Ben’s Breakdown | Digital horror and storytelling lurks on the “Dark/Web”

Three friends, Ethan, Sam, and James, all from high school who have all drifted apart as adults, are brought back together after each receiving a puzzling horror short story. They’re all led to reuniting and when they compare notes they realize that the stories they’ve received are from another high school friend and classmate named Molly. They have also discovered now that Molly is missing. As they unravel the clues left to them in each of their stories they encounter a fourth person named Amy who is also looking for Molly. Amy is Molly’s girlfriend. They go searching for Molly, all the while looking at more horror short stories they happen to be receiving from Molly, with each story more horrifying than the last and each dealing with the darker side of technology. Molly got into something and now she needs help. The problem is, her friends aren’t the only ones looking for her.

Produced by brothers Michael (who helped write, direct, and acted in the series) and Tim Nardelli, along with Mario Miscione, Dark/Web is at times an extremely disturbing show filled with some darkly intense horror of varying types. It also has a peculiar narrative as the heart of almost every episode is a work of fiction that is allegedly a story written by Molly that she is sending to one of her friends. At first, these stories appear to have nothing in common, making the series to feel more like an anthology show. Despite that idea, each of the horror stories embedded in the episodes is as brilliant as it is different from one another. The fact that there doesn’t appear to be any connecting thread in the horror story content helps give support to the idea of it being an anthology, even though each of them is framed with a story arc about these friends who are trying to determine what happened to Molly. The horror stories themselves deal with ideas that are somewhat topical, if not socially relevant. In the first episode the horror short involves a taxi service similar to Lyft or Über, only this one is called Rideshare, and we are introduced to a form of A.I. as the app tells the driver all about the passengers he or she is picking up as well as the misdeeds and possible crimes they may have committed. Another story dealt with the horror of cannibalism, while probably the darkest of them all was somewhat presented as an indictment against cyber-bullying. Except for two episodes that dealt with flashbacks about Molly and her job as a computer programmer, each of these episodes is essentially a vehicle to tell this wide assortment of horror shorts. As strong as some of these were, by the time I got to the end of the 7th Chapter (each episode has its own chapter, with the first episode being Chapter 1, the second Chapter 2, etc.) I found myself becoming quite concerned that either there would be no connecting thread with each of the horror stories, or the symbolism would be so ridiculously deep that I would find myself pretty much alienated from the storytelling. Luckily that was not the case as the final episode did deliver a surprise that I did not see coming, which then presented for an opportunity to reveal one last detail explaining the nature of the stories and what brought them together. As the series started it was not so much the mystery of Molly that kept me engaged, but the horror stories being told, but as the series went on the mystery and misadventures that Molly’s friends found themselves in started to take center-stage making the story arc quite compelling!

The regular cast was quite good, but due to the relatively little screen time they received in each episode, the look that I need to give regarding the acting performances must be directed at each of the guest actors who comprise the horror short stories, and they were each absolutely wonderful. To highlight any one of them would be to shortchange the rest, which would be tragically unfair as each of those guest actors delivered some truly amazing performances. So then it becomes necessary to look at the returning cast members that make up the story arc, and again each one of them did a truly solid job, but it isn’t until the final chapter/episode where they make some unpleasant discoveries that they are finally given the chance to do some serious reaching. What was wonderful is that no one over-shadowed the other. Each cast member did a wonderful job but never over-shadowed any of the others. They were each perfectly balanced and counter-balanced against each other. Still, these episodes were not so much character-driven as they were for their plots.

The production values for each episode were incredibly strong, making this an enjoyable series to watch, especially given the fact that this is pretty much an independent production that was completely made before being sold to Amazon Prime. If there is a weakness it would be in the apparent lack of cohesiveness between each of the embedded horror stories. This does create the risk of viewers choosing to give up on watching the series before making it all the way through to the end, but for those viewers who choose to stick it out, they will be rewarded with the one detail that binds all of it together.

Dark/Web can be viewed on Amazon Prime.

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