Hulu’s Into the Dark
Season 1, Episode 5: “Down”
Directed by Daniel Stamm
Written by Kent Kubena
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “New Year, New You” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Treehouse” – click here
On a rainy night, the day prior to Valentine’s Day, an office building is shut down for the evening. Long weekend, too. V-Day and President’s Day are giving people a “perfect storm” and much needed break from the capitalist grindstone, aside from a few lingering employees. Like Jennifer (Natalie Martinez), who’s planning to fly out to New York later, and a well dressed dude called Guy (Matt Lauria) with a bottle of wine and big plans. They get on the elevator at different floors – her on the 49th, him on the 42nd – headed for underground parking.
Right on cue, as they go below ground, the elevator stops. Nothing seems to be working when they try using the emergency call. Only auxiliary power’s on, not the main electricity itself. They can’t get any service on their cell phones, either. They try not to panic, passing time with idle chitchat. After a bit they look for an escape hatch in the ceiling, finding nothing. They’re frustrated, but keep their spirits up by laughing a little.
Eventually Jennifer has to pee, and it’s awkward. She really doesn’t want to squat in front of this random dude with whom she’s trapped. He has no problem: “Take your space over there and go mark your territory.” He actually offers his jacket to urinate on. She’d rather take her chance with the empty thermos in her bag.
Could be worse. She’s not stuck with a horrorshow of a dude— not yet, anyway.
They talk more. Jennifer tells Guy about her original plans for V-Day. She wanted to surprise somebody in NY. This prompts Guy to uncork the wine so they can unwind while they’re trapped indefinitely. They draw caricatures of one another. After some time Guy admits he’s seen Jennifer around the building, hoping she won’t feel he was stalker-ish. He’s infatuated. No big deal, right?
The conversation comes around to sex. They record themselves. Guy turns the camera on Jennifer while she recounts one of her wildest sex stories, involving an old boyfriend in the school library and “trashy novels.” She then turns the camera on Guy, who doesn’t have much of a crazy sex story. She tells him to make something up. He goes on about an “Amazon goddess” at the office, a work picnic, and dives into the fantasy, albeit not too well. He begins to blush and get hard, admitting to it, and apologising.
Jennifer’s not worried. She and Guy share a kiss. Things go further, fast. They undress and fuck. She’s weirded out when they’re done and he says: “I could fall in love with you.” Nicole reveals she was intending to go to NY to see her ex-fiancee, hoping they could work everything out. This remains her plan. Doesn’t look like what Guy’s male ego hoped to hear. Like too many men, he takes sex as an automatic invitation to something more, expecting a relationship, whereas she only wanted a casual fuck. It isn’t her fault he’s been watching her, thinking it’s “fate” they’re stuck together.
“Happy fucking Valentine’s Day, Jenn.”
Guy now reveals he didn’t just see Jennifer around there by chance. He’s actually been stalking her a long time. He knows her schedule. He’s manipulated her into getting trapped with him, tricking her into sex (a.k.a sexual assault). He’s the building’s security guard and feels “fucking invisible” to everyone. Another angry man who feels entitled to the attention of others, particularly women. He’s an ugly microcosm of our gender— of all the misogynist men who view the female body as an entitlement they’re owed. The situation gets crazier after Jennifer accidentally breaks the elevator key the psycho has, then bloodies him, getting knocked unconscious for her efforts.
When they’re both awake and upright again, Guy says he’s been to prison. He goes mental, slamming things around the elevator, screaming about their brief fling. She’s stuck with an absolute male monster. In this sense, “Down” is the epitome of a woman’s worst nightmare, like a metaphor of an abusive relationship in which a woman is trapped with a man she thought she knew, only to find he’s a horrifying madman.
After another bit Guy looks for a way out through the ceiling again, getting a panel open by smashing through. He wants to go up, but Jennifer doesn’t want to be stuck at his every whim. He doesn’t trust her to come back. She convinces him to let her go, then gives him the finger, intending to leave him behind. She climbs up through the building while he rigs up a pulley with his shirt to get out of the elevator. Before she can climb further she’s grabbed by Guy, who pulls them down. They crash through into the elevator once more.
Jennifer uses the time when Guy’s knocked out to trigger the fire alarm. She lights some paper, wafting smoke upward. When he wakes she gives him a broke nose and ties his hands. Afterwards, she decides she’ll use the lighter and cigar cutter to do surgery on her hideous captor, though stops when he pleads desperately. She gets video to make sure it is’t a he-said/she-said situation after they get out. She wants justice. Guy admits his name is John Deakins, recounting for the camera what he did to lure Jennifer. He claims he had a great life prior to a drunk driving accident that led to the death of a woman, which is why he’s now a security guard. A sob story from an entitled prick who ruined someone else’s life and somehow believes it was HIS life that ultimately got ruined.
Time passes and the pair remain trapped. At the office, Eddie (Arnie Pantoja) – another security guard – arrives to show his lady friend Ruby (Christina Leone) the view from the rooftop. He can’t find Deakins, so he takes a look around for his co-worker. Eddie sees the cameras and calls to the elevator, speaking to Jennifer through the intercom. He heads down to let them out manually. But John won’t allow it. He lures Eddie into the elevator and turns it on, squashing his co-worker between floors.
Deakins drags Jennifer to his car, tosses his bloody clothes, and piles Eddie’s corpse into a stack. He cleans up in the washroom then gets back into a security uniform. He makes sure to delete all the security footage. He doesn’t know Ruby’s there waiting, leaving him with another person to kill and drop down the elevator shaft.
When Deakins goes to dump and burn evidence, he’s blindsided by Jennifer, who cracks him with a gas can and takes off in his car. She decides not to just speed away. She puts the car in reverse, forcing Deakins into a dumpster, which she crashes into it at high speed. He gets a piece of steel through the gut. She leaves him to bleed out. Not before tossing a lit cigar in there to ignite the gas he poured. THAT’S RIGHT, GIRL! No walking away from a brutal man like that.
What an episode! Father Gore’s favourite from Into the Dark yet. The premise was so simple, compared to some of the others, and it works on many levels, from the basic what you see is what you get, to the deeper analogy about how women have to deal with terror even after a quick, casual hookup. Lots of great stuff here.
“Treehouse” comes to us next month.