Review: Dark Tourist; A Netflix Original

Written By: Jarrett Crepeau

  Courtesy of Netflix

Courtesy of Netflix

Dark Tourist is a Netflix Original documentary series from New Zealand journalist David Farrier. He investigates dark tourist spots all over the world, from the hallowed radioactive grounds of Fukushima to touring La Catedral prison with Pablo Escobar’s number one hitman.

The eight-part series not only explores these dark places but also the people who seek them out.

After watching the show, it’s actually easy to see why people would want to explore these places; there’s something about the depraved nature of the areas Farrier visits that attracts thrill seekers from around the world.

One part of the series that stands out to me is the episode where he explores Kurchatov, Kazakhstan. Farrier and another dark tourist visit one of the Soviet Union’s nuclear test sites. It’s turned the area into a wasteland and is most well known for a crater where a lake formed, aptly named Atomic Lake. They find locals fishing in the lake, and even go for a swim. They also visit a nearby orphanage and witness what the radiation has done to people and how it will continue to affect locals for at least another century. Both of them are very troubled by what they see, and the viewer gets to see that while it may be a tourist spot to us, at the same time it's someone’s life. They live through it and have to experience it every day.

There are quite a few episodes like this which shed away the fun Travel Channel-esque narration and camera work and delve into real issues which have had a lasting effect on Farrier. We get to see the culture and the lives of people, whether it be people in New Orleans who believe they are vampires or the groups of people who follow Charles Manson and set up memorials in his honor. The curtain is peeled back and the weird and bizzare is on full display.

While David Farrier himself often has moral dilemmas and is frightened by some of the things he does on the show, it does make dark tourism look very appealing. For instance, he visited an abandoned concrete mining island in Japan which instantly peaked the curiosity of many online. Farrier was accompanied by two former residents of the island, now in their late 50’s, who were revisiting their childhood home for the first time. When the mine dried up in the late 70’s, it was almost as if people instantly vanished, leaving behind nearly everything, leaving the island to crumble into ruin. The winding, overgrown staircases lead all the way to the top of the island where the Shinto Temple stood in near perfect condition despite being empty for nearly five decades.

  Hashima Island, Creative Commons

Hashima Island, Creative Commons

All in all, Dark Tourist is an original series that turns travel shows upside down and allows the viewer to experience something completely new, things they would never see on cable TV. David Farrier takes us on adventure all over the world, exploring the weird, macabre, and the downright horrifying. When Farrier was asked about a second season, he said “it depends”  in an interview with the New Zealand Herald, and that the show has ruined his sleep schedule, which is an interesting turn of events. It feels almost as if he’s warning us about what delving into the world of dark tourism is like and what kind of toll it can take on someone mentally, physically, and emotionally.