Dark is Germany’s answer to Stranger Things, but without the homage humour.
There are tropes throughout: teens wandering along a railway track, an ominous factory seemingly linked to strange happenings, spooky caves, missing kids, dead birds, flickering lights and a lot of torches.
Add to that a lot of jacket hoods and there is no escaping the moody forest of Winden.
The series opens with hints about the past, present & future being connected by an endless circle and a distressing scene from June 2019 when a man hangs himself in the top floor of his rural home. But he leaves a note warning the recipient, not to open it until several months later.
He turns out to be father of Jonas (Louis Hofmann) who struggles to deal with the suicide and lack of explanation. Given her son’s sensitivity his mother keeps her clandestine relationship with local detective Ulrich (Oliver Masucci).
Amid such grim stuff the town is reeling from the case of a missing teen, Erik, for the past two weeks. The high school is in turmoil and local hotelier Regina (Deborah Kaufmann) has no guests.
When Jonas and his teen friends decide to go looking for Erik’s hidden stash in the forest, things get a lot worse.
But there’s more surrounding Ulrich, whose own brother Mads disappeared in the 1980s and nobody seems to take much notice of the wandering psychotic warning everybody, “It’s going to happen again!”
The forest setting makes for a chilly, brooding tale, with two giant nuclear power station stacks looming large.
Whilst the cast commit to this ominous story by Baran bo Odar and Jantje Friese, there’s not a great deal of levity to be found and the direction is somewhat indecisive about whether this is a shocker or a slow-burn. At times you will feel like you have dipped into Stranger Things, The Returned or Scandinavian drama. I suspect the subtitles and lack of humour will probably prevent it from winning a broad audience.
Yet the sum of the parts manages to somehow make a whole that will lend itself to binge viewing and probably generate some word of mouth and the central theme, “The question isn’t how, the question is when?” does bring a point of difference.
Dark premieres Friday December 1 on Netflix.