Fantasy and horror are difficult genres to do well. From the need for special effects to the audience’s willingness to suspend their disbelief, writing stories for this category of film presents hurdles not faced when dealing with, say, comedy. If you’re going to throw a fireball, it better look good. Bad special effects stand out, particularly in the modern “let’s-make-everything-in-AfterEffects” era. And if people are going to be menacing and evil, they’d better be believably menacing and evil. If they fall short, the whole thing just feels silly. The Dark One, a horror/fantasy series starring, written and directed by John Dondero, does an excellent job of navigating these pitfalls.
Rather than spending a long time explaining the universe, or that, yes, magic is real, The Dark One catapults you immediately into a magical interrogation room, where an old man (with an incredible mustache) is being put to the question. When he proves less than forthcoming with his information, his interrogator (clearly a bad guy, but viewers are left to wonder if he’s The Dark One?) turns the old man’s blood to acid. You know, no big deal. The scene, accomplished with a flash, some smoke, and some suitably horrifying screaming from the now-exprisoner, doesn’t require much in the way of effects, which sets a tone for much of the magic used in the series. The effects are present when they are needed, but the use is sparing. This was an intelligent choice.
The show’s production values improve a great deal over the course of the show’s two seasons. It’s clear, particularly in the early episodes, that the production team was working with a smaller budget than they would have liked, but they’ve done an wonderful job with what they had, and created a show that is entertaining and engaging and peppered with moments of genuine horror.
Dondero does an excellent job in his role as the film’s murderous magical villain. His henchpeople, particularly Taylor-Grace Davis and Darren W. Conrad‘s “Bella and Brick” do a fine job of henching. Our hero, Michelle Smith (Brandi Alysa Young) is believably heroic, confused, and overwhelmed by her destiny.
All told, it’s a really fun series, and we look forward to seeing more of it in the future. Check out The Dark One on YouTube!