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Darknet – Season One: The Review

Channel: Super Channel

Recurring Cast: Michelle Alexander, Carlyn Burchell, Cara Gee, Jeananne Goossen, Shaun Benson

Darknet is the kind of show that some viewers will hate. The best way to describe it is a horror anthology in every sense of the term. The thirty minute episodes jump from character to character each telling an isolated horror story. Some of them have nothing to do with the overall plot, while others are linked later on, either through a recurring character or some symbol. The fun is in trying to figure out the connection, if there is one, and being totally unaware what is going to happen next.

Those criticising this show sadly do hit home with a few of their points. It does suffer from constantly stopping and starting. The episodes are quite short and often have three different horror short films crammed into them, so no one really has time to develop. You never really get to know anyone here and after a while, the various actresses, despite being quite talented and being given interesting characters, all end up coming across as the same ‘terrified female victim’ stock character. Sometimes you just want one running character throughout the six episodes to keep the stories grounded, rather than the connections being quite so subtle. By the time, you hit the second half of the series, some of the novelty has worn off and it becomes a little harder to summon up much interest in yet another slow exploration into what horrors are real and which ones are in the mind. It doesn’t help that even when you are enjoying what you see, most of your reactions to certain twists and scares are ‘oooh, I like what they did there’, rather than anything more exhilarating. Episode Five shakes things up by being a fixed single storyline, allowing Carlyn Burchell to handle a story that fully explores what is going on around her. It is a nice change of pace and it is nice to see that Darknet has a few tricks up its sleeves.

While Darknet never feels like a full-formed series, the individual moments are worthy of praise. Stop thinking about the bigger picture and enjoy the moment, because Darknet does boast more than a few really good ideas. Some of the directors and writers that take part in this anthology have some interesting things to bring to the table. Some stories explore the imagined horror, yet without the lack of pay-off that usually comes with that premise. Certain moments shine with ingenuity. A breast implant surgery takes a horrific turn. A hospital patient finds herself trapped in a living nightmare. There are a few jump scares in Darknet, but most of the horror comes from the atmosphere hanging over this show. The good thing about each new character not being around for very long is that we watch each story, totally unable to guess where this particular chapter is going to end up. The one thing missing from the line-up is a supernatural villain, so the horror is very real and gritty. Anything that happens on this show could very feasibly happen in a real life scenario. The directors show us just enough of the murders to satisfy the audience (the show opens with a terrific intro), yet cut away, so we have to imagine the rest of the horror. There is also a wide range of directional styles, so there is something for every horror fan. We get home invasion horror, we get a slow unravelling of horrific clues and we get bloody murder. We even get a nice break from the scares for a few horror comedy chapters (full-on horror after full-on horror rarely works, after all). Shaun Benson’s character probably won me over the most because his two stories (one involving an encounter with his creepy doppelganger and another involving a mix-up with his prostitutes), are rip-roaringly funny, yet still keeping that creepy horror vibe we expect. They also, like most of the stories here, end in the most unexpected way imaginable, which is Darknet’s strongest card. This is more than a horror; it is a mystery show as well.

As a full-on series, I find it hard to review. There aren’t quite enough connections to make it anything more than a bunch of short movies stapled together. There are some clever links and enough to justify it being a series. But as the sixth episodes ends, you are longing for a little bit more. There needed to be a bigger pay-off. Yet at the same time, I cannot shake the feeling that Darknet is saving itself for a second season, meaning that the bigger story could still be at play. Darknet speeds along well enough, so it can hardly being accused of wasting anyone’s time (quite the opposite, in fact), and it boasts enough talent to win your patience. I eagerly wait the next move from the show, sure that whatever I suspect is going to happen next will be proven wrong in a horrifying and brilliant fashion.

Final Verdict: Darknet is essentially several short horror films given an excuse to be lumped together into a series, but the quality is consistent enough to applaud.

Three Stars