Those who know me in person probably also know that I’m a big film buff. In fact, I happen to be a fan of dark and disturbing films like The Bunny Game, Irreversible, and Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, so it doesn’t seem like that much of a surprise that I would be intrigued by the dark web.
I had been tweeting one of my blog posts related to red rooms (i.e. alleged dark web sites in which someone is tortured to death on a live stream), and a guy by the name of Rohit Kumar (@Raw_Heat420) tweeted back, “I see you are interested in red rooms hahaha.”
Do you like the red room?
This sparked a brief conversation between us, and in the process, I learned that Kumar and his cousin, Mayank Kaushal, are making a film about the dark web (including red rooms) called The Darkest Alley.
Apparently, the catalyst for making this film was a story (or some would say creepypasta) told by YouTuber Corpse Husband, entitled Horrifying Deep Web Stories: “Why I Quit Hacking”. I, too, had heard this story, and regardless of whether it’s true or not, I found it to be one of the scariest and most convincing dark web stories on YouTube. (Actually, in his words, it is true – who am I to say otherwise?)
It’s told from the point-of-view of a former hacker who ghost hacks into a heavily protected dark web site, and discovers some things that he ends up truly regretting.
Fast forward: I decided to interview Kumar and Kaushal about their film, as well as their experiences on the dark web. The interview took place over Twitter. Oddly enough, it turned out we had had many common experiences in the process of exploring the dark web.
Secrets of the Dark: How long have you been into filmmaking? (either of you) In other words, is this a recent thing or have you been doing it for quite some time?
Mayank Kaushal: We’ve always been into making and editing movies for fun for years on YouTube. After a while we began perfecting our craft and slowly we got requests from clients for custom work. Just recently we came to the the conclusion that it was time to see our full potential, exactly what we could accomplish with our skills from over the years.
SotD: I saw on your fundraiser page that you were inspired to make this film by the short story that Corpse Husband told (“Why I Quit Being A Hacker”). Do you think that story is true? Some people say it’s just a creepypasta, is why I ask.
MK: We believe some parts of the story might have been true, but we do think stuff like this happens on the deep web when the user isn’t careful. This story gave us the idea that there is something about the unknown that is very creepy. Red rooms being one of those mysterious aspects. Also, I thought this particular story was magnificently detailed, to the point that I was feeling the same thoughts that the [protagonist] was going through. That alone got me excited to think what a movie on this would be like.
SotD: I agree! It was one of the best stories about that subject matter. In that same vein, are you willing to give a brief summary of what your film is about (without spoiling it, of course)?
Rohit Kumar: Keep in mind that this movie was inspired by one 20 minute scene which we have adapted into a feature film. The film [is set] in Houston, Texas, where a college-typical student is struggling to pay his way through college. He turns to drugs and eventually finds himself on the deep web selling his product. Everything looks great until he ends up on the wrong site and suddenly his life gets turned upside down.
SotD: Oh, OK – so the film story really is directly influenced by the Corpse Husband story then! I would still like to see it if I have the chance.
RK: That is correct; we feel like if we leave anything out we aren’t doing the story any justice.
SotD: Gotcha, that makes sense. Have you already cast all of the actors yet for the film?
MK: We have casted [sic] all of the main actors; we just need to confirm our extras.
SotD: I see, so you’re getting there! I’ve also been curious about the research you did for the film. Did you actually visit the deep web/dark web a lot, and did you come across any real red rooms?
Note: This is not a real red room!
RK: Yes, since this [is] our very first dab at this we are finding out that there is a whole lot of work involved behind the scenes [for] a film of this caliber.
SotD: What kinds of things have you seen on Tor that you’d be willing to talk about? Or on other parts of the dark web, that is. (If you’re not comfortable sharing it, then don’t, of course!)
MK: Hold on, this is a long one haha!
SoTD: OK, no problem!! Just trying to clarify.
RK: In order to prepare thoroughly for [the] film and each character we did extensive research in real world scenarios. I spent around 6-8 months surfing the deep web using Tor until my personal security was compromised due to carelessness. We studied many documentaries on the production and distribution of narcotics and witnessed real transactions in order to play each part as genuine as possible.
MK: As for Tor, we were using Skype to screen share some of our sessions, in retrospect a terrible idea, and came across a plethora of underage pornography, many bitcoin scam sites and 2 red room sites. The red room sites turned out to be fake, but did a good job of showing how one would actually work. In actuality a red room site [would] not be able to stream in HD the type of content that has been rumored on the clearnet. It would also be very difficult to find such a website as it would more [than] likely be password protected. We even tried multiple chat rooms for many hours trying to find more information on the subject, but all we found were other curious minds and hackers/trolls. All in all, the deep web is a great resource; [the] dark side of it is where it has its bad points. The worst thing we saw were pictures of dismemberment, but we’ve already seen too much so it didn’t really faze us.
SoTD: Hahaha! I get it – I’ve experienced almost all of the same things. What experience do you have with special effects that would help you create some of the screen violence?
RK: I am trained with 3D modeling, and visual effects, and…Mayank is a graphics designer. With these qualities teamed up with practical effects and great cinematography, we will bring this story to life on the big screen.
SoTD: Sounds very exciting! And you’ve mentioned The Silk Road on Twitter and Instagram…did you visit any real darknet markets in the process? (Like Alphabay, Silk Road 3, Agora [since closed])?
Login page for Silk Road 3.0
MK: We used Grams to search particular products and we got return results from the Silk Road, Agora and Pandora. We also used various directories to lookup [sic] sites, and some of those sites were offering drugs, but those didn’t look as trustworthy as the marketplaces aforementioned.
The Grams darknet market search engine
SoTD: Trust me, I know what you mean. Well, how soon do you think we’ll be able to actually see the movie? You’ve got me anticipating it now! I didn’t see an official release date…
RK: This…sounds absolutely crazy to me, trying to wrap my mind around [the] fact that this entire [thing] will be shot in under 12 days. After the shoot, which is in late July, we are hoping to have it edited by February 2017 and will begin early screening in March. The official release was being debated as a date in May or October 31st. We ultimately came to the conclusion that the end of May 2017 will be better suited.
SoTD: That’s great to hear! I really look forward to it. Those were all the questions I had written for the moment…I’ll make a donation if I get a chance, too.
RK: Those were some great questions man, once again thanks for the opportunity! Feel free to ask any questions here, as Mayank and I will be monitoring this account in order to build our following :). Peace and love from the team at #TheDarkestAlley!
Well, my fellow dark web enthusiasts, I hope you enjoyed the interview. If the film sounds like something you’d want to see, and you want to help Rohit and Mayank raise some of the remaining funds they need, go to Indiegogo: The Darkest Alley, and make a donation!
At the time of this writing, they’ve raised $311 of their $1450 goal. (You get some swag in return for donating, by the way!)
As for me, I hope to see the film soon – best of luck in getting it out there, guys.