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Netflix’s new pheromone-drenched thriller Dark Desire (Oscuro Deseo) is ideal watching for those who didn’t get enough Silk Stalkings in their 365 Days. The Mexican series offers 18 episodes of FORBIDDEN PASSION and EROTIC STIMULATIONS and NAKED MURDER and other such things, and stars Maite Perroni, who once was labeled the “new queen of the telenovela” by Univision. So let’s find out if it needs to be filed under Guilty Pleasure or Eyeroll City, shall we?
DARK DESIRE: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: A long, unbroken shot first looks over the shoulder of a woman in handcuffs being led out of a building and past a body being loaded into a coroner’s van, then follows a forensics expert through a crime scene to a pool tainted with blood. And then, the camera jumps into the cloudy pool, and the scene transitions to a woman swimming through the clear water on a sunny day, with the subtitle SIX WEEKS EARLIER.
The Gist: The handcuffed woman and the swimmer in that very PRESTIGE TV first shot is Alma (Perroni), a professor and family woman. Some masher could say her teenage daughter looks like her sister and not just be giving her a cheap compliment. She’s married to Leonardo (Jorge Poza), a big-time judge with a big-time horrible mustache. Their daughter is Zoe (Regina Pavon), a fishnet-goth who’s obsessed with death and wants to be a medical examiner. Things are officially Not Great at home — Alma and Leonardo’s sex life is lousy, and she suspects him of schtupping around with his secretary, Edith (Paulina Matos).
Alma packs her suitcase — toothbrush, check, extra underwear, check, vibrator, sure why not — and heads out of town to visit her close friend Brenda, a fresh divorcee who’s in full-cougar trolling-for-pole mode. Her advice for Alma is to find some hot dude and do it. They head to a nightclub (“We just brought the average age down to 25,” Alma quips), where Alma meets Dario (Alejandro Speitzer), a walking, talking pick-up line who looks like he has a lucrative career tattooing poetry on hip bones. He ends up ravaging her like the smoldering hunk of flesh he is, and she LOSES HERSELF in the SWEATY THROES of PASSION.
Meanwhile, Leonardo accidentally sprays Edith with a showerhead, rendering her white shirt right see-through. Zoe visits her uncle Esteban (Erik Hayser), a criminologist who knows all about Leonardo’s infidelity. Alma comes home and has a guilt-dream in which Leonardo pulls a gun on her while she commingles with Dario in the pool. The next day, she’s giving a lecture on femicide, a scene cross-cut with images of Brenda, dead in the bathtub of an apparent suicide. And guess who walks into the classroom and takes a seat? Dari-oh-oh!
Our Take: Anyone who gets their jollies watching abnormally attractive people leaving sweaty smudgy butt prints on the sets of Dwell magazine centerfold photo shoots will eat Dark Desire alive. I’ve only watched the series pilot, but I’m pretty sure these characters will be busting out their $119 aphrodisiac aromatherapy candles and dripping them on each other’s nips, and then possibly killing each other, for the next 17 episodes. Call it a hunch. If it ever sheds its tawdry, exploitative, nearly tasteless tone, let me know, because I probably ain’t sticking around to find out.
The series is a hybrid of circa-’91 late-night USA Network reruns, serial killer movies, trashy telenovelas and whatever the hell Fifty Shades of Grey is — faux-fancy neo-sleaze for the bored and horny, I guess? Alma and Leonardo are essentially privileged anti-vax peppermint-bark Restoration-Hardware-cushion-sitting mini-manse dwellers nursing the thing in the title of the show, so maybe it’ll be satisfying to watch rich dingdongs melodramatically ruin their lives by tab-A-into-slot-B-ing each other into murderous fits of rage. Will we care if anyone here transcends their character types? If the plot twists and contorts in an amusing manner? If the show actually has something to say about violence against women? Nah. Probably not.
Sex and Skin: HEAPS and HEAPS of softcore shenanigans: Boobs ‘n’ thrusting butts, horizontal and vertical, in the shower and on dry land.
Parting Shot: Alma’s jaw dangles slack when she learns Dario has a legitimate interest in femicide. Er, I mean, her erogenous zones.
Sleeper Star: I think Zoe is the only character here who isn’t a stereotypical portrait of duplicity. Here’s hoping she becomes a right cracking medical examiner, prodding corpses academically while jamming her Sisters of Mercy Spotify mix.
Most Pilot-y Line: “It’s just sex, honey!” Brenda tells Alma, which sounds like famous last words.
Our Call: SKIP IT. Dark Desire looks like a million-dollar catalog showroom full of furniture nobody will ever sit on. So far, it puts on airs of import, but it’s ultimately doing it all for the nookie. Eyeroll city.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.
Stream Dark Desire on Netflix