Monday, December 13, 2010

[S] Dreams in Darkness

[WARNING: Spoilers.]

One of the Generation II blogs, Dreams in Darkness is one that is known about but not really talked about to the extent that blogs such as Just Another Fool and Seeking Truth are. It’s popular enough that it gets its own TV Tropes page, but compared to other big name Slender stories, it falls short off the radar of most viewers, or so I feel. This is a shame, because Dreams in Darkness gets so many things right that it’s definitely worth a glance if you haven’t already. A warning, however; it is DEFINITELY not for those with a weak constitution.
                The story revolves around Damien O’Connor, an arrogant nerd who thinks he’s always right and indulges in self-loathing; in his words, at least. He lives with his roommate Ted, works in retail, and doesn’t have much in the way of a social life, though this starts to change once he starts dating a cute girl that he works with. Then one day, the roommate starts getting addicted to this little-known series called “Marble Hornets” (very original, right?), a series that Damien eventually gets hooked into as well, so much so that he creates his own poor attempt at a Slender blog called Watch this City Burn.
                Of course, a Slender story isn’t a Slender story if nothing goes wrong. The really amazing thing of DiD, however, is that it’s eighteen posts- about a month and a half- before anything related to Slender Man even begins to happen to our hero; and even then, it’s all a joke up until the day Ted finally goes missing…and then is brutally murdered. And even THEN, Slender Man doesn’t show up physically until August; three months after the story begins.
                One of the things I like about Dreams in Darkness is that it’s the definition of a psychological horror story. While Slender Man rarely makes a physical appearance, it’s that fear of him that fuels the paranoia. It relies a lot on its writing to make it scary, and it succeeds. The writer, whoever he is, knows how to make a story suspenseful without resorting to a lot of scare tactics; and those tactics that he DOES employ, definitely pay off in a big way.
The characters are, for the most part, all fleshed out. Damien goes from an average, angry nerd and then switches between a determined hero and a terrified little boy. His personality goes all over the place, but it’s all written very well, and in such a way that it is believable. Ted is unique in that he is the first known gay character in a Slender Man story, though he’s also a bit of a prankster. Damien’s mother is a certified psycho, but with reason behind her actions, even if that reason is completely deranged. Each character has something to them; they’re not just there for the sake of moving a story along.
What I like especially is the attention to the backstory. Damien plays upon the theory that Zeke Strahm laid out in Seeking Truth and discovers his family had ties to a cult that offered sacrifices to the Slender Man. He finds pictures that show an Uncle Eddie, whose story remains a mystery, and a dog Max that he never remembered owning. He finds accounts of him, Ted, and their friend Emily and how they may have encountered the Slender Man as children. The past plays just as important a role as the present, and it’s put together smoothly, almost effortlessly.
Of course, the main aspect about Dreams in Darkness comes from the other title that DiD stands for: Dissociative identity disorder, or split personality. Damien encounters a personality split around the time of Ted’s death, and his alternate personality, known as “TheArsonist”, takes over the Watch this City Burn blog. Unlike most mysterious figures in the Slender universe, Arsonist does not appear to be a proxy; if anything, he is doing everything in his power working AGAINST Slender Man.  His true intentions, however, are never revealed, but it is still an interesting spin on the story, seeing Damien warring with two halves of his mind.
Above all of that, there is one thing that Dreams in Darkness does that very few other blogs can do: It kicks you in the gut. Dreams in Darkness is never afraid to get graphic in its description. Ted is murdered and strung up from a tree by his intestines, his guts stuffed into a bag. Emily and Vincent are brutally torn apart in a motel room. Damien views a tape containing an explicit orgy among cultists and a naked eight-year-old girl tied down to a stone slab. Do I really need to continue?
But probably the post that holds the most significance is “Terror”, the post where Damien goes into the red brick building, looking for clues. The suspense keeps your breath held throughout most of it. The build-up is fantastic. It doesn’t jump into anything; it lets things play out naturally. And when Slender Man DOES appear, it is quite possibly the most shocking encounter ever, possibly only being beaten out by Evan running at him with a bat. If one were watching this in the theater, you would probably hear a pin drop after the scene was done, mainly because you’re trying to figure out if that just happened or if you were imagining it.
It’s not a perfect blog, of course. The big issue is that it stops without explaining things within the plot. What exactly was TheArsonist planning? Is the cult still continuing, but with new, different members? Who was Wilcox’s successor, if it is? And just WHAT was up with that bone-blade-thing? They never explain, nor, do I imagine, we will ever know. They are just more mysteries on an ever growing list of mysteries involving the Slender Man.
The ending is probably the most ambiguous. After a brief paragraph in which Damien seemingly says good-bye, his brother Rick appears in the comments to explain that Damien has died. Which most people come to expect from blogs. His explanation afterwards, however, drops one last bombshell; none of it was true. Amelia had not been with her mother, but had been considering leaving town due to Damien’s paranoia. The kidnapper was found and killed, and one child was saved. The picture Damien found, he supposedly drew himself. Uncle Eddie never existed. The brick building is in a different location and is shut up tight. Most importantly is the subtle but evident suspicion that Damien is the one that killed Ted, Emily, Vincent, and Wilcox.
This is all left to interpretation. Viewers are left to their own beliefs as to whether or not any of the events actually happened. The general consensus though- and it is further backed by the reappearance of Zeke Strahm in the blog’s comments- is that it actually did happen. Again, it is one of those things that will never be fully explained.
Overall, I would go so far as to say that Dreams in Darkness is the most well-written blog out of the archive. It knows how to tell a good story and make the stomach believe that it is true. I would say that it is better than Seeking Truth in terms of believable characters, suspenseful plot, and attention to details, and it is my personal favorite. If you’re looking for something that attempts to do things differently, this may not be the most DIVERSE one to turn to, but it does do attempt couple new approaches that pay off. If you’re just looking for a well-told story, this is definitely where you want to go. Story begins right here:



  1. I think I'd largely agree with you. There's something that Dreams in Darkness has that most blogs now don't have: it's actually scary. Dreams in Darkness was the last Slenderblog I read that actually scared me. The twist at the end results in just as many questions as answers, and even the aspects of the story that aren't related to the Slender Man are absolutely chilling. I second the opinion that this is a wonderful blog.


  2. Nice review - although I wish I hadn't read it all! I know the twists now, heading over to DiD to get started...

  3. Spent yesterday afternoon and this morning reading through the whole of DiD. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it, Damien built up quite a zealous following and you can see they were a little taken aback when it was just announced that he had died.

    I like the explanation Rick gave to the events, particularly when Damien's prose was so convincing you entirely believed him. Lets hope this blog can stand as an example for others hoping to achieve such greatness.

  4. Woah, lay of the spoilers in the reviews maybe? Or use spoiler tags or at least warn us? Please? I'm going to go get started on this story but in the future please at least warn us when you're about to reveal twists and plot events..

  5. Good point with the spoilers. I haven't been screening for them. I will in the future.

    ~ Sol