In Dark Places we follow Libby Day (Charlize Theron) who's the sole survivor of her family's infamous massacre at the hands of her malleable and Satan worshiping brother Ben Day (Corey Stoll) when she was just a young child. Perpetually depressed and emotionally stunted, Libby's grown up living off the charity and welfare of others while staying in isolation and anonymity. With the kindness of strangers waning over the years and the money drying up, Libby finds herself short of cash and reluctant to take on any sort independence of her own, she doesn't want to work. So when Libby comes across a financial offer to make a brief appearance at an amateur crime solvers club organized by Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult), Libby cautiously accepts. Lyle later offers Libby some more money to help them get to the bottom of what they think is the wrongful conviction of her brother. Still wholly convinced of her brothers guilt, but strapped for cash, Libby agrees to help their amateur 'investigation', for cash of course.
As Libby starts reliving and rethinking her recollection of the events on that night, her memories start flooding back and doubts begin to seep in to her once iron clad conviction of her brothers guilt. Feeling increasingly compelled to uncover the truth once and for all, Libby finds herself in Dark Places indeed. Since Libby was so young when it happened, she really wasn't aware of a lot of the circumstances, activities and proclivities of her family, but embarking on her own investigation as an adult opens up a very different perspective of her family for her.
Dark Places is competently directed and manages to capture that grungy, destitute and murky small southern town vibe exceedingly well, although it could feel a little insipid, like it was lacking a spark of some kind. The acting was strong from Charlize Theron and everyone else was fine, but not exceptional. The key to making a good 'who done it' is obviously to keep the audience guessing, however I thought the general outcome was telegraphed pretty heavily, very early on in the movie. There were still some twists and turns ahead, but they didn't really amount to much in the way of suspense. The structure of Dark Places is split between flashbacks that help fill in the blanks of what exactly happened on that heinous day, which are then juxtaposed as we follow Libby discovering all her family's hidden secrets in the present time and it works well enough, even if it is a little too obvious at times.
With Dark Places taking place in two separate time periods, different actors were used for the same characters, and I felt that the casting was off, particularly with one major character. Dark Places should have been a disturbing, shocking and thrilling movie, but it rarely managed to exceed being banal and largely predictable. Dark Places started strong and I was engaged, but the momentum never really increased, it's like it was stuck in first gear for the entire movie, idling. The intricacies of the plot were fairly basic and rather contrived when you think about it. The ending was such a massive platitude though, it brought the movie down to Lifetime standards for me. Dark Places wasn't nearly as riveting or as gripping as I'd hoped it was going to be, but Charlize Theron really elevated the movie from 'mediocre' to 'not bad'.
Written by - The Sentry - 31/07/2015