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'The Dark' review: South American critters

Screen grab of a night creature from Discovery

Screen grab of a night creature from Discovery Channel' "The Dark." Credit: Discovery Channel

THE SHOW "The Dark"

WHEN | WHERE Saturday at 9 p.m. on Discovery

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Ah, the dark. It's when the lights are out, the sun is down and critters emerge from the underbrush that are scary -- or, maybe not so scary, but at the very least, different critters from those that prefer daylight. This two-hour Discovery/BBC production sends camera crews into the jungles and highlands of Central and South America in search of spiders, bats, monkeys, jaguars and numerous other creatures that go bump in the night. Teams of biologists, wildlife experts and TV producers who specialize in nighttime nature photography undertook this six-month expedition along beaches (to witness jaguars), through swamps (to see crocodiles) and caves (bats, rare spiders, crickets, fish).

MY SAY Halloween is . . . hold on, please, lemme check the calendar . . . five days from now, which means television has been beset by an overwhelming urge to drape some programs in the appropriate seasonal garb.

"The Dark" is nothing more than a mostly enjoyable nature doc dressed up to look like "Ghost Hunters," replete with a found footage vibe that occasionally -- intentionally? -- evokes "The Blair Witch Project." Which is to say, "The Dark" can be a bit silly at times.

"The night will never be ours," the announcer declares ominously, channeling Edgar Allan Poe, maybe, or at least "Scooby-Doo." "It will always belong to the creatures of the dark!"

But it turns out these creatures aren't all that scary and -- in fact -- kind of cute, like that kinkajou, a charming, harmless, huggable vertebrate that pilfers food from howler monkeys.

Lights pierce the dark but don't find all that much (most animals are asleep), but when they do, weary field producers erupt with joy. Their enthusiasm is both nerdy and infectious.

Certainly there is much beauty out there in the field -- pumas stalking their prey, jaguars on a lonely beach -- but it's usually too dark to see any of it.

BOTTOM LINE "Ghost Hunters" meets "Nature" and the result is (well) not scary. But dark. And a little long. Still, some beauty shots here and there.



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