‘Dark Tourist’ season 1: Radiates with some, implodes with others

Of the top 200 or more programs watched by Americans in the past year, 1 percent of them were documentaries. Two points can be derived from this statistic, documentary programs lack the content to draw in an audience and documentaries are not being promoted as a viable form of entertainment.

Documentaries provide insight into the unknown and allow a separated audience to become acquainted with something they would never see in their everyday life. Documentaries allow the individual to travel virtually through all continents and see how other people live across the expanse of the earth.

David Farrier’s “Dark Tourist” contradicts the usual documentary stereotype of being dull and boring. Not only is the content incredible, but Farrier, the documentarian, possesses the ability to find humor in the subtle oddities of a region without disrespecting the traditions or people themselves.

Tourists tend to flock to the streets of New York City, ancient ruins of Italy or pristine beaches of Jamaica. There is a subset of tourism that is solely devoted to an attraction toward the mysterious and macabre. Radiation, torture and voodoo are only some of the topics depicted in this Netlix special.

In each episode, Farrier leads a light hearted investigation into one of the phenomenons of human nature, called dark tourism. Most have experienced a general intrigue in activities such as attending a haunted house, researching the thought processes of a serial killer or driving into a bad neighborhood just for the thrill of it. This series expands on those brief moments and shows how far a person will go to get their hairs to stand on end.

Farrier inserts himself into the heart of a death-worshipping cult in Mexico, he takes a bus tour through the radiation filled ghost town in Fukushima, catches a tour of Columbia with notorious drug lord, Pablo Escobar’s hit man ‘Popeye’ and travels to Kazakhstan, the most nuked place in the world, to swim and fish in Atomic Lake.

Farrier makes two trips to the US where he participates in a bachelorette party at the birthplace of serial killer and cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer, attended a birthday party for a blood-drinking ‘real vampire’ in New Orleans and checked into the infamous McKamey Manor, where people pay to be abused and tortured.

“People have done the rollercoaster thing, they’ve done the theme parks. Now they’re like, ‘Waterboard me’,” Farrier said in an interview with Newshub. 

It sometimes feels like an advertisement to travel to some of these outrageous places. It seems like a lot of people are doing these exciting things and it might be fun to have that type of thrill.

In the same interview as mentioned above, Farrier was asked if he’d recommend any of the sites he visits in the series.

“No don’t do any of it. Do none of these things,” he said.  

Farrier told the press that he is now very concerned about the radiation he was exposed to at Fukushima. 

“I am going to get myself tested, I’m going to send my blood off to Australia where they can test for radiation,” Farrier said. 

He also went swimming, in the aforementioned Atomic Lake, formed after an atomic bomb went off, admitting that it was probably a “stupid” thing to do.

He met some Kazakhstanis who were fishing in the lake and he took part in a fish fry. Immediatly following, he began to worry about the radiation poisoning.

Farrier was genuinely scared for his life and rightly so. Radiation hazards are nothing to undermine. He sent his blood to the lab with hopes that he hasn’t contracted cancer from his excursion to Japan and Kazakhstan.

Some audiences were not pleased with the show saying it was offensive to some of the cultures he visited. Some felt as if Farrier lacked empathy for the “slum-like” cities and was simply there to view and judge the locals. Not once did he make a claim that someone was doing something wrong, he was in a sort of culture shock from seeing the bizarre traditions that he had been abruptly exposed to. 

It seems noteworthy that Farrier worked as a news reporter for New Zealand. He wasn’t trained as a sociologist or anthropologist but rather someone who was an eye witness for events and relayed what was happening directly as he saw it. 

“Ive been forced out of my comfort zone and it has made me even more happy to be alive,” he said. 

This doesn’t sound like somone who is taking advantage of other people, but rather a man just trying to live his best life.

I don’t see myself going to any radiation sites any time soon, but I would like to see some more of what Farrier does in the rumored season two of the docuseries. Season 1 was released this summer so if anything new will be released, it won’t be for a while. 

With an estimated budget of 4 million, each additional season should not be too hard for Netflix to support. It all depends on the viewership. 

Farrier also has to come up with location ideas, make reliable contact with any local primary sources and then traverse around the globe. 

Since the videography is so breathtaking, post-production has to be a large undertaking for Farrier and his camera crew.

What “Dark Tourist” occasionally lacks in substance is made up wholly by Farrier’s charisma. If you like a quirky, witty and original program, “Dark Tourist” is your ticket for catharsis and amusement.