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A Possible Murder Connection on the Drama/Thriller 'Darkness: Those Who Kill'
October 19, 2020  | By David Hinckley

If anyone makes worse decisions than teenage girls in horror movies, let's just hope they aren't registered to vote.

But that's the essential premise for hundreds of horror movies – that the cheerleader will open the closet door even though she knows there's an ax murderer in the house. It's a surefire setup that gives horror movies a striking commonality.

So it's fascinating, in an odd way, that the same premise – bad decisions by teenage girls – sets up a much more intricate and interesting drama in a new Danish series called Darkness: Those Who Kill.

The eight-part series, shown with subtitles, becomes available Monday on Acorn.

Police investigator, Jan Michelsen (Kenneth M. Christensen), has promised the parents of a teenage girl named Julie (Avila Lyneborg Lassen), who vanished six months ago without a trace, that he will find out what happened to her.

Even her mother assumes she was murdered. She just wants closure.

With the police department close to making Julie a cold case, Jan finds a similar disappearance of a similar-looking teenage girl ten years earlier. This could mean a slow-acting serial killer is prowling around, which leaves police officials trying to walk a line between warning the public about that possibility and not panicking them.

Jan gets reinforcement for the serial killer theory from Louise Bergstein (Natalie Madueño), an old friend and former elite criminal profiler. Louise has retired from the profiling game, for reasons that are not immediately clear, and it takes considerable arm-twisting for Jan to get her views on this case.

Once he does, they become the standard police team these days: two badly damaged people who, in some ways, preserve their own fragile equilibriums by throwing themselves into their work.

In the larger picture, you might think we would have exhausted the dramatic options for dark Nordic noir tales. Darkness: Those Who Kill proves that happily, we haven't.

The story takes its defining twist at the end of the first episode with a development that broadens both the character and crime elements.

As the title and premise suggest, things get creepy at times, and we do have that horror movie trope of young women making bad decisions – like walking home alone at night through unlit, graffiti-covered tunnels.

Here, however, that doesn't just lead to a mad slasher rampage and subsequent manhunt. While the pure crime part has familiar elements, the people involved become engagingly multi-dimensional.

We find nuances in the reactions of even peripheral characters, and with a fair amount of screen time available, the crime-solving part feels particularly intricate and well-turned.

Christensen and Madueño play troubled characters well, letting their secrets and the attendant torment seep out slowly as they throw themselves deeper into urgent issues that provide at least a temporary distraction.

We also get a chance to ruminate on the horror movie bad-decision dilemma, which is that we don't want to blame victims for what happens to them while at the same time we keep yelling at them to stop.

Darkness: Those Who Kill is the novel that isn't always easy to read and is hard to put down.

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