That was a fun ride, wasn’t it? Fantasia Festival this year had some great movies. And I think I made some fantastic choices covering a range of horror with different pacing and styles. There was thrillers and even one foreign film (which there was more though). But, we are at the end and with a rather late showing of Dark Places (which was even later because the entrance was delayed). I’m a huge fan of Gillian Flynn and Dark Places was written before Gone Girl. Check out my book review here. I had mixed feelings about how Dark Places would turn out but there is no doubt that it has a pretty awesome looking cast. Plus, hey, Nicholas Hoult non-zombie version. I’m down for that 😉 Plus, its an advanced screening, even if I only got the review up today, after its been released in theatres.
Let’s check this out! 🙂
Dark Places (2015)
Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Cast: Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Sterling Jerins, Christina Hendricks, Corey Stoll, Tye Sheridan, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sean Bridgers
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.-IMDB
I’m a huge fan of Gillian Flynn (like I said before). HUGE! I love all of her three books. Even though, Gone Girl is by far the best one and the movie adaptation is just pure awesome and I’m not as big of a fan of Dark Places (its the last favorite of the three), the cast of Dark Places was one that made me at least know the performances would stand out. I’m going to tell you right away that Dark Places is an okay adaptation of the book, bordering okay. One, its a bit long and dragging out in a lot of parts and two, it feels a little disjointed because of the interpretation of how the book was set up and how they did it. The one thing I worried about for this novel being not a good match for the big screen was that in the novel, we learn about Libby Day through what is going on in her mind, and she is one ugly inner beauty sort of person. She’s really not all that likable because that helps her character build as the story goes along. In the movie, even with a fantastic actress like Charlize Theron, its hard to show what is going on someone’s mind as they observe the situation and react silently and in their own way. Its easy to lose or just never build the connection with the main character.
Dark Places does use the set up of the book by jumping from present day Libby linking back to her investigation and revisiting her past to flashbacks of the day before all the murders while also using her mom, Patty and her brother, Ben’s day to piece together the events. I like that they effectively did that. That way to tell a story is very Gillian Flynn if you think about it. Its the art of creating one timeline with multiple points of reference for various characters to reach for the audience to piece it all together. It makes it engaging to watch.
Except, something also makes it hard to watch. I’d like to say its the set up of the storyboard adapted from the book. Maybe its the slow start to introduce us to who Libby is now, 25 years later. Maybe its to bring us to learn more about her and the situation she is going into but something didn’t wrong so well. I think its the details or just picking the right pieces from the book to put together that will create the right amount of suspense. It seemed to just keep revealing certain parts as a way to roughly enter a new character or a “shocking” new situation. I don’t know, it just didn’t work so well for me.
However, just as I expected though, the strengths of Dark Places lie in their cast. If anyone less talented than Charlize Theron was doing present day Libby Day, it might be even less expressive of the emotions we’d like to see. In general, the character of Libby Day was portrayed well enough for us to see that she isn’t so appealing, not quite as hated as in the novel perhaps but we can see that she basks in the world of pity and manipulation and just pure laziness to avoid being caught in work. Her world is contingent on money and compensation while she chooses to be ignorant of her brother. I was a little disappointed with not having the investigation group so much but at least Nicholas Hoult still got a few moments to pop up. The character I bought the most out of was Chloe Grace Moretz. This is a dark novel and she is an actress that can pull off these dark roles really well. Although I felt the setup and build for her character, Diondra was great but it was effective her (at least more if you haven’t read the book). The rest of the cast from the younger boys to everyone else was a good mesh.
Overall, Dark Places is okay. The premise is solid because the original was a good piece with a strong story. However, the adaptation did not work quite as well. The story did get lost in itself a little and felt like it didn’t flow so well. Plus, while the runtime might not be the big issue, it runs a little too slow and doesn’t have the right pieces to make us thrilled with the story. However, the cast is very well chosen and they do well with they have to work with, making it more enjoyable and mildly compelling. The choice to follow the layout of the novel was a good one and the atmosphere was set pretty well. What is sad is that Dark Places has quite a bit of potential to be a great movie thriller, however a main character which bases a lot on her inner thoughts to move a story doesn’t work so well on the big screen, especially with a somewhat flawed adapted screenplay.
Have you seen Dark Places? Have you read the book? What are your thoughts?