Wednesday, January 6, 2016

TV Review: Darknet (Season 1)

Darknet (Season 1) (Review)
Canada/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"There are moments in this series that were amazing, then there were the moments that were disappointing."

A horror anthology series based on a website called "Darknet," which allows users to share videos and ask questions about the macabre...

Darknet is a horror anthology series revolving around the titular website. Each episode, except for the fifth, tells several short stories, which are often masterfully woven together for some surprise endings. The stories range from a creepy phone installer inadvertently terrorizing an already unnerved woman, a suicide hotline caller with horrifying messages, an office worker who is emailed videos of people being murdered, and everything in between. For the most part, the series sticks to the realm of human terror – don't expect zombies or ghosts to grab you. I generally enjoyed most of the stories, despite some glaring issues. However, I should note, I am a sucker for horror anthologies. The season leads to an ambiguous ending – you can either take it as a teaser for a future season or as something a bit more symbolic. (I thought it was more of the latter.)

I loved how some of these stories were seamlessly connected. It created a sense of mystery and an ominous atmosphere through its storytelling. It keeps you on edge, trying to guess how these stories will connect – and it was often surprising. The second episode, for example, is probably one of my favorites. The ending was chilling. The twisted storytelling, interesting stories, and suspense are great; there's also plenty of gore for gorehounds. As a horror anthology, it covers most bases in human terror. However, most of the episodes after the second are actually fairly straightforward. There are still several stories per episode, except for episode five, but most of the stories don't link. And, even when they do link, it just doesn't feel as clever as the earlier episodes.

I understand the series isn't grounded in reality, but some of these episodes also left me saying: "What?" These endings felt like they were written on a whim, like if the writer had given up. (Episode 3 still has me rather baffled for the wrong reasons.) It's not just the endings, though. At times, the stories just feel so illogical and contrived. Like I said, I don't expect 100% realism in my horror, but I would have liked something a bit more natural. When the illogical characters and plot contrivances stick out like sore thumbs, it really takes you out of the experience. Although senseless violence is common, some of this was just ludicrous. Regardless of the issues, there were still moments that I genuinely enjoyed and the stories were still good. I had mixed-feelings, but most of those feelings were good.

The acting was mostly decent, occasionally great. Some of the cast was very stiff in their delivery, though. It was something like: "I. Am. A. Robot. Please. Don't. Kill. Me." (<- Read that in a robot voice, will ya? I can't convey it through words.) There is a lack of conviction from some of the actors, which makes the delivery less fluid and more artificial. Otherwise, the series is technically well-made. The cinematography is good, the camerawork is more than serviceable, and the special effects are strong. From what I understand, each episode was helmed by a different director. All of the episodes were well-crafted, creating moderate suspense and developing an ominous atmosphere. The writing ranges from superb to barely decent. Some of the writing is masterful, weaving stories together while crafting pure dread; other stories feel underwhelming due to glaring plot contrivances and illogical characters/choices.

Overall, Darknet is a very good horror anthology series. There are moments in this series that were amazing, then there were the moments that were disappointing. Thanks to the direction, however, most of the series in an enjoyable ride through the macabre. If you love horror anthologies as much as I do, you're probably as forgiving as I am, so you'll likely enjoy this series. It's not on par with Twilight Zone, my favorite anthology series, or Japan's Tales of Terror from Tokyo and All Over Japan, which is another excellent short story horror series, but it is a great time-killer.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and gore, nudity.

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