Dark Places: A Movie Review
Dark Places is a film based on the book of the same name by Gillian Flynn. Gillian Flynn became one of my favorite authors after I read her popular bestseller Gone Girl. She writes in the style of suspense/mystery and never disappoints with her sharp wit and incredible talent for building suspense. I was excited to watch this movie after reading the book. I was curious to see how it was adapted to the big screen after imagining it all in my mind while reading the book. The movie Dark Places is still playing in theaters now in the United States, but I chose to purchase it on instant video through Amazon.com.
Charlize Theron plays the main role as Libby Day. She is the only survivor after her family is murdered and her older brother goes to prison after being accused of the crime. The film goes back and forth between present day Libby and her life today to the days leading up to the crime and the murder itself in 1985. Libby is one of four children and her single mother (played by Christina Hendricks) struggles to provide for her and her siblings while also keeping their family farm afloat. The oldest son, Ben, causes a lot of trouble for the family because of the company he keeps and society's assumptions about him being a follower of Satan and doing animal and human sacrifices. This connection with Satan is part of the reason why he is convicted of killing his family and put in prison for over 30 years.
Present day Libby still has nightmares about what happened that night. She wonders how she was able to stay alive while her whole family was murdered. Libby has doubts about her brother Ben actually committing the crimes but doesn't follow through on them until a man who operates the Kill Club asks her to join. The Kill Club is actually a group of murder fanatics who obsess over true crimes and try to solve them. The Kill Club is what actually gets Libby thinking that maybe her brother Ben didn't actually commit the murders and there may be more to the story then she initially thought. With the help of The Kill Club, Libby visits her brother in prison for the first time and starts to look into the past more deeply to figure out who did in fact murder her family on that terrible day in 1985.
In the film, there is a lot of focus on Ben's friends in 1985 who were a bad influence on him. Ben's friend. Trey, is supposedly a Satanist himself because he likes to listen to "devil music" which is basically death metal and black metal. Ben's girlfriend Diondra (played by Chloe Grace Moretz), is a rich girl whose parents are never around and so she basically does as she pleases. Diondra and Ben have sex even though she is only 17 and he is 16. Ben gets Diondra pregnant and they have this weird fantasy that they are going to run away together and then raise their baby. One reason why Ben was convicted of killing his family was because he was suspected of being a Satanist and it was thought that killing his family was one of the human sacrifices he was doing to prove his loyalty to Satan.
Apparently, Satanism was a big thing in the 1980s and many times when teenagers misbehaved or listened to the wrong type of music, it was thought they were followers of Satanism. There is also a scene in the film where Ben, Trey, and Diondra get high on drugs and basically slaughter a cow as part of their sacrifice to Satan. This is a disturbing thing to watch. This part of the film adds an element of darkness to the movie and makes you wonder whether someone could actually murder their entire family to prove their loyalty to their friends and the Devil. There is also another topic that adds a darkness to the movie and that is molestation. Ben is accused of molesting a 12 year old girl and this only adds to him being looked at as bad and later being convicted of killing his family. It's like everything is working against Ben because he is a strange, poor, and quiet teenager who wears all black and hangs out with the wrong crowd. When he is accused of molestation no one doubts that he did it and when he is convicted of killing his family of course everyone thinks he did it because people already formed their opinion and look down on him.
Overall, I thought the film was very well done and held my interest throughout. I knew what was going to happen because I had previously read the book but I still looked forward to how it was all going to play out on screen. What I didn't like was the many ways in which things were changed in the movie in contrast to the book. For example, in the book, Libby is described as having red hair and being very short, about 5 feet. Charlize Theron, while being a great actress, does not fit that physical description at all. Her hair is blonde while Libby's was supposed to be bright red according to the book. Then, in the book it says that the murders happened on January 1, 1985. This was a big deal because it was New Years Eve. In the film, the murders happened on October 13. I don't know why they would change this major thing because it had a lot of meaning in it. The only reason why I would see them changing it to October was that it was closer to Halloween and that's when a lot of murders happen. In the film they still showed the murders happening as though it was winter even though it was supposed to be October so that was a major discrepancy, at least to me. Then, there was the issue of Diane, Libby's aunt. In the book, Diane lives and Libby visits her in the end once she figures out the whole truth of what happened on the day of the murders, in the film, Diane is dead which sort of changes the ending of the movie. Another thing that was changed in the film was Ben's age. In the book, Ben is 15 years old and in the film Ben is 16 which is not really that big of a deal but still worth mentioning. Other than these changes, the film stays mostly true to the book.
Most of the time, films based on books are a big disappointment. In this case, I don't think the film suffered much except for the few changes they implemented. If you're going into the movie without having read the book, you won't really have much to compare it to and you won't even notice. If you have read the book like myself, you might find yourself comparing the differences. I would suggest that you read the book first because there are many more details in it that will help you understand the back story and the richness of all the characters. Don't expect to come out of this movie with a warm and fuzzy feeling in your stomach though, this film covers a lot of tough issues and it doesn't exactly have a happy ending either. Regardless, this is one of the better films I have seen and I would definitely recommend for you to see it, especially if you are a fan of mystery and suspense films. It also doesn't hurt that it is based on a book by Gillian Flynn who in my opinion, is one of the best suspense/mystery writers of our time. Give this one a try, you definitely won't be disappointed.
Dark Places (Film)
Dark Places (Book)
Did you like the movie or the book more?
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