In my endless search to find the most depressing obscure documentary Netflix has to offer, I decided to dig deeper than a random film about the Holocaust or old episode of Frontline and check out Camp 14: Total Control Zone, directed by Marc Wiese, which is about a man who was born in a North Korean prison camp and escaped in his early 20s.
Like a lot of documentaries that lack footage of the events being described but depict situations that would probably be tricky to tastefully reenact, Camp 14 uses stark animation, and the overall effect is chilling. Now residing in South Korea, escapee Shin Dong-Huyk tells his horrific story through interviews that serve as narration—how his mother was a gift to his father for hard work, how he and his fellow prisoners were forced to watch executions and kept without food, and how the the brutal environment of the camp kept him so incapable of experiencing compassion that he was able to turn in members of his own family to camp officials after hearing them talk about escape.
His trauma isn't just mental, but physical, since his spying was rewarded with months of torture that have left him scared and deformed. We often mock North Korea (with hilarious results—30 Rock, Team America, etc.), but after watching Camp 14, your mental image of that country will be less funny, more scary, and altogether haunting.