“Into the Dark: Blood Moon” technically ends the second season of the Hulu series of original films as it’s the 24th episode, although that sophomore outing was made longer by the pandemic. It’s a frustrating and yet somewhat fitting chapter to close a season of early highs (“Into the Dark: Pilgrim” and “Into the Dark: A Nasty Piece of Work”) and then a series of modest misfires (read reviews of all 24 films here by yours truly, someone who had no idea really what he was getting into when he volunteered for this gig). However excited I was for its return, the two films to end this season—“Into the Dark: Tentacles” and “Into the Dark: Blood Moon,” premiering today—have only reminded me of the biggest weaknesses of this series. These films often start with an intriguing premise but then don’t do enough work after that conceptual phase to make their ideas into something effective. They often bury a strong performance in a project that doesn’t seem to know what to do with it. And they almost all make me miss “Masters of Horror,” an anthology show in which creative voices didn’t have to stretch 40-minute ideas to an 80-minute runtime.
The better TV comparison here may be one of the many genre shows that have come and gone on The CW over the years, as "Blood Moon" feels like a two-part pilot for a series that will never come. A woman named Esme (Megalyn Echikunwoke) is on the run with her son Luna (Yonas Kibreab), living on the edge of society for a special reason. When she gets to her newest habitation, she buys the parts needed at a hardware store to erect a cage in her basement. Why? Well, it’s no real spoiler to say that the child named Luna has a bit of a problem related to the moon, and most of Esme’s existence seems to center on both protecting him and protecting people from him.
Esme gets a job at a local watering hole run by the charming Sam (Joshua Dov) and is harassed by the local law (Gareth Williams), but her character is frustratingly non-existent. She’s the “gritty, determined single mother,” and Echikunwoke is up for that challenge for sure—her committed work is easily the best thing about “Blood Moon”—and yet writer Adam Mason and director Emma Tammi ("The Wind") never gave her depth beyond that, and it’s particularly frustrating considering how much she could have delivered. Esme is our way into this film and she needs to have the dimensionality and character that's so lacking here.
It doesn’t help that “Blood Moon” is a serious slow burn that takes too long to get to the end of its fuse, which is itself unsatisfying. It’s one thing to delay monster movie gratification—it’s quite another to never actually give it. “Blood Moon” ultimately has no teeth. It doesn’t say enough about life as a single mother with a uniquely troubled child, despite Echikunwoke’s best efforts in that regard. It’s not thrilling as a horror movie, and it has no cinematic weight.
So many episodes of “Into the Dark” admittedly have strong premises, but the series has revealed how little that can matter in the end. It’s how you celebrate the holiday that matters, not just that you take the day off work.
On Hulu today, March 26th.