The Dark Sanctum podcast consists of seven episodes. Rather than doing an overall series review, we will review each individual episode.
Episode 1, “Requiem for a Traveler:” When the episode starts, it’s hard to get a true sense as to what is going on. It feels as though the main character is experiencing a nightmare that is soon interrupted when he wakes up. But this story is far from the typical night terrors story. After a few moments, as the story begins to find its footing, it becomes clear there’s a more terrifying aspect to this man’s night terror. It’s wonderfully thrilling but could’ve benefited from about five to ten more minutes. The voice acting is great – when it comes to the two leads, that is – but some of the other actors are notably weak. Thankfully, a couple minor hiccups regarding the cast don’t impact the overall spookiness of the story being told.
Episode 2, “Detour:” Perhaps one of the stronger episodes of the podcast. “Detour” feels like a story ripped from the headlines. The acting in this episode particularly is top notch. The way the voice actors perfectly showcase emotion ultimately drives the story forward and sells the horror aspect of it all. The pain and fear are evident in the actor’s voice. There’s nothing necessarily new about “Detour,” and yet, it’s hard not to keep listening. It’s almost reminiscent of an episode of Criminal Minds, just with a bit more horror injected into the story. It’s haunting and terrifying and incredibly messed up.
Episode 3, “BESS:” The weakest episode of the bunch. It’s not that “BESS” is necessarily bad. It’s just not… good. While the episode does have creepy moments, the voice acting fails to truly capture the right emotion. Given that it’s all of twenty-three minutes in length, “BESS” feels incredibly long. Exploring the depths people will go to in order to connect with a loved one that has passed is a fascinating concept… when handled properly. In this case, though, none of the elements truly come together for anything more than a few jump scares. It’s frustrating.
Episode 4, “Here Lies:” **Please note that this episode does include sexual assault.** It wouldn’t be a horror series if there wasn’t a zombie story. Enter “Here Lies.” Is it anything special? Absolutely not. Is it captivating? Yes, the voice acting is so well done that it’s hard not to be drawn into this horrific story. Fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead adaptation will enjoy “Here Lies” because it’s not merely a zombie story. It’s a story about survival and loss and grief. It’s one of the podcast’s better episodes and despite its short runtime of approximately twenty-three minutes, the story feels complete.
Episode 5, “Rose:” At eleven minutes, “Rose” is one of the short episodes. It’s also one of the most heartbreaking episodes of the podcast. A story about losing a child doesn’t seem like one that could be enjoyable. And at times, it’s not. It can be a hard listen, but the writing is well done, as is the acting. The only issue with “Rose” is that just as it’s becoming interesting, the story ends. There’s so much potential here that it’s utterly frustrating that the creatives decided to cut it short. Had it not been for what feels like a rushed ending, this one could’ve been the best episode out of the seven.
Episode 6, “Damned:” One of the more disturbing stories. Every family has secrets, sometimes those secrets can be deadly. In “Damned,” we come upon a man repenting for what he has done, although we don’t quite know exactly what crime against humanity he committed. As the story moves forward, though, and we soon meet his daughter, the story becomes a lot clearer and beyond messed up. This one is more horrifying than it is scary. There are decisions made in “Damned” that are outright disturbing, but the story itself isn’t scary. The question is… is the episode good? That remains blurry. Like with “Rose,” this story feels rushed. It has a more defined ending, of course, and it’s a tough one to swallow. Had there been maybe five more minutes, though, “Damned” could’ve truly exceled.
Episode 7, “Extraordinary Experience:” Easily the most heartwarming episode of the lot. It’s also the most realistic of the lot. “Extraordinary Experience” is a story about a mother and her son. It’s not all that spooky. It’s more supernatural than anything, honestly. What’s surprising is that the story is far from extraordinary. It’s pretty simple overall, but it’s so well-written and the acting is great. Of the episodes, this is perhaps the easier to visualize, too. It does feel like an odd inclusion in this series, especially given its a season (?) ender, but it’s still an enjoyable listen.
Overall: Dark Sanctum is a short podcast that, while not exactly a new spin on horror, is a Halloween treat. It’s creepy, the stories are varied, and the writing is actually pretty decent. Perhaps the only issue to note is that each story could’ve used a bit more time to be more effective. Those that fans of novellas and their short length will easily devour Dark Sanctum. Fans that enjoy horror movies or even true crime podcasts should definitely give this podcast a chance.
All seven episodes of Dark Sanctum are not available through Wondery+.