Netflix’s The Chestnut Man

The Scandinavians really seem to like their grim, chilly serial killer procedurals, The Chestnut Man being the latest Netflix offering from Denmark that gets about as grim, nasty and dark as these kind of narratives ever do. It’s a bit of a jumble to be honest, needlessly overstuffed with characters, subplots, hairpin turns, red herrings, dead ends and asides. As the story opens, police in a rural town outside Copenhagen discover a string of ruthless murders, each crime scene eerily decorated with a little figurine made from chestnuts. That’s their main clue going into an investigation involving a dozen different cops, social workers, a coroner, a bunch of old sealed records dating back to foster homes and adoptions and so many moving parts and dense plot content it made my head spin. I’m sure the story is in fact a concise series of events that check out logically and the reason I got so lost was because I binged this entire thing on a night where I was spectacularly exhausted and just could not focus. I will say that this production has some gorgeous spooky Fall vibes, they seem to have shot in autumn, which makes sense for a killer that needs a constant supply of chestnuts I suppose, but there are some truly breathtaking overhead shots of seasonal forests all steeped in golden brown and auburn hues. There’s also some razor sharp, terrifying suspense that’s extremely well orchestrated and effectively scary as well. Sometimes the material gets oppressively dark and so bleak it can be off putting, there are themes of child abuse that are directly depicted, and the murderer himself is one heinous motherfucker who doesn’t discriminate one bit in victim selection or brutal methodology, so just bring an iron lined stomach for this one. It’s got great atmosphere, thrills n’ chills that mostly work and it’s a quick six episode binge, but I almost feel like it could have been a two and a half hour feature film and in doing so, strip away a lot of the excess narrative clutter because at times I felt like I needed a big pinup board with photos of all the characters in relation to each other, just to keep track.

-Nate Hill

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