WHAT’S STREAMING: Dark Tourist, Season 1

Taxi ride through Columbia

Dark Tourist hangs like a dark, earthy ornament carved of bone and drollery amongst the vast array of comedy shows on Netflix.  Our tour guide, David Farrier, seems to be an affable, thoughtful and gently curious man who despite seeing all the awfulness this world has to offer, stays open to what he’s experiencing. He is fallible. Sometimes awkward. And very dry. His humor seems to slip past many people he dips into the dark with.

He speaks to people who live in some sad/terrifying/strange places and walks through them with some fellow tourists who are as effected as he is and some who are just asinine. People who are drawn to dark things seem to range from sensitive and eloquent to laughing oafs who hold themselves separate from the very darkness they seek. When Farrier speaks to those who have lived in these places, he does so with respect for their experiences and rituals. “Tacky” was the summation of the tour of Dahmer haunts. Woo. Speaking to one of the lawyers who defended Dahmer provided Farrier with a drawing of the shrine Dahmer had made then played a tape of one of their interviews. Farrier and his companion were silently enthralled. “We’re all sickos, Natalie. That’s what I think.”

Oshima Island

Treading through the “suicide forest,” former combat zones, and crumbled houses where hundreds where killed in drug wars, Mr Farrier listens to many stories broken up by his thoughtful questions as he and visits places that in some cases haven’t been visited in many years. As a group of Japanese men return to a city on Oshima Island, a short boat ride off the coast of Nagasaki, after almost fifty years,they climb nine floors (“Watch your head there, watch your head!” followed by the sound of a hard hat hitting concrete and a small laugh) to get to the highest point in which an on the island to see a Shinto Temple. The men smile and laugh, bowing twice, clapping twice and bowing once more in respect. Farrier follows their example. 

There are tourist industries set up to cater to adrenaline junkies, disaster rubberneckers, people who adore the macabre, and lovers of the kinds of history that tends to get left out of the books.

For my ‘toe in the water’ experience, we go to Latin America. Currently, Mr Farrier is talking to Pablo Escobar’s former sicario who killed hundreds, including his own girlfriend at Escobar’s behest.

I’ve seen many mixed reviews for this series. Mr Farrier’s approach is open. He wants to understand the darkest parts of his fellow humans as he is in the midst of some of the darkest humans one can feasibly meet on camera. But the small amount of time that can be given to each place and it’s denizens gives the viewer a taste and makes one wonder if Mr Farrier would visit longer than filming an episode would take. Is he truly a ‘dark tourist?”

He takes steps back, eyes wide as what he is in the middle of sinks in. When he’s one on one, Mr Farrier is empathetic. When he is facing a crowd of darklings, he pulls back and goes into journalism mode. Before his trip to Indonesia, he’d never seen a dead body or the butchering of farm animals. Many of us are far removed from the reality of the life/death/life cycle. A large number of people on this earth experience it every day.

I briefly wondered if his squeamishness was an act. But he seems as fascinated as he is horrified. This I understand. What moves humans runs deep. And what runs the deepest, besides love, are fear and hatred and greed. The last three are showcased here.

I’m left wishing more time could be spent delving deeper and have much longer conversations with the more poignant traveling companions. This is like being given a buffet but being allowed only one plate for a room full of food.

The series, debuting on July 20th, explores the following areas:

  1. LATIN AMERICA – Pablo Escobar’s former stomping grounds, a death cult and a drug trade boot camp.
  2. JAPAN – Fukushima, Hotel with only Robot Staff, Aokigahara – Suicide Forest, Hashima Island (Battleship Island) off of Nagasaki.
  3. UNITED STATES – Vampires in New Orleans (two different groups, both seeking some kind of community), JFK assassination site(s) in Dallas (oh, the rampant tackiness), and trailing Dahmer through Milwaukee starting with the haunted Shaker’s Bar in Milwaukee.
  4. THE STANS – Kurdistan, Kazakhstan – The Polygonmost atomic bombed place on earth and an orphanage where the decades of effects high levels of radiation have had on local, abandoned children, Baikonur: home of the space program, Turkmenistan – Ashgabat.  The Gates of Hell are nearby.
  5. EUROPE – Kent, England – Paddock Wood, WWII Reenactment,  a “questionably tasteful”  Littledean Jail museum in Wales, Cyprus – Famagusta
  6. SOUTHEAST ASIA – Cambodia, shooting range in Phnom Pen with a massive array of guns, including a machine gun. Uh, you can shoot a cow. Our intrepid reported chose not to. Naypyidaw, MyanmarToraja, Indonesia for the funeral of a man who has been dead for two years.

Dark tourismbecame a thing in the year 2000. Professors John Lennon and Malcolm Foley, who published an article and then a book investigating the wide world of “tourist interest in recent death, disaster, and atrocity.” 

Books about the subject that aren’t exorbitantly priced.

DON’T GO THERE by Adam Fletcher

DARK TOURISM by Rebecca Bathory