The Horror Honeys: Put 'Dark Places' in a Dark Place... And Forget About It.

Put 'Dark Places' in a Dark Place... And Forget About It.

A Disappointment Double Feature Review with Revenge Honey Linnie

Dark Places (2015)

Despite the fact it's splattered right on the poster in giant, BOLD letters, I went into Gilles Paquet-Brenner's Dark Places intent on not comparing it to the other film adaption of a Gillian Flynn novel, Gone Girl. This was a smart decision, because if I had, I would have been even more disappointed in Dark Places, a movie so overstuffed with unsympathetic characters and distracting side plots, I stopped caring about anything almost immediately.

The Plot(s): Libby Day (Charlize Theron) was a child when her family was murdered, and she pointed the finger at her older brother, Ben, an accused child molester and apparent satanist. Twenty-eight years later, jobless and in-debt Libby is paid by a Kill Club to help them find the "real killer," despite the fact Libby refuses to consider that anyone but Ben killed her sisters and mother. Also, there are flashbacks to pregnant girlfriends, drunk and abusive fathers, satanists, lying groups of pre-teens, bitchy and meddlesome sisters, the "Angel of Debt" serial killer, Native American bookies, and cow murders for Satan. I'm sure I'm leaving things out, but honestly... I stopped paying attention after a while.

Within minutes of starting Dark Places, I became aware of two deeply troubling problems. First, a problem inherent in the works of Gillian Flynn: Flynn writes, almost exclusively, deeply unlikable female leads. In fact, Libby Day is even more unsympathetic than Amy from Gone Girl, and seeing as Amy was a murderous sociopath, that's a big problem. Right off the bat, it is established that Libby is numb to the loss of her family, and is only interested in capitalizing off of it monetarily so she can avoid working. She agrees to aid a "Kill Club" in the process of filing an appeal for her brother only so she can get money from them, not so she can help her brother, who was convicted on shoddy evidence, rumors, and her own faulty childhood memories. I am baffled as to how I am supposed to feel anything for this main character's journey when she is SO deeply frustrating.

Furthermore, it is established via flashbacks that Libby and Ben were the closest of the siblings when they were children. So why did Libby have zero problem blaming Ben for the murders with zero proof, and then abandoning him for the rest of their adult lives until it served her own self-interests to help? The film never explains any of this, and if the book does, I'm not sure it would help improve my impressions of Libby. Despite the plethora of flashbacks, we're never given any insights into Libby. So we are left with an empty shell of an adult that is little more than a collection of unpleasant character traits and a permanent Bitchy Resting Face.

There are also major issues with the film's representation of Satanism. At times, it felt as if the film were trying to make a statement about the dangers of small town fear, Satanic Panic, and false accusations, similar to the real world West Memphis Three case. But then, Dark Places fell into the exact same traps of fear that it initially seemed to be condemning. A scene in which young Ben (Tye Sheridan), his pregnant girlfriend (Chloë Grace Moretz), and their friend murder a bunch of cows as a sacrifice to Satan is woefully ignorant, and seek only to further the misconceptions which landed Ben in prison in the first place. At this point, I no long had any idea what is was Dark Places was trying to say.

I'm not necessarily averse to a film in which no one is particularly likable, but there has to be SOMETHING to cling to, to feel for, to anchor us to the movie. The closest I ever got to feeling anything for anyone in Dark Places came via Christina Hendricks' portrayal of Day matriarch, Patty. But then the final, borderline-ridiculous, twist stripped away any lingering feelings of sympathy I had for Patty. Or really anyone in the movie. By the time the credits rolled, I just wanted to begin the complicated process of blocking out Dark Places and any memory that I'd ever seen it.

It's not surprising to me that this movie had such a limited theatrical run before getting dumped on VOD and home video. My suggestion? Skip Dark Places and re-watch Gone Girl, then pre-order Mad Max: Fury Road, a movie worth spending your hard-earned money on.

Revenge Honey Rating: 1 rage migraine out of 5

Dark Places is available to BUY on iTunes. Not rent. BUY. Do NOT make that commitment to this movie. I beg of you. DO NOT.

What was the last movie to give you a rage migraine?
Tell me on Twitter: @linnieloowho