One of the other HorrorSociety writers had posted two press releases in regards to The Dark Place last month, mostly in reference to its DVD and VOD release earlier this month. I understand that this type of movie might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but what drew me in as a viewer was the main character’s (what I’m going to call) super-power. I had never seen anything like it so I felt safe dropping $3.99 on Amazon to stream the movie. Here’s my thoughts.
The Dark Place is written and directed by Jody Wheeler, whose last film – Judas Kiss (2011) – starred Richard Harmon and was very successful. Cast members in this title include Blaise Godbe Lipman (“Weeds”), Timo Descamps (“Spangas”), Sean Paul Lockhart (Chillerama), Eduardo Rioseco (Chastity Bites), Shannon Day (“Land of the Lost”), Allison Lane (“The Morning Bitch”), Genovieve Buechner (“The 100”), and Andy Copeland.
In The Dark Place, “Keegan Dark returns to the heart of California’s wine valley to make peace with his long-estranged family. Instead, he finds a harrowing mystery that endangers his life and those he loves.”
Ok, so, just to touch on what originally drew me to watch this film again… Keegan Dark (played by Blaise Godbe Lipman) has the gift of hyperthymesia (yes, I needed to copy and paste that so I’d spell it correctly), which is basically the ability to record everything he sees every second of every day much like a video camera constantly stuck on record. This allows him to remember small, exact details from many years earlier and to even get a better glimpse at something he saw for only half a second. What’s more interesting about this to me is that hyperthymesia is actually a real life condition. You can google it if you don’t believe me. Mostly, I like how visual effects supervisor, Joel Bellucci, created this ability because it looked more like a super-power or paranormal ability than just an internal memory recorder.
After a somewhat boring opening sequence where two characters sit and talk for about ten minutes, The Dark Place kicks into high gear with an assault and other plot progressing elements that quickly leads the young couple, Keegan and Will (played by Timo Descamps), to Keegan’s mother’s estate where things start to escalate even quicker. People are getting assaulted. People are getting beat over the head with wine bottles and locked in storage units. People are just being plain creepy, too. I would not consider The Dark Place a horror film by any means unless you find those Lifetime Original Movies to be scary. More-so this title relies on a good old mystery who-done-it with drama, romance, and the slightest remnants of horror and science fiction woven in. Still, the who-done-it aspect of the movie was what kept me interested. It was obvious what the criminals were after from the start, but who was the mastermind behind it was the big question.
Besides Jake Bishop (played by Sean Paul Lockhart). You know from the first time he comes across the screen that he is one of the bad guys. He was very good at playing the villainous role and interchanging his moods from warm and friendly to murderous at the drop of a hat. Lipman was great as the lead actor, another spot on casting choice, because he had a dark (yes, it’s a pun) quality to him that’s only highlighted by his impressive yet overbearing never-ending onslaught of sassiness; yet he still managed to come off as personable enough. Descamps did a fantastic job at playing the boyfriend that wants the approval of the family, one who seemed so sincere in his love for Keegan on screen that I was impressed by his depth as an actor. Shannon Day, however, was by far my favorite character and performer in The Dark Place. Wow. She was… amazing. I couldn’t help but smile every time she was on screen because she was the stand-out. Charismatic and maternal and so intelligent. I was hoping she’d have a super-power to by the end of the movie to make it more science fiction based – parents always pass down their powers to their children in movies – but that was the only part of her character development that wasn’t fulfilled. Loved her! Casting directors Patti Carns Kalles and Steven Tyler O’Connor get a massive round of applause for picking the perfect cast.
Before I go any further I do have to mention that The Dark Place is definitely a homo-erotic suspense-thriller at its core. The film has two gay sex scenes that aren’t too bad and one that is sort of explicit. The film has several muscular young men walking around bare chested at random times. I think the eye candy was supposed to be one of the draws to this movie. Now… How do I say this… The Dark Place is what David Decoteau’s movies could be like if he actually put effort into them. The Dark Place is clearly aimed at gay men and women who like watching tame almost-murder mysteries. But it’s never campy. The film doesn’t rely solely on attractive men to sell itself. It has character development, realistic and cleverly written characters. It has a real plot and real suspense. It’s subtle in all these aspects and still doesn’t manage to beat you over the head like, “Look at his muscles! You have no choice but to stare for ten minutes? Give me your money, now!” Jody Wheeler gets a lot of props from me for making a movie that breaks the mold of typical homo-centric features and for delivering something of high quality. The homo-erotic or gay-based film genre needs more of that.
And the movie looks pretty, too. It has a high production quality in terms of all the little puzzle pieces like nice angles, great lighting, decent special effects, fun scorings, and all that good stuff. But, what I really liked is that everything seemed high class to me. Nice clothes, nice cars, a beautiful mansion with the quaintest grape orchard outside. You can tell this movie had a budget. All the characters are refined and say things along the lines of, “Drinking wine is like drinking time.” Meanwhile, I’m over here at The New Jersey Shore drinking my overflowing cup of cheap red wine out of a red solo cup. I glared a couple times and thought, “Damnit. I want your life,” except without people getting shot in my living room… and the trips to the hospital… and the weird older/younger incest… Ok, maybe I want half of Keegan’s life. I just want to be rich! Anyway…
The Dark Place was much better than I was expecting. I knew going into my viewing that I wasn’t exactly the film’s target audience, but again the gay elements in this movie are not smacking you in the face… like a penis. At times I completely forgot that that was one of the film’s angles because I was more involved in the deep, ever evolving mystery of who was trying to kill Keegan and his family. Fantastic actors, great set designs, a clever and sassy script, and an awesome never-before-seen super-power… You can’t go wrong here. Again, gay men and women looking for a fun, romantic suspense-thriller are going to get a kick out of this. Judging this film for what it is I’m going to give it a 9 out of 10. It’s far from horror, but it accomplishes what it set out to in a big way.
I’d also like to add that this has tremendous sequel potential.