a butter churn with deeply unsettling aggressiveness. Soon enough, the grim ’grims are getting out the ol’ stockade, and this heavily moneyed family is learning a harsh lesson in thankfulness.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Pilgrim employs more than a little of that oh-so-fun crazy-cult Midsommar/Wicker Man vibe. And there’s one scene that reminded me of That Scene from The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, for Pete’s sake. No, not that scene, or the other scene, because I know it has many insane scenes, but That Scene. The one inspiring a very distinctive churn-o’-the-guts. Yeah. That one.
Performance Worth Watching: Let’s give the PWW award to Edwards for anchoring this admirably unhinged movie with the forthrightness it really needs. Especially when compared to Giles, who consumes the scenery like a good villain, and Levesque, who’s wonderfully deranged, and Henggeler, who wanders around like a dingbat looking for dingballs to hit off tees.
Memorable Dialogue: The two sides of Ethan, in two lines:
“The waters were so rough, he was sick in his own buckle hat!”
“YOU BEST GET TO SHUCKING!”
Sex and Skin: None. TBSCWWHTF: Too Busy Shucking Corn While Weeping Hysterically To F—.
Our Take: When Pilgrim isn’t being funny, it’s being serious, which is just one way of saying it’s tonally inconsistent. Frankly, the movie is all over the road for a while, then bumps over the median, swerves past oncoming traffic and ends up in the woods way over yonder. It’s a wild critique of many things: Thanksgiving traditions. Upper-middle-class suburban life. Our obsession with technology. Fundamentalism. And overenthusiastic cosplayers, maybe. You can’t say it’s unambitious.
It’s also hard not to admire Dunstan’s audaciousness and willingness to flirt with bad taste — all while being a little annoyed with an overabundance of fisheye-lens shots and lens flare. So much lens flare. So many floating motes, reminding us that the camera is there, and maybe we shouldn’t take any of this too seriously. Especially the really super-gross stuff at the end, which you’ll kinda like and kinda hate at the same time.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Pilgrim is among the best Into the Dark entries because it’s willing to stir some shit, break some eggs and let the chips fall where they may.