‘Dark tourism’ is the travel to and exploration of locations which are historically related to demise or devastation. This variety of places are precisely what New Zealand-born journalist David Farrier planned to study when he embarked on the creation of his Netflix original documentary, Dark Tourist. Each of the series’ 8 episodes follow Farrier to a dark corner of the world in pursuit of the discovery of the most grisly and unearthly sites. From illegally crossing the Mexican border to the US, to touring Jeffrey Dahmer’s murder sites, undergoing a voodoo disciple rite, to trekking the infamous “suicide forest” of Japan, Dark Tourist covers them all.
Created for an audience fascinated with the gruesome and frightful subject matter of dark tourism, the show sets high standards for documentary fans. However, it soon becomes clear that the unparalleled premise of the series is let down by its own host. It’s as if Louis Theroux was unavailable, and so the producers settled for a constantly bored-looking, less entertaining version.
Farrier seems to lack appreciation for the once-in-a-lifetime chance he has received as host of the series to visit these incredible and surreal spots. One would have hoped to learn more about the essence and history of each of the locations that the show explores. Instead, the narrative majorly focuses on the distaste that Farrier seems to feel towards his experiences. With the premise of the show being the exploration of the weird, wonderful and downright terrifying, producers should have considered hiring a less ‘offend-able’ host, seeing as his dry humor can be somewhat infuriating.
Despite all of this, the researchers of Dark Tourist have done their job justice. The people and places investigated alone are enough to make this show an eye-opener. Episode 7, “Africa” is particularly compelling. Viewers are guaranteed to feel disturbed as they watch a demonic possession whilst exploring the ancient practice of voodoo in North Benin. The same can be said for the series finale, “Back in the USA”, in which Farrier interviews friends and fanatics of the serial killer and cult leader, Charles Manson.
For anyone intrigued by the abnormal or engrossed by the gruesome, this show is a true thrill to watch. As well as providing a platform for unreported cultures to educate viewers on foreign lifestyles and practices, it also holds the ability to truly inspire viewers to expand their horizons when travelling and to broaden their minds to the many undiscovered and obscure wonders of the world.
Illustration: Amy Moss