What is Ares? Well, Ares is the first entirely Dutch production to be streamed on Netflix, as well as the name of a shady organisation around which this TV show centres.
Comprised of 8 episodes, which run from 24 to 32 mins, Ares is a very quick watch – basically, it’s a 4-hour long film split in 8 short parts.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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My review is also available on IMDb – Ares (2020)
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Story and blueballing
In this teenage horror show, we follow Roos (or Rosa, I never understood her name), a promising med student who comes from a poor background. Through her best friend Jacob, the girl is introduced to an odd student association known as Ares. This association is seemingly comprised of rich and spoiled people who mistreat Rosa just because of her background. The girl, however, decides to stick with it for two reasons: firstly, her ambition to become a powerful member of the association despite her origins; secondly, Jacob seems in serious trouble due to his relationship with something evil that lurks beneath Ares’ headquarters.
Throughout the episodes, the mystery keeps thickening: what’s Ares hiding underneath their building? Why do the members behave so violently with the novices? What’s the student organisation really about? These are, in fact, the questions I have been asking myself throughout the show. This is, however, not something that comes from a genuine interest: instead, Ares keeps blueballing the viewer from start to finish without providing any answers until the very last minutes of the last episodes… and the answers are incredibly disappointing too!
Why Ares, then?
You might be wondering why, out of all the Netflix horror tv shows that are coming out these days, I’ve chosen to cover Ares. Well, first of all I wanted to do so with Dracula, but loads of people have already seen it, so there was no point in me covering it. Besides, even though I found Dracula extremely cheesy, underwhelming and annoying, plenty of horror fans loved it, so I didn’t want to sound like the one who goes against the grain for the sake of it.
Secondly, Ares doesn’t start off badly. In fact, the first episode features a fantastic opening scene, which is gory and mysterious, violent and well-executed, spooky and captivating. Because of that, I was tricked into watching the whole show hoping and expecting something as cool or as interesting to happen at some point. Instead, Ares keeps blueballing its audience, without providing answers to all the questions raised throughout the runtime.
Why is this not a 70-minute-long horror flick?
The most unforgivable problem with this TV show is that it simply shouldn’t have been… a TV show. Throughout the course of 8 episodes, nothing story-related really happens, there’s no peak in tension, no character is even remotely developed – Rosa gets a backstory and she’s established as an ambitious young woman, that’s about her character traits. On a side note, the acting isn’t necessarily terrible, but these poor people had nothing to work with, thus their performances don’t communicate anything: they’re one-note silhouettes, wooden and empty, and unreliable.
In fact, the only moments in Ares where something happens (whether it’s story related or character wise) are the first episode, when the mystery is set up, the last 10 minutes of the last episode, and some short bits here and there. Which makes me wonder… how was this not a 70-minute-long movie? Don’t get me wrong, it would still be a mediocre or subpar flick, but at least it wouldn’t feel as boring, pretentious and stretched out.
Is there any redeeming quality down that pit?
Ares’ headquarter is built around a mysterious pit, which hides something our lead character is trying to reveal. This is supposed to be biggest mystery in the whole show. However, the ending of Ares feels only like a weak excuse to push a socio-political agenda that comes out of nowhere right when the series is about to end. I personally agree with the message the creators of the show wanted to convey, but is it really worth 4 boring hours to get there? I don’t think so. In fact, the conclusion to Ares feels extremely on the nose, pandering and politically correct for the sake of it.
Are there redeeming aspects to Ares? It’s honestly debatable, but I thought the first episode was solid, with its amazing opening scene and the way it built up the mystery. There are, also, some instances of gory practical effects that feel well-done and quite convincing. Yet, the shot composition is clearly thought out and the camera-work flows nicely in some instances, making Ares look like it has higher production values than it actually has.
Most of what I listed as positives, though, are just icing on the cake. Unfortunately, the cake is flavourless and barely edible. Before working on visuals, practical effects and gory moments, the creators should’ve put care into story, character development and storytelling.
For all these reasons I would obviously suggest not to watch Ares. A lot of Netflix shows (even the good ones) like to blueball the viewer, but there’s at least a sort of payoff at the end of each episode. Ares takes blueballing to the next level and winds up being a very annoying and tiresome show: a 70-minute-long horror flick that had been stretched out for almost 4 hours.
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