Turn off the Lights

Dark Places Review

"You Can't Even Trust Your Mother"

Yet another film based on a Gillian Flynn novel, this time Dark Places, proves to be a much different attempt at a mystery than its predecessor Gone GirlSimilar to Gone Girl, Dark Places is told mainly through flashbacks with a protagonist that you cannot be too sure about, although this time it’s a murder involving multiple family members we are talking about.

Set in the state of Kansas we are thrusted to present day where Libby Day (Charlize Theron) is in financial trouble. After an entire life on banking on her family’s unfortunate demise, donations, a book deal, etc., she realizes that she might have to *gasp* get a job. Her family was infamously murdered 25 years ago where they put the entire blame on her brother Ben Day (Corey Stoll) because of Libby’s testimony when she was seven. He was then placed in jail for the remainder of his life.
courtesy of NY Daily News
However, as fate would have it, Libby is offered a large amount of money by a wannabe group of detectives led by Lyle Wirth (Nicholas Hoult) who believe Ben is innocent and that Libby is a liar. Libby obviously is not appreciative of the claims, but she is desperate for money. The narrative is then driven by Libby and Lyle slowly uncovering the truth, shown by multiple flashbacks of that fateful night.

Dark Places immediately has a disadvantage regarding the viewing audience’s expectations because of the critical acclaim that Gone Girl received. That being said anything short of a summer blockbuster-esque film would be considered a massive failure. Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner had his work cut out for him.
dark places - corey stollLike any mystery/thriller film the juxtaposition is crucial. Taking place in rural Kansas leads for a lot of interpretation. We have a small farm town in the Midwest with not a whole lot going on, so it is reasonable for the casual audience viewing to think, “yeah there’s probably not a whole lot else to do besides look up a cool murder.” What else would you do when Jayhawks basketball isn’t on? Sorry to our Kansas readers. In addition, the classical thriller, or horror for that matter, will always take place in a rural, and sometimes Midwestern, town, Children of the Corn serving as an example.

As previously mentioned, this plot line follows a similar guide line to that of Gone Girl in the sense where the frame is constantly going back and forth between present day and the infamous night of the murder. Luckily, Paquet-Brenner does a great job of transitioning scenes between the two time periods for the audience to keep up with the fast paced transitions and dialogue.

Regarding acting, have you ever seen Mad Max: Fury Road? Then you do not need to watch Charlize Theron. She was the same exact character in a different time and setting. The short hair cut, “I’m-tough-but-on-the-inside-all-I-really-want-is-for-someone-to-love-me” type of character. Which in both cases is completely understandable. She’s been in a desolated post apocalyptic world, and now her entire family got murdered when she was seven. I get it, but maybe change it up just a tiny bit.
dark places still
On the other hand, Corey Stoll as Ben Day created as likeable of a mass murderer as you could imagine. He perfectly plays off of the now reformed mentality while displaying openly his rough childhood of being an outcast and ignored satanist who gets his girlfriend knocked up when they are teenagers. His girlfriend Diondra (Chloe Grace Moretz) takes advantage of his desperate pursuit for love which inevitably leads to everyone’s downfall.

Dark Places clearly attempted to break away from the cliche aspects of psychological thrillers, while still paying homage to them, however, fails to do so. The concept was a good one, but one we have seen done over and over again, which derails shock value and quality to most viewers. Everything about this film was average, except for the ending which came out of nowhere. Without spoilers, the audience was left to ponder about what they had just witnessed over the course of the film. I compare it to the end of How I Met Your Mother in the sense of, “you were filling me with all this information about the mother, and then completely ignore most of what you told me just to have the show be about their aunt?!” You will be left sitting there saying to yourself, “are you kidding me?”

Average is fine, but films should aspire to be better.


  • Corey Stoll performance
  • Exciting ending
  • Easy to follow transitions between present and past
  • Charlize Theron
  • Over use of certain thriller tropes
  • Unrealistic even for a film

Liked this article? Try These!


News from Around the Web

Meet the Author

About / Bio
Syracuse alumnus. I like sports, movies, and completing lists of three

Follow Us

Our Sponsors

Featured Poll

What is Your Favorite Game Franchise?
Yop Poll Widget
Which Upcoming Game Are You Most Excited For?