Warning: Some spoilers for Into the Dark: Treehouse below.
Hulu and Blumhouse's holiday-themed horror film anthology series Into the Dark has tackled deadly elevators and killer Instagram influencers. Its film for March, pegged to the month's celebration of International Women's Day, navigates the horror of male entitlement — and very much declares that "time's up."
Directed by A Million Little Things star James Roday (The Resident, Rosewood), Into the Dark: Treehouse is a tale plucked from the era of #MeToo headlines. Here, Jimmi Simpson plays Peter Rake, a celebrity chef with more than a few sexual harassment stories under his belt. When Peter returns to his childhood home to recover from yet another tabloid scandal, he befriends the bridal party celebrating next door, only for it to become clear that the bridesmaids are more interested in making him pay for his crimes against women than in partying.
There is a reason: the women at the center of Treehouse are witches who believe in the power of sisterhood — and in making sure that Peter doesn't hurt another person. As the night devolves into something resembling Suspiria, Peter grapples with his warped perspective of his indiscretions, from which his money and male privilege have allowed him to escape punishment.
"I had an idea for this movie for years, well before #MeToo and Time’s Up," Roday tells Refinery29 over the phone. "The genesis was having a lot of really good friends who are women, and listening to their stories of social injustice, normalized unacceptable sexual behavior, and toxic masculinity, and feeling like I wish I could do something other than pat them on the back and carry a sign twice a year."
Roday got serious about putting together a crew of women (one of whom is Julianna Guill, who produces and stars in Treehouse) because, as he puts it, one of his greatest fears in making the film was "being a dude commenting on this movement and where we are as a society...and getting it wrong."
"We hired all women department heads to make this movie, from design to editing to composing," Roday tells me. "It is so easy and simple it is to populate a film set with talented women because there are so many of them."
Ultimately, Treehouse makes a bold decision not to go where many rape revenge films have gone before by killing the villain. Yes, Roday makes sure that Peter is good and terrorized by the end of the chapter — it is a horror film, after all — but the final twist is particularly smart. Punishment alone was never the intention of these "witches," who are no more than women with some clever party tricks up their sleeves. Their goal was to make Peter believe witches were perpetually watching him so that he would never misbehave at a woman's expense again.
Mary McCormack, who plays one of the faux-witches in the film, "loved" the ending, in part because it represents new laws that can be put in place to remind men that sexual misconduct is never okay.
"For real change to happen on this issue, it’s going to take generations because we have to deprogram, and talk to our little girls and boys differently from the start," McCormack, who also stars on ABC's The Kids Are Alright, tells Refinery29 over the phone. "I would argue that, in the meantime, we should [try to bring change] by any means necessary."
Roday says that he consulted with the women in his life before he decided to go with this ending, landing on a choice that these women said was best representative of how they want to move forward in the wake of the sexual misconduct scandals making headlines.
"In order to affect change and in order to push the needle, we can’t just go around condemning everybody," Roday says. "[Women] can think big picture. There is a very specific type of man that generally comes from a specific background — and those are the guys that need to wake up. Let’s help them wake up."
Like the women at the center of Treehouse, McCormack understands that a little anger (or a lot of it) is exactly what the world needs right now.
"I think a lot of men feel scared by this time, because change is scary. There’s certainly a lot of anger in it, because the movement is fueled by people being pissed off. No social change comes without a lot of fear and resistance and fighting through it."
Into the Dark: Treehouse hits Hulu on March 1. Check out the trailer below.
If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).