I am a sucker for the Netflix recommendation engine, and so when the show Ares was plastered all over my home page for a week in January, I finally gave up and gave it a shot.
The series is a Netflix original, and while I thought it meant that this was just one of those overseas shows Netflix grabs the license for once it already has aired abroad, that isn’t the case here. This is an original Dutch series made by Netflix specifically, and I genuinely can’t remember if I’ve ever watched a Dutch-language show before. But get over your fear of subtitles and dive into it, as, if you’re a horror fan, I think it’s a worthwhile watch.
Ares is short, extremely short. It’s only eight episodes long, each only 25-30 minutes, making this just short of a four-hour experience in total, Mandalorian-style. It’s essentially a very long horror movie, and while I suppose it could return for another season, the first season does end somewhat … conclusively, shall we say.
The story follows Rosa, a biracial medical student who gets inducted into Ares, a secret society in Holland that is mostly full of rich, white, generational members, so her inclusion ruffles a few feathers, to say the least.
The entire series takes place almost entirely within the Ares complex itself, and it turns the traditional “secret society” story on its head in many ways, as you quickly learn that the order exists as a way to secure prosperity for Holland by keeping … something in check, something scary and dark that lives chained in the basement.
The horror is not what happens to poor young Rosa per se, but rather it’s the society itself that comes under siege from a rash of brutal suicides of many of its most promising members. Rosa quickly finds herself rising in the ranks and unlocking the secrets of Ares as the series hurtles toward a blockbuster finale that I would absolutely make sure you make it to.
If I had to compare Ares to similar horror projects, the most obvious one would probably be the recent Suspiria remake with Dakota Johnson, as the secret-society vibes are incredibly similar. Tone-wise, and in terms of visuals, I actually got a lot of Hannibal vibes — the NBC show, not the movie. I don’t think Ares is as good as either Suspiria or Hannibal, mind you, but I definitely think it’s worth the eight short episodes.
This is one of those series where it’s worth staying for the ending alone. It can be rather slow moving, minus its fits of brutal ultra-violence, many of which will stay with you, even if you’re a horror veteran, but by the end I really appreciated the final reveals of the various secrets of Ares, its past and its monster, though I won’t say more than that.
If it were some sprawling, 16-episode, hour-long series, I might not give it a recommendation. But I think Ares is interesting enough not to overstay its welcome, and it benefits from being this short, an easy series to get through in an afternoon or two as I did. I wouldn’t mind this being the end of the series after just one season (you’ll see why), but I would certainly be curious to see what on earth they would have planned for season two to try and top this.
In a sea of Netflix-original overload, Ares is worth a few hours.
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