by Steven Wandling
Hulu’s Into the Dark horror holiday anthology series sees the streaming service teaming up with horror heavyweight production company Blumhouse (Get Out, Paranormal Activity). Since the series’ premiere last October, Into the Dark has become a haven for exciting new filmmakers like Chelsea Stardust (Satanic Panic) and Gigi Saul Guerrero (Into the Dark: Culture Shock, El Gigante). Though, as with most anthologies, results do vary, each entry has more often than not successfully shined a light on one of our society’s many ills in the way that only a genre film can do. Hannah McPhearson (Sickhouse), and her series entry Pure, can now be added to that list.
My biggest question going into Pure was what holiday exactly was the episode supposed to be commenting on? Turns out that the answer to that is something called Daughter’s Day, which occurs every September 22nd. As with all things Into the Dark, it’s a twisted tale with dark characters and surprising results. A big difference right off the bat is McPhearson and company don’t need to do all that much to make Daughter’s Day sinister.
I grew up in the coalfields of West Virginia, an area that is sadly still wrapped tightly up in the most bigoted interpretations of Christianity. I remember girls (and some boys) in my high school wearing purity rings and signing contracts to save their virginity as to remain pure for their one day husbands that they hadn’t even met yet. It always felt extremely subjugating, cultish, and borderline incestuous. McPhearson’s episode tackles this very culture head on, shining a spotlight on the ugliness of the men who use such methods to exert total control over their own daughters.
Daughter’s Day itself is supposedly meant to protect daughters from the evils of the world, but all it really does is blatantly suppress everything from a woman’s sexuality down to her choices in clothing. The father is to be upheld and essentially serviced like a God. Sound gross? Good news, you probably have a soul. Into the Dark: Pure takes down Daughter’s Day with the help of one of the most maligned figures in Christian history: Adam’s first lustful wife, Lilith.
Even though the film takes place at a weekend retreat that feels like a church camp on steroids, the entire affair has an almost Midsommar (2019) like pagan feel. Everything about the girls is meant to reflect their supposed inherent purity. They wear frilly white dresses (with white underwear only) and spend their days attending heinous sermons from Pastor Seth (Scott Porter), the organizer of the camp. Porter plays the weaselly Seth like a televangelist: he’s all smiles, handshakes, and worship on the surface, but there is a dark more sinister agenda just bubbling underneath.
The story centers around Shay (Jahkara J. Smith) and half-sister Jo (McKaley Miller)’s weekend Daughter’s Day retreat. Jo goes every year with her dad, but this is Shay’s first time along on this the picturesque outing. She only recently discovered that she even had a dad. They (supposedly) learned about one another at the same time. Apparently, men shockingly aren’t in any way held up to the same standards as women. I know that requires an almost insurmountable suspension of disbelief, but it’s there. In all seriousness, their father’s unchecked infidelity on Jo’s mom is but a microcosm of the degree to which men lord over their own daughters in Pure.
There’s something special about Shay though. From the very beginning of the episode, she is struck with visions of a sinister woman in white always waiting in the background. During one of Pastor Seth’s sermons addressing the need for daughters to be subservient to their fathers and remain virginal for their eventual husbands, he recounts the story of Adam’s first wife, Lilith. She was basically cast out of the garden of Eden for refusing to allow Adam to dominate her. Lilith was a woman so powerful that she would rather be cast out of paradise and defy her own creator then live as anyone’s slave.
Sex is boiling underneath the surface of the narrative in Pure, just in the same way that Lilith is hiding in Shay’s visions. Jo loves the story of Lilith and so, of course, it’s time to for youngsters to be youngsters and have a little fun by holding a seance to bring Lilith back to life. It is all in good fun, but the only problem is that it actually works. Now, imagine that you yourself are Lilith: a woman who was cast out of paradise, according to some legends, simply for wanting to express herself sexually in more than just a missionary position. Now, picture you’ve been resurrected by a group of strong yet trapped young women by a group of men claiming to speak for the same god that cast you out. Pretty pissed off right?
Pardon the pun, but slowly but surely after Lilith’s resurrection, all Hell breaks loose leading up to the Daughter’s Day reception. The vengeful spirit starts to mess with the goings on at the camp. During one especially disgusting sermon from Pastor Seth comparing a woman without her virginity to a piece of used gum to be thrown in the trash, a large cross abruptly falls off the wall. Secrets start to spill out that change the context of everything between Shay and her father, let alone the entire retreat itself. Eyes begin to open about what’s really going on and who is really in control.
Without spoiling too much, let’s just say that if there’s anything to be learned from Into the Dark: Pure, it’s don’t fuck with Lilith for one…especially if you like to control women. More importantly, the culture of religion dictating control over women in this society needs to end. It’s dangerous and only leads to ruin. Shay, Jo, and the rest of the girls in Pure are just regular young women trying to find their way through life. That’s hard enough without some gun-toting preacher and creepy, lustful father who maybe have the wrong idea about what is, and isn’t, unconditional love.
Into The Dark: Pure is currently streaming on Hulu. Thanks for reading! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for all your dark and lovely entertainment needs! Share this article with your horror loving friends too! If you’d like to write for us, shoot us a private message or DM on social media! Stay creepy!