Nights are dark, but this podcast will induce true terror. Darkest Night is a horror anthology series from the Paragon Collective Podcast Network that stands out amongst its peers. The premise is simple enough: we follow newly-hired research assistant Katie Reed (Brynn Langford) as she discovers the sinister machinations of the Roth-Lobdow Center for Advanced Research. During each episode, listeners accompany Katie as she secretly records her work on Project Cyclops. Each experiment requires a severed —and usually brutalized—head that allows Katie and Dr. Kinsler (Denis O’Hare) to experience the final moments of the victim.
Two things makes this podcast standout: the voice acting and the sound quality. The most well-known actors are Lee Pace from Halt and Catch Fire as the narrator, and Denis O’Hare, from American Horror Story, as Dr. John Kinsler, an aging researcher due to retire in a matter of months. More notably, Pace’s voice is at times haunting, carrying an element of warning for only listeners to ruminate upon. It elevates even the most mundane scenes, like a couple enjoying breakfast with their newborn, for example, to ominous levels leaving listeners weary and on edge.
Another strong point of the podcast is the immersive aspect, chiefly due to the superior sound quality and production style. The podcast is recorded binaurally, where multiple microphones are used to give the podcast listener a 360 degree feel of the environment. In the final product it feels like you, the listener, are in the same room as the voice actors. This recording technique fosters a feeling of disquiet in the listener. You will find yourself holding your breath in hopes of not being detected by whatever ghoulish character is lurking about. You’re a spectator trailing alongside the lead characters. You can hear every breath, the shuffling of feet, and the resounding thump of a weaponized croquet mallet colliding with the side of a face. Not to mention, the sound effects are realistic. You’ll catch yourself instinctually ducking at the sound of every gunshot.
The plot is enthralling. No character is trustworthy. Though the series is an anthology, there is an overarching plot. You might root for the survival of a character that later proves to be quite villainous. Be warned, redeemable characters are few and far between, but that’s what makes this podcast so enticing. For those that are fans of Game of Thrones or the A Song of Ice and Fire series, this podcast shares a similar tendency to kill off main characters, mostly through betrayals that careful listeners will identify early on in the episode.
As writer Christopher Bloodworth shares in reference to his writing, “I want to give you nightmares.” As listeners progress through each episode, it becomes unavoidably clear that there is something wicked afoot at the Roth-Lobdow Center for Advanced Research.