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    Dark Places (2015): Movie Review

    “An investigative thriller best kept hidden in the dark.” 

    Charlize Theron stars as a self-loathing and morose massacre survivor in director Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s Dark Places. Adapted from Gillian Flynn’s best-selling 2009 novel of the same name, the movie tells of a woman’s revisiting of a childhood traumatic experience and the hidden painful truths she unearths. 

    The 1980s was a period of enormous fear in Kansas, California as satanic cults which abuse and even murders children were prevalent. But everyone was unprepared for the tragic Day massacre that rocked the State in 1985. The matriarch Patty Day (Christina Hendricks) and two of her daughters were found bloodied and dead in various parts of their house. Only two members of the family survived the tragedy – the 16-year-old son Ben (Tye Sheridan) and the youngest daughter Libby (Sterling Jerins) who was 8 years old that time. Aloft, gloomy and unscathed from the incident, Ben became hot in the eyes of the law and media. While still recuperating from her broken foot, Libby confirms the cops’ allegation that her brother was the killer. Despite lack of strong evidence, Ben was sent to prison and never tried to appeal his conviction. 

    Three decades roll by and grown Libby (Theron), who always sports a bullcap and a shirt that has seen better days, is warned of being kicked out of her rented apartment. Her milk money from the tragedy, money from royalties from the book called “A New Day” which she supposedly wrote and donations from concerned strangers, have ran out. Desperate for some dough, she accepts an invitation from Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult) to attend the “Kill Club.”

    Composed of hardcore true-crime investigators and enthusiasts, Kill Club believes that Libby lied on the court and that Ben was innocent. The meeting put Libby on the crossroads as she is informed that Ben’s files will be shredded in three weeks, unless the case is reopened. Despite her initial refusal, Libby agrees to investigate the crime in exchange for a handsome pay. As she digs deeper into the truth, Libby will have to confront faces she never thought she would see again, including her abusive father and her grown brother Ben (Corey Stoll).

    After 2014’s critically-acclaimed Gone Girl, Dark Places is the second but much-less adaptation of a Gillian Flynn novel. The film would have been decent if not for its overly-twisted narrative. It could have been the author’s fault or the screenwriter’s failure to capture the charisma in the book. With absurd mysteries and excessive subplots, the film swerves plenty of times as it deals with several subject matters. It has too much to take in, including child abuse, drugs, debts, bankruptcy, foreclosure, daddy issues, domestic violence, sibling rivalry, puppy love, teen pregnancy, Satan worship, cow murder, porn stripping, and a serial killer on the loose. Considering all these things, the film feels like a long weary guessing game. Much worse, some points in the story are circumstantial, making it incoherent and less believable.

    Aside from its brain-draining plot, the movie is also very dreary and downbeat. Going back and forth in time, with the past portrayed in grainy black and white flashbacks, does not help in building the momentum. Hence, there is a general lack of tension throughout, resulting to a barely breathing climax.

    With a lot of people involved, there is a shallow characterization of figures, even with the main protagonist. Some have vague motivations or unconvincing behaviors. Theron, who seems committed to her role, does not shine as Libby who appears sulky and drab all the time. Chloe Grace Moretz as Diondra, Ben’s young flame, is another wasted talent in the movie.

    Not all best-selling books are interpreted successfully to the big screen. Dark Places is part of that statistics as it fails miserably to give light to its murky and messy plot. Its lazy and dowdy atmosphere further deadens its. The reputed and sincere cast of the movie is not even enough to save it.


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