For those unacquainted, “Black Mirror” is an anthology series that taps into our collective unease with the modern world, with each stand-alone episode a sharp, suspenseful tale exploring themes of contemporary techno-paranoia. For the first time in three seasons, they’re breaking the mold.
While Netflix won’t be unwrapping the fourth season until December 29th, I’ve already been gifted with the series for review. One episode stands out above the rest: “Black Museum”, directed by Colm McCarthy.
McCarthy, who directed both Outcast and The Girl With All the Gifts, takes his horror roots and spins a web of both technology and terror in what could be best described as a techno Body Bags or Creepshow. Yes, “Black Museum” is a complete horror movie hiding within an episode of an anthology series! Talk about meta.
movie episode feels right out of the “Tales From the Crypt” universe, with the wrap focusing on a crime museum showcasing high-tech misdeeds. Letitia Wright (Humans, Ready Player One) plays a young woman who comes upon the U.S. roadside attraction, which is hosted by a nefarious, Cryptkeeper-esque Douglas Hodge (The Night Manager, Catastrophe).
Hodge puts on a performance for the ages as Rolo Haynes (above), the sole proprietor of the Black Museum. In the episode’s wraparound, Haynes welcomes a young woman into his museum of technological horrors. He boasts his collection, slowly building on stories about how he obtained each item. You see, Rolo was a government researcher in his past life. His job was to convince hospital patients to test out new technology in exchange for free health care. Things begin on a positive note, until he gets to the “but” of each tale. Slowly, we begin to realize that he’s a metaphorical devil in disguise, offering these people hope, while actually delivering pain. It’s “Black Mirror’s” version of “The Monkey’s Paw”.
What’s so structurally brilliant about “Black Museum” is that it’s one of the most complete anthologies I’ve ever seen. Not only does the wrap come full circle, but Rolo is a character in every single episode; in fact, the finale not only concludes the wrap, but it also ties directly into each and every story told. Having made four anthologies myself, I found it to be inspiring and miraculous. It deserves a standing ovation.
On December 29th, forget that “Black Museum” is an episode of “Black Mirror” and pretend you’ve been gifted with the next great genre anthology. This is one roadside attraction that’s worth the trip.