By: Kayla Caldwell
Tara (Dana Drori) is running from something. Or someone. It’s not abundantly clear what’s going on in the beginning of TENTACLES, except that it vaguely reminds me of Se7en and that apartment Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow’s characters lived in that shook whenever the trains went by.
To be completely honest, I didn’t know much going into this viewing of TENTACLES, and now that I’ve seen it, I’m not sure my understanding is much clearer. But let’s get into it.
Tara arrives in Los Angeles, and can be seen sniffing her pits to check for freshness before heading into a boujie open house. That the’s non-verbal way of telling us she’s living in her car. The way she grabs a handful of chocolate chip cookies from the open house’s spread suggests she may have fallen on hard times — but we’ll later learn that’s not exactly the case.
It seemed initially like Tara was pulling a Sydney Fife (from I Love You, Man), just casing open houses for good spreads and possible hookups. In a sense, she was, as the second open house lead her to the gruff and troubled, yet charming Sam (Casey Deidrick). He’s frustrated because his real estate photographer gig is not the artsy endeavor he would like. But Tara likes a challenge.
The two have a salacious hookup in the house before falling into a full-on love affair. Seriously - they say I love you four months in. Is that normal? It feels fast, but maybe I’m just dating wrong. A proposal follows not long after, which seems wild but also, why not at this point? They're already living together as Tara fixes up Sam's parents' old house and somehow tries to make all of his career dreams come true while also maybe ruining his life? Everything else in Sam’s life seems to go by the wayside as he falls deeper and deeper in love with Tara.
Of course, that doesn’t mean everything is perfect. Tara is skittish. She gets randomly jumpy and, to be quite honest, is a bit of a liability with all the times she prepares to lunge at the door with a weapon, before seeing who is actually there. She has a large scar on her chest that she won’t speak about, which for some reason reminds me of that childhood spooky story where the woman always wears a green ribbon around her neck. That feeling wasn't wrong.
Tara’s behavior would be extremely odd if Sam weren’t so haunted himself, thanks to the recent deaths of both of his parents. Rather than confronting the weirdness, they embrace it, perhaps mistaking trauma bonding for true love. The weirdness continues.
Now there’s an old fiancé? Tara has a stalker named Grant (Evan Williams) and he is dangerous. Or is he? He tries to warn Sam, but he comes across so unhinged that it’s hard to blame the guy for not listening. Then there’s Sam’s best friend and business partner, Esther (Kasey Elise), who, of course, has a secret crush on Sam because that’s how male-female friendships work, right?
She also tries to warn Sam that - oh right, he doesn’t know this woman at all, and maybe he is moving too fast. However, the loving is too good or the trauma bonding is too strong, because Sam is stuck. At this point in the review you are probably thinking, “Hey, this movie is called TENTACLES, so… where are the tentacles?” And that would be a fair question.
This movie is clearly meant to be kind of a sci-fi sexual thriller, but it feels almost like the two genres were haphazardly put together — like when Emily tattooed a tree with roots that were octopus tentacles on Ink Master. It felt… unfinished? The best way to describe what happens next without completely spoiling it is that it felt a bit like Kaitlyn Dever’s episode of Monsterland had a baby with Jamie Chung’s episode of Lovecraft Country, and then threw in a splash of, well, Splash. There are also faint relations to Into the Dark’s St. Patrick’s day project, Crawlers.
This movie had me stressed and confused from the opening sequence until the very last word, which I will not write here, since Creepy Kingdom is a family-friendly site. Think the energy (yet not as much of the artistry, sorry!) of Uncut Gems, but used for a psycho-sexual thriller that will make you think twice before meeting up with that Tinder match.
I wonder how much of horror these days is merely a parable against casual sex and moving too quickly without getting to know someone. TENTACLES definitely leaves you wanting… something? I’m not sure if I would’ve liked more background on the mythos of the creature or more authentic-feeling connection between the two leads, but it felt like something was missing.
Deidrick does deserve props for the fight scenes and physicality of the role. I’d also like to give a shout out to closed captioning for putting a character’s name in quotations, thereby confirming the twisty-ness of the plot. All in all, TENTACLES isn't really for me. And that’s okay. Fans of body horror, sci-fi, and just generally feeling stressed, should check this baby out. It's streaming on Hulu now!
As for me, your resident Into the Dark fanatic, I’ll just be over here waiting for BLOOD MOON, which sounds way more like my cup of tea. Until next month!