Sunday, October 18, 2020

Darkness: Those Who Kill, on Acorn TV

Scandinavians are still largely seen as polite and friendly people in America, even though the region has become a leading exporter of serial killer thrillers. This time, it is a provincial Danish police force that must sleuth out and apprehend a particularly nasty predator. Of course, they initially only thought they were dealing with a single abduction (and presumed homicide), but a little detective work uncovers links to horrifying past crimes in creator Ina Bruhn’s 8-part Darkness: Those Who Kill, directed by Carsten Myllerup, which premieres tomorrow on Acorn TV.

Local police detective Jan Michelsen is not dealing well with the stress of the Julie Vinding kidnapping. He promised her parents he would find her, but after six fruitless months, his boss has down-graded the investigation’s priority. His wife left him and his career is hanging by a thread. Yet, when Michelsen tries to establish a connection to a ten-year-old cold case, he manages to find one, as well as the long-missing body. Then the unknown serial killer abducts Emma Holst, who is the exact same physical type as Vinding.

Suddenly, the case is hot again, so Michelsen’s boss brings in Louise Bergstein, a semi-retired profiler, currently working as a women’s shelter counselor. Like Michelsen, she also feels the need for redemption, but their strong personalities will frequently clash. Michelsen’s prickliness certainly does not help, but they each appreciate the other’s intelligence and dedication.

In many ways,
Darkness is a conventional, but very well executed serial killer thriller. However, there is a big game-changing revelation around the third episode that makes it difficult to review the series without being spoilery. Let’s just say Signe Egholm Olsen is terrific as Stine Velin, a woman who has a mysterious connection to the serial killer, Anders Kjeldsen.

As Bergstein and Michelsen, Natalie Madueno and Kenneth M. Christensen develop some strong partner chemistry, with only a hint of sexual tension. The latter definitely follows in the Scandinavian tradition of hard brooders, a la Wallander. They are also both very strong performing the procedural business. In addition to Olsen, Mads Riisom provides all kinds of creepiness as Kjeldsen, while Malene Beltoft Olsen stands out (in the right forceful kind of way) as Holst’s karate instructor Sisse, who involves herself in the investigation.

Admittedly, we have seen this kind of thing before and there are times when Myllerup’s direction is conspicuously manipulative. Still, it keeps us hooked and Bruhn manages to spring a few new twists on the established serial killer conventions along the way. This is a dark and intense series that is true to its title. If you binge it, it will definitely leave you exhausted and ready for a light-weight palate cleanser. Recommended for fans of Nordic noir,
Darkness: Those Who Kill starts streaming tomorrow (10/19), on Acorn TV.