Dark Places, 2015.
Written and Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner.
Starring Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Chloe Grace-Moretz, Tye Sheridan, Christina Hendricks, Corey Stoll and Sterling Jerins.
Libby Day was only seven years old when her family was brutally murdered in their rural Kansas farmhouse. Twenty-five years later, she agrees to revisit the crime and uncovers the wrenching truths that led up to that tragic night.
The existence of a Kill Club, where your average-joe citizens decide to investigate closed cases with inconsistencies and inaccuracies in an attempt to swing down the hammer of justice is a legitimately intriguing concept. Lyle (the club’s leader played by Nicholas Hoult) says it best to Libby (survivor of a family massacre 25 years ago played by Charlize Theron) when she asks why he is so obsessed with the details surrounding her childhood tragedy; it’s fascinating and murder mysteries are fun to pick apart and piece together. Unfortunately Dark Places isn’t concerned with exploring the Kill Club or Lyle (he practically has no character and basically exists to place Libby back into the unsolved crime), but rather heading to some dark places.
This is the second film adaptation of a Gillian Flynn novel, and one thing jumping out is the trashy nature to the proceedings of the who-dun-it mysteries. It’s something that David Fincher imbued with a satirical edge for last year’s critical and commercial success Gone Girl, while director Gilles Paquet-Brenner takes the straight serious approach. That difference in tone is also the single largest contributing factor to the chiasm in quality between these two soap opera flicks; Dark Places is so stuffed with unsettling material that it quickly spirals the narrative into silliness.
Among the taboo content is Satanism, child molestation, serial killing, and a scene where Chloe Grace-Moretz slaughters a cow whilst provoking her boyfriend played by Tye Sheridan to become a man and join in the butchering. It is such a campy scene that it’s essentially where I drew the line and stopped really caring about the film and who murdered a family 25 years ago, which is a shame because there is a star-studded cast featuring all of the aforementioned names that get wasted because this movie has no direction other than being taboo.
If that wasn’t enough the last 30 minutes are packed with some of the most absurd plot twists in recent memory. This movie has so much going on that when insanely convenient connections are drawn you can’t help but want to smash your face into a wall because both a novelist and screenwriter thought these were intelligent ideas that consumers would totally accept and believe could happen in the real world.
That’s not all though, because the last 15 minutes randomly turn into straight slasher territory with Libby being attacked in a household, falling down staircases and frantically trying to escape while dodging gunshots. All of this occurs with multiple cross cuts to the past where we finally learn who committed the murders, which is a situation as equally ludicrous to watch unfold.
Speaking of the flashbacks to the past, those scenes are actually quite engaging before descending into stupidity; sure the movie implies that all metalheads are Satanists that inappropriately touch children and butcher cows, but the relationship between Tye Sheridan and Chloe Grace-Moretz work thanks to their on-screen chemistry. Charlize Theron also turns in a fine performance during the modern-day story arc, but even the toughness and broken down angst she radiates isn’t enough to save what is overall a bland character.
Dark Places certainly isn’t a boring film, it’s just a stupid one. Well over half of the twists don’t work and will either leave you groaning or laughing, but the cast desperately tries to make this nonsense watchable and somewhat succeeds. Yes, the movie is crap but at least it is entertaining crap.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook