Sponsor

New Release Review - THE DARK PLACE (DVD)

A young man becomes involved in a mystery when attempting to reconnect with his estranged wealthy family.


Review by Benjamin Poole (@filmclubchs)

Directed by: Jody Wheeler

Starring: Blaise Embry, Timo Descamps, Sean Paul Lockhart


The film’s televisual plot is slickly realised with gorgeous lighting and a glamourous set design, but, with its predilection of its handsome characters hanging about half in the knack, it has all the tension of an underwear commercial.



The Dark Place, writer/director Jody Wheelers’ lux mystery thriller, aims to relocate television movie tropes within a sexualised, noirish atmosphere of betrayal and moral turpitude. We open in a coffee shop, where a couple - protagonist Keegan Dark (Blaise Godbe Lipman) and his fella Wil (Timo Descamps) - discuss their impending visit to Keegan’s family home in order to make peace with his long-estranged family: the titular double entendre of ‘The Dark Place’, situated deep in the heart of California’s wine valley. As the camera spins slowly around the two in a 360° pan (sound familiar? There’s a gratuitous pov shot from inside a trunk ten minutes later, too), the conversation is interrupted by their waitress getting smacked in the face outside by some guy in a hoody. Keegan rushes to help, but neglects to stick around despite Wil’s protests - it doesn’t matter, he won’t forget the incident anytime soon as Keegan is gifted/cursed (the film never seems to make up its mind, or, indeed, use the twist purposefully) with hyperthymesia, a condition that gives his mind the properties of a video camera, recording everything in photographic detail and supposedly allowing Keegan total recall.
The dark place actual, a sprawling pile set amongst photogenic vineyards, is pleasingly arch and gothic, as is the relationship Keegan has with his mother (Shannon Day), which is strained due to the mysterious circumstances of Keegan’s father and brother’s death in a car accident some years ago. Mum has moved on though, with handsome Adrian (Andy Copeland) and his son, the buff Jake (Sean Paul Lockhart) also in residence at the house. Deal in Ernesto (Eduardo Rioseco), the family’s twinky lawyer, and the cards are stacked for a game of who’s after mom’s money and what’s their secret?
At times, The Dark Place reminded me of Tennessee Williams; tensions simmer in the mansion, with repressions boiling over in the steaming, sexual ambiance of guilt and greed. But The Dark Place has none of Williams’ hysteria or drama, and is, instead, decidedly average. Keegan, his mother, the whole sorry bunch are utterly unlikeable and impossible to care about. Everything Keegan says has a caustic level of irony to it, and the characters interact solely through flirting, fighting or finally actually effing. It gets tiresome, as does the suffusion of white privilege throughout, with the film’s cast of doctors, landowners and connoisseurs squabbling over status or things that may or may not have occurred in the past with all the indulgence of people who have seemingly never suffered genuine hardship.
The film’s televisual plot is slickly realised with gorgeous lighting and a glamourous set design, but, with its predilection of its handsome characters hanging about half in the knack, it has all the tension of an underwear commercial. The plot is convoluted to the point of absurdity too. Midway through its mystery tale involving counterfeit wine labels (!), the narrative remembers the poor girl who was beaten up at the start (she’s Jake’s so-so beau), as Keegan, prompted by his beautiful mind, tracks her down to investigate further. She tasers Keegan on sight, ties him to a chair, and when he wakes up, begins writhing on him/ threatening to kill him. Then she lets him go, and immediately begins stirring something at the stove - WTF? The victim/whore/cook representation of women clangs. This is disappointing as, conversely, a positive feature of The Dark Place is the rest of its characters’ matter of fact sexuality. Admittedly, these lads enjoy a rabid promiscuity, but this is in keeping with the soap/thriller genre of the film - they could just as easily be straight male/female characters, with their specific sexuality incidental to the universally noirish plot of inheritance and fraud. Progressively, The Dark Place promotes a non-sensationalised gay representation, allowing homosexual men a depiction as positively run of the mill as this very film is.
Help support The Movie Waffler by sharing this post




discussion by