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‘Darknet’ strays from overdone horror tropes, uses unique scare tactics

By Devon Shuman, Senior Staff Writer

Of all the activities that are most popular during the Halloween season, watching scary movies might be one of the most enjoyable. There's nothing quite like the feeling of terror and satisfaction from staying up late, turning off the lights and popping in a horror movie.

In today's world, when series such as "American Horror Story" and "The Walking Dead" dominate ratings, horror shows are becoming just as popular as their cinematic counterparts. But, if you're too busy to binge an entire 13-hour season, or if you're simply looking for a change of pace, "Darknet" might be a good choice for a spooky screening this weekend.

Due to its short season and episodes, the Canadian anthology series is perfect for watching in quick bursts. Each half-hour episode is separate from the others, so instead of being tied down by long, linear narratives, viewers can pick and choose episodes that sound good.

If a season of "American Horror Story" is a novel, a season of "Darknet" is a collection of short stories.

Each episode features two or three seemingly separate stories involving characters in random horror situations. A female med student living alone begins to suspect someone else is living in her house. A man is led on a grisly scavenger hunt in his building's mailroom. A woman in a hotel room notices a sinister peeping tom across the street.

Every storyline throughout the season is connected in their relation to the Darknet, a website filled with videos of real life murders and forums regarding malevolent topics such as how to dispose of a body or how to purchase human organs.

One thing that is immediately noticeable about "Darknet" is the acting is horrible. The show is filled with the kinds of laughable performances typically reserved for infomercials, cheesy pornos and third-grade productions of "Annie." The viewer never gets sucked in - they are always very aware that what they are watching is fake.

But, let's be honest, nobody watches "A Nightmare on Elm Street" or "The Blair Witch Project" to figure out who's going to get an Oscar nomination. They subscribe to the horror genre for one reason - to get scared.

What "Darknet" lacks in good acting, it makes up for with exciting storytelling, intricate characters and, most importantly, pure terror.

What makes "Darknet" so frightening is its commitment to unique scaring methods. It doesn't rely on quick, jumpy scares and does away with old, overused horror movie tropes.

There's nobody who sees a suspicious individual from afar only to look away for a second and look back to see that they're nowhere in sight. There's nobody who closes their medicine cabinet and sees someone standing right behind them.

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The techniques used in "Darknet" are terrifying, refreshing and often quite creative. In the first episode, the female med student becomes suspicious that someone else is living in her apartment when she finds her toilet seat has been left up.

Additionally, "Darknet" creates fear through realistic human situations. There are no haunted houses, no supernatural specters and no superhuman masked killers. Every gruesome situation these characters find themselves in could conceivably happen in real life.

But, what really makes "Darknet" fun to watch is its sophisticated and complex storytelling.

Each episode follows a nonlinear timeline, jumping back and forth without explicitly letting the viewer know. While the multiple storylines and characters at first appear to be separate, they all end up being interconnected in some way. Like some twisted version of "Seinfeld," half the fun is trying to figure out how all the plotlines are going to come together in the end.

If you're sick and tired of the cheesy, predictable horror movies that are so popular nowadays, try taking a trip into the "Darknet."

The first season of "Darknet" is now streaming on Netflix.

3/5 stars