Into the Dark is a spectacular collaboration between Hulu and genre giant Blumhouse. It’s a horror anthology series that manages to visit most of the major holidays in a horrific fashion. Instead of most anthology series, though, the episodes are feature length. Giving us nine movies (so far) that give us a different perspective on being festive. For Father’s Day, we have They Come Knocking. Written by Shane and Carey Van Dyke and directed by Adam Mason (who also directed the brilliant April Fools’ Day entry into the series I’m Just F*cking With You), They Come Knocking is a harrowing tale of grief, loss, and demon children with terrifying masks..uh…I mean faces? Mask Faces?
Nathan Singer (Clayne Crawford) is a widower, and single father left to care for his daughters after his wife’s death. One of his daughters, Maggie (Lia McHugh) is a young precocious child who is totally sympatico with her father. The other one, Clair (Josephine Langford), is a teenager, who wants nothing to do with anyone in her family. The three of them are on a road trip to spread Val’s ashes where Nathan proposed to her years ago. At first, we don’t know how she died but through a series of flashbacks, we find out she had cancer, and all the background to set the scene for the truly horrifying experience Nathan and his daughters have in store.
“The three of them are on a road trip to spread Val’s ashes where Nathan proposed to her years ago.”
Nathan proposed to Val (Robyn Lively) out in the middle of the desert, where there’s no phone signal, no other people, no nothing. The family has an Airstream trailer attached to their pickup truck, and that’s where they plan on staying during this ritual that’s happening a year after Val’s death. Clair travels in the airstream while driving, to stay away from her sister and father. Over time we figure out that she’s not just possessed by the usual teen angst, but that she and her mother had an argument right before Val became ill and Clair can’t seem to forgive herself for it.
The first night in the trailer doesn’t pass by without incident. Clair has seen glimpses of a small child in a blue hoodie a couple of times throughout the trip but dismissed them as her seeing things. The first night in the trailer, though, everyone gets to meet this kid. At first, Clair thinks she sees someone on the roof of the trailer, calls her dad in, and when he gets there, of course, the kid has disappeared. Next thing you know, there’s a knock on the door. The knocking gets stronger and stronger, and Nathan tells the kid that they have a gun in the trailer (they don’t). The kid wants to come in, and Nathan tells the kid it’s too late. It’s not long before we find out that there’s not just one kid in a hoodie, but several. And since they weren’t let in the night before, in the morning, the truck’s engine has been tampered with, and the family can’t leave. The rest of the film focuses on the family escaping this desert hellscape, where these supernatural children play mind games with everyone, making all of them think that Val is back with them. It turns out that these horrible hellspawn don’t only want into the trailer, they want into the Singers’ minds and souls as well. They’ll play any tricks they can to make this happen, too.
“…Mason’s direction somehow makes a story about creepy supernatural kids in hoodies torturing a family seem real.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but two of the scariest things to me are masks, especially when they shouldn’t really be creepy but the face behind them lends an ominous tone and evil kids. Something about tiny fonts of evil behind the face of a seemingly innocent child will forever give me the creeps. There is plenty of moment where both of these elements mix together in a way that could give someone who hasn’t seen countless horror movies nightmares. Like most horror films, though, They Come Knocking is not really about the evil kids, the ghosts, the guns, or any of that. It’s about grief and letting go of it. The children are the manifestation of the family’s grief, and only letting go can save the Singers.
Clayne Crawford and Josephine Langford are great as Nathan and Clair, but to me, the most impressive acting in this film/episode came from the youngest actor of the bunch, Lia McHugh. Her turn as Maggie is so convincing and heart wrenching it will affect me for weeks to come, if not longer. The script by Shane and Carey Van Dyke is beautifully horrifying, and Adam Mason’s direction somehow makes a story about creepy supernatural kids in hoodies torturing a family seem real. I highly recommend watching They Come Knocking when it’s released on Hulu, in addition to all the other Into The Dark episodes. Jason Blum has a good thing going with the series, and I hope it continues through another year of holidays.
Into The Dark: They Come Knocking (2019) Written by Shane and Carey Van Dyke. Directed by Adam Mason. Starring Clayne Crawford, Josephine Langford, Lia McHugh, Robyn Lively, Christian Roberts, Viktoriya Dov
9 out of 10 stars