Dark Tourist: A Netflix Original
From a nuclear lake to a haunted forest, New Zealand filmmaker and journalist David Farrier (‘Tickled’) visits unusual — and often macabre — tourism spots around the world.
Human beings are drawn to things that frighten us and make us sick to our stomachs. It’s why you slow down to see an accident or a disaster. It’s why your favorite TV shows might focus on serial killers, gruesome deaths, and unexplained disasters. We have created an entire film genre that focuses on our love of being scared. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the macabre is an American pastime. I’m guilty of it too. Most of my favorite things to watch are grizzly crime documentaries and haunting TV shows. Netflix’s Dark Tourist seemed to fit the bill. Here is my review of the show.
David Farrier, our host during this dark trip, manages to balance the seriousness of his destinations with humor that keeps the audience engaged. He appears to be knowledgeable, respectful, and empathetic when dealing with sensitive subjects. However, he is not the star of the show. The real stars are the people that he meets on his journeys, those truly dedicated to the macabre, and the stories that they have to tell. Their stories and interactions with the destinations are where the true magic comes from in this series.
This Netflix series is broken into 8 episodes, with each taking place in a different geographic region. These include Latin America, Japan, the United States (twice), the Stans, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Farrier’s adventures take him from Pablo Escobar’s lavish prison in Columbia to the Suicide Forest of Japan to a voodoo festival in Benin. These places and their histories may be familiar, but Farrier takes us on a deeper exploration that can be disturbing. Some of these destinations aren’t for everyone. Viewer discretion is definitely advised by Netflix and me!
My biggest issue with Dark Tourist is that they try to fit everything into the 40-minute episode. It takes away the emotional impacts of both the people we’re meeting and the places we’re visiting. One example of this is a conversation about Nazi memorabilia and what the acceptable levels might be. While the episode tries to create an emphasis on the debate, it gets no more than a shrug because there’s not enough time. Their series, primarily a second season if they get one, should focus on fewer destinations per episode to give the audience time to form a connection to what we’re seeing.
Overall, I think that Dark Tourist was an interesting divergence from some of Netflix’s original content. I think it was both effective, interesting, and worth the watch. While I enjoyed watching David Farrier explore these places, I will not be paying them a visit anytime soon. Would you be brave enough to go?