Hey guys! Guess what? Derren Brown is awesome!
Call him what you like: a magician, an entertainer, a hypnotist, an illusionist, a mentalist, a showman, a comedian, a guy with an awesome goatee, etc. He comes up with some of the most entertaining stuff in British television today. You may be bored with magicians or illusionists who just repeat the same tricks up their sleeves, but even if you knew how this guy did his tricks, it’s clear to say that Derren Brown brings showmanship to a whole new level.
I noticed that he likes to take extremes in order to present something interesting or shocking, often with relation to the human mind and human nature. If you’ve seen his shows, you realise that he’s a bit on the dark side. So some of the stuff he does might look a bit disturbing or shocking. Sometimes we don’t even know what he’s thinking; all we know is that he always has everything planned out. He’s kinda like a mad genius. AND I LOVE IT!
So in honour of this awesome man, let’s take a look at his darkest moments, which sometimes turn out to be the most entertaining moments for me. And when I mean darkest, I mean “twisted” and “a bit disturbing”. Here is my personal list of the Top 5 Darkest Derren Brown Moments!
Honourable mentions include:
Séance, where he attempts to re-create a séance with 12 students by using victorian techniques. Things get freakier during the second half when everyone starts to feel a frightening presence, and then a spirit possesses one of the women. The Assassin, where he picks a member of an audience, and uses hypnosis to make the participant kill a celebrity without realising what he’s doing or having any memory to recall the event. The guy ends up shooting Stephen Fry. NOOO! NOT STEPHEN FRY! Don’t worry, he’s alive and fine. He just makes the guy think he’s holding a real gun. The Heist, where Derren uses his techniques to influence people to steal money from a fake guard and fake van without telling them directly to do so. Three out of four end up stealing the money, and they perform the robbery using a toy gun they were given earlier. And last, but not least, in an episode of Trick of the Mind, he makes a guy play a zombie-themed arcade game named “Waking Dead” set-up in a pub. After the guy plays the game for a while, the game then flashes some lights which puts the guy in a catatonic trance, and he’s taken into a set which re-creates the setting of the game, so it seems like he entered the game exactly where he left-off. Here the guy’s just freaking out and shooting zombies to save his life. Although I felt kinda bad for the guy, in the end he seemed to enjoy the experience without realising what really happened.
On to the list now:
5. The Guilt Trip
This is where Derren makes a guy believe he killed a man by using the power of guilt, and then leading the guy to confess to a murder he didn’t commit.
I thought immediately about The Assassin and thought, “What would be worse: to make someone kill someone without remembering anything, or to make someone believe that they killed someone?” Probably the latter, because the thought sticks to you like a needle. You know you can’t undo what you’ve just done. The fact that you can manipulate someone’s emotions to your advantage is a really scary thought, and guilt especially is a powerful feeling. It feels like a stab to the stomach. If you make someone feel truly guilty, even if they were indirectly linked to something that’s happened, like an accident or something, then you can get away with anything. You can make them believe what you want them to believe. You can make them doubt. You can make them question their memories. That’s really dark! But this is just number 5 on the countdown.
Have you ever known a guy who took his life for granted? Sat down watching television passively, not regarding the love and care of the people around him? Being lazy and dependent on others instead of taking control of his life and taking responsibility? That’s this guy. And Derren attempts to make him become more responsible, brave, and more aware of the people he loves… so let’s put him in the freaking zombie apocalypse!
… Sure, why not?
I like how this guy becomes a better person by the end and stuff, but DANG! The zombie apocalypse! Only someone like Derren can pull that off. It’s like a twist ending to an episode of The Twilight Zone. Wait… OH MY GOSH! THAT’S MAKES PERFECT SENSE! That’s like THE BEST twist ending ever! Like we have a guy in a strange event, and suddenly: BOOM! DERREN BROWN SHOWS UP! That’s awesome!
This special was divided into two parts. The first part was about convincing the guy that the world was gonna end, setting up news around him and slowly building it up to the day he’s placed in that scenario. The second part was putting him in the apocalypse and going through a carefully planned out storyline. In the end he’s realised how much everything he has around him he holds dear, and he won’t take anything for granted anymore. Here we’re shown an example of just how extreme Derren Brown can be, and also how much such a shocking and ridiculously dark situation can affect us.
3. Derren Brown Plays Russian Roulette Live
The stunt is as simple as that: Derren and a guy go to a barn, the guy places one bullet inside a revolver, and then Derren plays Russian Roulette. Does he live or shoot his brains out?
I mean… he’s playing Russian Roulette! LIVE! On TV! For EVERYONE to see! And that was a real bullet in a real gun in real time. So what if something wrong happened and we’d end up having a dead guy live? Oh Geesh! That must have been one of the most terrifying moments in his freaking life! That’s really insane! Whether it’s Derren Brown or not, I don’t think anyone could stand this kind of intensity! Pointing a real gun to your head! Even if it were a blank, a blank can still kill you at that distance between the head and the gun! And then the worst part is when there’s a long gap over a minute long, just waiting for something to happen and building up the tension.
From what I’ve heard, this is what boosted his name around the UK, and there’s no freaking doubt about that. Whether this was all real or not, it still impacted a large number of viewers. A landmark in his career.
OK! He survived! BUT DON’T DO THAT EVER AGAIN!!! PLEASE!!!
2. The “Trick” episodes from Trick or Treat
People participate to play a special game. In this game, you blindly pick between two cards: “Trick” or “Treat”. Pick a “Trick” card and something unpleasant happens to you, but pick a “Treat” card and you get a pleasant experience.
Look up the episodes online if you haven’t watched it. They’re a lot of fun! The “Treats” are actually pretty sweet (no pun intended). A few examples include: an old lady taught to play poker, look through bluffs and win against most professional poker players; a girl preparing a long piano piece for a concert within one week without even touching the piano during that time; and if you’re a Doctor Who fan (after all the hype about the show, I’m planning to watch a few episodes some time eventually) David Tennant participates and, getting a “Treat” card, he goes time travelling. I’m serious. That’s is sweet! (Again, no pun intended.)
Anyway, the “Trick” episodes are pretty messed up when you look at them, so I couldn’t help but place these all together: Making a guy believe he’s a dummy (and as you know, dummy’s are freaking terrifying), making a woman think she’s her ghost who died in a car crash (the reasoning was because she usually never had her hands on the steering wheel while she was driving, so I can see why they wanted to scare her), having a guy enter a photo booth and come out finding himself in Marrakesh (ok, that wasn’t so bad. It was just a confusing experience), sending a guy temporarily insane, making a woman have the urge to press a button that will electrocute a kitten (OH WAIT! That was a “TREAT” card!), and kidnapping a lady, placing her into a sack with tied hands and feet and thrown into a lake and left to try and escape entirely on her own. I’m not even making that one up. At least they prepared her for that situation beforehand.
I see all this and I’m like, “Dude, that’s just nuts.”
And the number one darkest Derren Brown moment is…
1. The Gameshow
“Really? A gameshow? How can a gameshow be dark?” Believe me, there’s more to it.
People participate in a new gameshow named “Remote Control” hosted by Derren himself. The audience conceal their faces with masks (and even the masks are freaking creepy), and together they control the fate of a participant by constantly voting between a positive and a negative outcome during his night out. In other words, either the guy gets a pleasant thing, or gets a not-really-pleasant thing, and the audiences gets to vote on either. During the show, the majority always voted for the negative outcome, and every single time the outcome got worse and worse. They didn’t seem to question anything, and they were ENJOYING the heck out of doing horrible things to this guy.
Something kinda similar to the Stanford Prison experiment, this is to demonstrate a concept psychologists call deindividuation: the behaviour we exhibit when we’re allowed to act anonymously and part of a group. It’s what turns perfectly nice people into internet bullies, hooligans or rioters. So by having the audience act like they’re all one (with the help of those creepy masks to conceal their identities), these people lose self-awareness to the point that they don’t even know the meaning or right and wrong, which is why they acted the way they did. Really, you have to watch this special for yourself to know what I’m talking about. This is like a show Willy Wonka thought of in his daydream. It had to be one of the most disturbing, most terrifying and most unbelievable things I’ve ever seen.
I wasn’t just terrified by their changed behaviour. I wasn’t just disturbed by the things that happened to the participant. I was terrified because it raised an important question: could the same thing happen to me? If I wore those masks and became one of them, would I lose self-awareness? Would I lose my sense of morality? Laugh along with the crowd as we did horrible things to someone? The scary answer: yes, possibly. Unless I were to constantly question my actions, or if I weren’t suggestive enough, but I really don’t know. I’m sure that these were nice people, but that’s just it: they were nice people (I think… maybe there was a jerk or two in the audience, but I don’t know) and they became nasty because their identities were being concealed this whole time, which resulted in them becoming nothing more than part of a crowd.
I’m glad I watched this special. I think this helps me understand an important and very dark social and psychological issue, especially with the influence of the media today. It’s shocking, yet interesting. Kinda like a really good psychological thriller. This is probably the darkest Derren Brown special I’ve seen him do, which is why it lands number 1 on the list.
So there ya have it! The darkest Derren Brown moments of his career. Based on this article, I don’t think I’d really want to participate in any of his tricks, because I don’t know what to expect and I might end up doing something I don’t want to. In that case, I guess you could call me a coward. But I would definitely love to meet him and have a regular conversation with him sometime. I can imagine us having interesting and funny conversations. Besides, he homages and references a lot of movies in his shows, from something like Donnie Darko to Hitchcock movies (I’m pretty sure one of the openings of Trick of the Mind was an homage to Psycho, but I could be wrong), so I can also imagine us talking about movies all day long.
Obviously Derren isn’t always showing his dark and disturbing side or whatever. A good example comes from my favourite special of his. Derren considers this his “most ambitious moment in his career”: Hero at 30,000 Feet. He changes an average guy’s life to reach an amazing potential. By carefully planned out events and circumstances, the guy’s transformed into a hero by saving people from an airplane… technically he’s in a plane simulator, but the guy doesn’t know it. What matters is that it was his own choice to save these people. Derren was just influencing him up to that particular point. Not only is everything carefully planned out and well done, but the special itself is well-directed. The whole message and the way it’s forwarded is inspiring: how we all have the ability to achieve more than we are. It makes me happy to be who I am now, and how far I’ve gone in life. This makes me like Derren even more, and it shows how much of an influence he can be both on television entertainment, but also on others in various ways.
Go Derren Bown! You rock! I hope you continue to surprise us and fill us all with wonder!