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Film review: Dark Places a lacklustre snooze fest

Dark Places' lack of good pacing and narrative spoil this true crime drama

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 September, 2015, 1:14pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 September, 2015, 1:22pm

Adapted from the novel by Gone Girl scribe Gillian Flynn, and reuniting Mad Max: Fury Road co-stars Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult, Dark Places has suggestions of a moody true-crime drama with psycho-thriller pretensions. But languid pacing, poor directorial choices and a series of narrative dead ends make watching it a tiresome chore.

Thirty years after her brother was convicted of murdering their mother and two sisters, Libby Day (Theron) is approached by a group of amateur sleuths and conspiracy nuts, who persuade her to revisit her traumatic past and reconnect with her incarcerated sibling (Corey Stoll).  

A wayward teen dabbling in satanic worship, Ben (played at 17 by Tye Sheridan) was an easy scapegoat, but Lyle (Hoult)  and his “Kill Club” have uncovered other possible culprits and motives.

The normally excellent Theron is miscast here, too pristine and well-adjusted for what her character – an introverted slacker surviving off anonymous donations – requires. After a lengthy and hard-fought set-up, the Kill Club proves largely redundant in the film’s second half, while flashbacks involving Sheridan, Christina Hendricks and the rest of the family are too fractured to give any real sense of time or place.

Worse still is Chloe Grace Moretz, whose struggling transition from child star to legitimate actress makes her coquettish femme fatale a laughable failure.

Had director Gilles Paquet-Brenner embraced the material’s pulpier elements, Dark Places may have proved an entertaining slice of Southern Gothic, but his determination to aim for portentous drama results in a tedious and po-faced snooze that long outstays its welcome.

Dark Places opens on October 1