The Netflix series Dark Tourist is at equal parts lurid, voyeuristic, whimsical and emotional sometimes all at the same time.
One of my favorite parts of traveling is the situations you find yourself in. The stranger the situation the better the story but this series next levels the weird AirBnB you stayed in that one time.
A Dark Journalist
David Farrier, a journalist whose segments on NZ TV 3 Nightline and 3 News usually leaned towards the unusual gained international attention with his documentary movie Tickled, which dominated the festival set before getting picked up by HBO. If you haven’t seen Tickled it is really worth a look, just when you think it couldn’t get weirder it does.
At one point admitting he has been called “the cheap version of Louis Theroux” as an insult. There is a bit of Louis Theroux’s earnestness, but David does dig a little deeper as a journalist. Both lean into the weird but where Louis can be willfully dim, David seems honestly bewildered by the situations he finds himself in.
A World of Weirdness
Dark Tourist however takes this deep dive into sub-cultural oddities and goes globetrotting with it.
We journey with David as he experiences Latin American gangsters and exorcisms. A tour through Japans suicide forrest and highly irradiated “Hard to return to zone” in Fukushima.
Americas obsession with serial killers, Voodoo in Africa, rockets launching from the Cosmodrome and bathing in crater lakes from Russian nuclear bombs in Kazakhstan.
David literally puts himself in the middle of the story having some very close scrapes with danger, gangsters,the law and governments at various points in his travels.
It never feels reckless in his risk taking if anything David seems to be almost backing away from it.
Through a Mirror Darkly
Visually Dark Tourist is beautifully shot always looking for interesting ways of capturing the subject matter. Dark Tourist makes amazing use of drone footage more at home in a Planet Earth documentary than gonzo extreme tourism. It adds an otherworldly gods eye view to the South African drifters doing burnouts, or the marble coated trophy that is Turkmenistan’s capital.
At times it is oddly funny either as a reaction to the sheer absurdity of it or David Farrier’s wry observations. It is an entertaining watch but never feels sensationalized in the way it would have been if an American production company had done it to format.
Dark Tourist is worth a watch if you are interested in Louis Theroux’s eye for the weird and Anthony Bourdain’s cultural observations. There is a lot to like about this series.
Like a silent accomplice you become a Dark Tourist yourself by watching.
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