HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Dark Places
HTS Overall Score:73
After the slam dunk win that “Gone Girl” made in the market a year or so ago, I was more than ecstatic to check out author Gillian Flynn’s latest adaption from book to silver screen, this time starring Charlize Theron, Nichols Hoult, Chloe Grace Moretz and even Christina Hendricks. Her bleak literary style makes mysterious a dream come true, as she has an excellent knack for keeping just the right amount of information from the viewer and doling out tidbits of knowledge as the story goes on. Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner manages to adapt the source material rather well, even if he doesn’t exactly rise up to the level of David Fincher in execution. The story keeps you constantly wondering “whodunit” up until the very end, wherein the movie stumbles just a bit for my tastes.
Libby Day (Charlize Theron) has been living the last 28 years on her parent’s life insurance and donations to her care fund after coming out a survivor of a family massacre. Broken and beaten down, Libby is a shell of a person, haunted by the ghosts of the past and the sensation of feeling completely broken, despite copious therapy sessions. Desperate for cash, she takes the offer of a group of people called the “Kill Club” for some extra money. The “Kill Club” is a group of amateur enthusiasts who have an avid fascination for true crime and try to solve some of the cases that are still at large. Lying to get Libby to come, the leader of the group, Lyle (Nicholas Hoult, entreats Libby to help them prove that her brother Ben (Corey Stoll as an adult, Tye Sheridan as a child) is innocent of shooting Libby’s parents and siblings (Ben was indicted on Libby’s childhood testimony). At first disgusted with the lie and having no desire to get involved, Libby leaves, only to acquiesce to the group’s request with the promise of money she so desperately needs.
Tracking down all of the people from her past is a bit daunting, but Libby tackles the job with an intensity fueled by the pain in her past. She doesn’t want to believe her brother’s innocence, or the fact that something else was going on, but as she digs deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole, Libby can’t deny the fact that some things don’t add up. Told in a split story style of narrative, we see Libby finding things out on her own, to be supplemented by flashbacks to 1985 just before, during and after the murder to flesh out the tale. There is so many flashbacks that you can almost consider young Libby, and young Ben as important to the overall story as the modern plot. Characters are flayed down to the bone like a gutted fish, showing all of the rotting insides and all of the dirty secrets that have built up over a lifetime of cynicism and hurt after that pivotal night.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=55282[/img]The back and forth swing between past and present is a bit tedious at times, but it effectively helps us see with whom we’re dealing with, and make us really get to know the young characters better. Like with most Gillian Flynn novels, people are not exactly who they seem. Ben seems like he’s a twisted villain, and at times seems like he’s an innocent victim, but actually ends up being somewhere in between. Libby is broken and shattered, but through her nightmarish struggle for the truth, this broken women is NOT healed, but rather empowered to live through said brokenness, even learn to have some semblance of happiness. Really there’s no good guys or bad guys here, but rather different shades and levels of grey. Different levels of compromise that render characters flawed, but relatable, even if that relatability is our own penchant for messing things up. Nobility is there, but heavily doused in selfishness and deceit, so much so that light and darkness blur together into an incomprehensible melting pot.
With this many named brand actors, I was really expecting something magnificent, but thankfully I tempered my expectations after the middle of the road reviews started seeping in. I enjoyed 95% of the movie, and up until the ending I was literally hanging on the edge of my seat. I did get a little tired of the constant shifting of time periods, but I was truly up in the air about who the killer was and what the motivations were behind the deadly 28 year old murders. When the reveal comes, it just feels a little bit too easy, too simplistic, and not entirely satisfying. In many ways it was a very realistic ending, but all of that buildup, and all of that emotion feels almost wasted by the last 15 minutes. Flynn and Paquet-Brenner try to bring in a little bit of spiritualization and healing to the character of Libby in the final moments, but that is a bit contrived and just a bit TOO cliché. I’ve never read the actual novel of “Dark Places”, so I can’t tell if that was part of the book or not, but It felt a bit out of place and overly saccharine for the type of tale being told.
Rated R for some disturbing violence, language, drug use and sexual content
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=55290[/img]“Dark Places” is the perfect name for the movie, as it not only fits the theme of inner self, but also describes the movie’s video presentation to a T. the film is separated into three distinct visual styles, with the modern story taking place with a very crisp and clear looking digital image. The picture is definitely dark and brooding, but still filled with clean skin tones and well detailed imagery. The old 1985 story pieces are graded with that honey yellow color grading meant to simulate decades ago, with a grainer look to the image. Detail is a bit softer, but still finely detailed considering. Lastly we have a 1st person point of view, told in the black and white shaky came style, simulating a dreamlike state if you will. That naturally is the least pretty of the three, with gritty and grainy textures and little detail to speak of (intentionally though). Black levels are VERY deep, sometimes a bit too deep as I noticed some crush along the way. “Dark Places” is a drab and dreary film, with a visual style that tends to mirror that melancholy and depressing tone that the movie exudes.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=55298[/img]The low budget of “Dark Places” keeps it from being a tour de force audio wise, but the mix is impressive enough for the limited funds allocated. Dialog is clean and clear, locked up in the front of the room and there is more than enough ambiance for the surround speakers to get a decent workout. The majority of the sound tends to be pretty front heavy, with lots of dialog and a few major noises to wake the dead. LFE is sporadic, but when it is called upon, the power is there in spades, giving more than its fair share of jump scares. There are several very pertinent moments in the film where the sound stage really opens up, especially the club scene at the beginning, where Lyle takes Libby to meet the Kill Club members. The chaotic music and flashing lights wonderfully meshes in with the sense of chaos and despair that Libby is already feeling in her life. The same with the end scene where we get to see what REALLY happened back in 1985. Shotguns blasé, the room shakes and the dimensionality of the track greatly improves for those few moments. It’s well done, but the limited budget doesn’t allow it to become truly great.
• Bringing "Dark Places" to Light - Featurette
• About the Author - Gillian Flynn & Dark Places Featurette
“Dark Places” tells a story of just that. Very dark places in the corners of the main characters lives. Places that are twisted and convoluted, with both light spots and pitch blackness. The storyline is fantastic, and the buildup to the ending is magnificent, but some of the execution of the finale lack the impactful feel that would have turned this film from good to great. I really did enjoy a majority of the movie, as the actors did a fantastic job, but some mild editing problems and a lackluster finale hampered the effort for me just a tad. The audio and video are both solid presentations and are a boon to the disc. The extras aren’t exactly the most stout, but what is there on the disc is good. Definitely worth a decent rental for those of you who like bleak mysteries.
Starring: Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christina Hendricks
Directed by: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Written by: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 113 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 6th 2015
Buy Dark Places On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Good Rental
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