By: Kayla Caldwell
POOKA LIVES is the latest installment in Blumhouse Television and Hulu’s Into the Dark series. It follows the beloved little devil Pooka, for a sequel that’s Slender Man (if it had been good) meets Child’s Play. Read our full review here.
We were lucky enough to chat with two of the film’s stars, Felicia Day and Jonah Ray. Day stars as Molly, a wonderfully whimsical believer in all things supernatural, while Ray plays her more realistic (yet still goofy) partner, Matt. We spoke with them about urban legends, how they got into character, and their takeaways from POOKA LIVES.
How did you get involved with POOKA LIVES? Were you a fan of the original?
Felicia Day: I have a very weird way of this, Ryan Copple, my writing partner, actually wrote the script. And he was like, “I wrote a part for you in this. I hope you want to do it!” I read it, and I was like, “Oh my god, this is an amazing part. I love it. I love the tone of this movie. It’s totally in my alley, and let’s do it." I was able to come on very early in the process as a producer, and as an actor.
Jonah Ray: I hadn’t seen the original. I didn’t watch it until I got the email for the part… It was exciting because Nacho Vigalondo, who directed the first one, I’m a huge fan of his work, Open Windows and, of course, Timecrimes, one of the best time travel movies ever. Also, Jon Daly, who is an old friend of mine from the comedy scene, is also in Pooka! so it was exciting to get to watch that.
Molly is super into mysticism, but Matt doesn’t believe at all. Do you relate to your character in that way?
Felicia Day: I am not so much that. I’m a skeptic. I’m certainly somebody who needs a little bit more science. I tend to believe in fairies a little bit more than the average person should. So I probably have aspects of both, but I’m certainly not the woo woo, sort of person Molly is, which is why it was so fun to play her.
Jonah Ray: I’m very close to Matt’s point of view. My wife, she believes in ghosts, and I don’t, really. She’ll say stuff like, “Everything happens for a reason,” and I’ll say, “Life is chaos, and we can’t control anything.” So I was very much able to pull a lot of my feelings towards the supernatural on this. And it was fun to play someone who denies it as much as he can. Then, when confronted with it, is the one who falls apart the fastest, is the most confused, and is the weakest of the bunch.
How did you get into character? Did you watch any particular movies for inspiration?
Felicia Day: You know, it was mostly the camaraderie between me and the other actors that was the core. We worked a lot on the backstory, about how Molly related to her friends, and how they interacted in high school. So that dynamic really kind of keyed in the way that I played her.
I think the concept of the group was really important, and in grounding her as sort of the motherly character in the group, the person who really was the one who organized all the activities, that helped me to sort of develop her character.
To me, it feels like another episode of Supernatural. It’s not a psychological horror. It’s an action horror comedy, which I think is really hard to nail the tone of, but it does it really well. It was already in my zeitgeist. I’m always the funny sidekick in sort of the Buffy’s, the Supernaturals.
Jonah Ray: I wanted to be more realistic. When you’re a comedic actor, a lot of times, the parts you get, you know, you’re funny, because you’re an idiot. And I wanted some of that, but I also watched a lot of Steve Zahn movies to prepare, because he’s legitimately a funny guy. The characters he plays are funny.
Are you normally a horror fan?
Felicia Day: I have to tell you, I was so creeped out as a kid, constantly, that it took very little. One time, I was haunted by a flower. It was just a bud, and then I turned my head, and turned back, and it had opened into a flower. I was like, “How did that happen?” I can remember the horror of this flower.
So that’s how dorky and nervous I was as a child. A flower haunted me - that damn dandelion! I have no tolerance for anything horrible. I am the wimpiest wimp of wimps. I have to be very careful about what I expose myself to if I ever, ever want to sleep.
I love the Guillermo del Toro sort of horror. Psychological horror, I will do, even though it traumatizes me, but anything that’s more gory, I totally avoid - unless it’s Evil Dead, because I eat that stuff up. That’s why I like this, the over-the-top sort of Scream vibe. I just can’t have it take itself too seriously — like, Saw, will never happen.
Jonah Ray: I am a huge diehard horror nerd. I’ve been obsessed with it since I was a kid. I subscribe to Shudder. I have a subscription to Fangoria. I love horror movies, because they make me feel good, because it’s the same thing as a roller coaster. It’s safe danger.
This might sound silly to some people, but I feel that a lot about going to punk rock and hardcore shows when I was young, where you would mosh and slam dance. And it was, almost controlled, safe violence, because you know if you fell down, someone would pick you up. So it’s the illusion of real fear, that I think, is what makes me excited about it.
Were there any urban legends that really freaked you out as a kid?
Jonah Ray: Oh, I was born and raised in Hawaii, so there are tons of very spooky urban legends. There was the night marchers, essentially they were old, disgraced warriors that, I think the idea - I could be getting this completely wrong - they turned their backs on command and were then pushed off a mountaintop in a battle. Their souls marched through the towns, and if you are sleeping with your feet towards an open door, they can go in and pull your soul out of your body. If they don’t return it before you wake up, you will die.
There’s a woman in white. If you drive with pork in your car, over the old Pali Road, your car will stall, and then a woman in white will come and get you. There’s the Menehune, which have kind of become more funny, cute, and mysterious. But the original idea of the Menehune were these small Hawaiian people that will try to kill you. There’s a ton in Hawaii for sure.
When it comes to urban legends like “Bloody Mary,” or the ritual from POOKA LIVES, I wonder - what is the point of this challenge? Why even risk it?
Jonah Ray: Yeah, I think it’s … it kind of comes down to, and this might be a terrible take, but it comes down to showing yourself that you’re not scared, or you really don’t believe… It’s that, I want to do this so I can prove to people, I’m right and you’re wrong. It’s just bragging rights. Yeah, I did it. And I’m alive.
Since the internet plays such a big part in this movie, what is your least favorite internet trend?
Felicia Day: Oh my god, there’s so many of them. I don’t like pranking children. I feel really uncomfortable… I don’t like pranks in general. I find it mean-spirited. So that is the least of my vibe.
A theme in POOKA LIVES is that the bad things on the internet are coming true. What do you think is the takeaway from that?
Jonah Ray: The idea of the manifestation of information being easily made up and crowdsourced, and you can’t find where it began and can’t control where it’ll go. It really is something to be worried about, especially as we move forward and deep fakes keep getting better and better. It’s very scary to think about what the internet is capable of, because it’s never going to manifest itself…
There’s no question that it can easily lead to terrible things… Were there really people that were dressing up like clowns in the woods in Wisconsin to scare people? Or did some kids do that, take a picture, and then say, “Oh, we saw some people,” and then people actually started doing it. Then no one was sure if it was really happening or not.
Felicia Day: I’m the kind of person who started with old school internet, where I believe in the power of the internet to bring people together. Then things got dark. Right now, I think we’re seeing a resurgence of people connecting in real ways, and having personal connections, and educating themselves, and feeling accepted, and being enhanced by the internet, because we’re all in houses.
I think it’s kind of great, because this movie is about somebody kind of rekindling their roots, and finding strength out of the trauma that the internet has put on them. Their friends get them through. I love that analogy. It seems like the perfect movie to be releasing right now.
Yes. And the big thing is, while websites like Twitter can be toxic and negative, you have to be diligent about curating. That’s what makes it a better space.
Felicia Day: Yeah, it’s almost like membership only. I have thousands of people blocked on Twitter over the years. At one time, I felt like I needed to please everybody, and I couldn’t block anybody. You have that sort of desperate thing, like, “I’ve gotta please everybody to be popular.” Once you let go of that, you’re like, “You know what, I’d rather have a thousand dedicated fans, than 10,000, where 2,000 are abusing me and each other.”
I found that the safer you make your community, the more people want to be there. You don’t want a restaurant where people just throw water in other people’s faces. Making sure that your online environment is healthy for you and everybody you love is very important.
Since this is the world we live in right now, what are some things you are doing to stay sane while we’re all stuck in quarantine?
Felicia Day: I mean, I have a three-year-old, so staying sane is a little bit hard right now. One hour of productivity is what I’m expecting of myself. I’m giving myself permission to not be as productive as I feel like I should be, because we’re all kind of living in trauma.
And I’m cooking a lot more. I’m reaching out to old friends a little bit more, which really shows you who really counts in your life. I’m streaming Twitch a lot more, just ‘cause my community gives me joy, and I love it. I’m trying to just do hobbies. If I want to play the mandolin today, I’m like, "all right, let’s do it." Retirement is awesome!
This movie is really fun, creepy but not in a way that’s too dark -
Felicia Day: I’m so glad you like it! I think people are going to like it. I think it’s the perfect tone. Nobody is going to be signing up for being traumatized right now. This is not the time.
The fun, action-packed, and totally not traumatizing POOKA LIVES is streaming now on Hulu.
All images courtesy of Blumhouse Television