Jody Wheeler’s gay thriller “The Dark Place” takes on the conventional mystery with witty, and quick story telling. The film stars Blaise Embry, Eddy Rioseco, Shannon Day, Sean Paul Lockhart, Timo Descamps, Allison Lane, and follows a young man who returns home to make amends with his mother. His visit is one filled with chilling, and stark revelation as he learns the very real danger he is faced with meeting new family members. “The Dark Place” is a straight forward suspense, thriller that builds upon common themes of deadly relations.
The story is a well written, smart mystery that doesn’t rely on over-drawn stereotypes, or caricature personas to create character or entertainment value. “The Dark Place” keeps with a more serious tone, building a tense story arc that aims to draw viewers in with drama, action, and suspense. At times the story takes itself a bit too serious missing some moments that could have shown a comfortable, authentic feeling. The dialog, and writing move quick, with some witty, dark humor. However the acting, at times, feels somewhat contrived. Two dimensional characters present us with only superficial connectivity in scenes that require a strong emotional investment from the viewer. However there are some stand out moments from the cast during some of the film’s more dramatic scenes.
“The Dark Place” starts a little choppy and confusing, forcing us to trust that things will fall into place as the story moves forward. It works to the extent of setting the tone of mystery and suspense. The downside to the choppy scene transitions at the start falls on the fact that not enough back story, or character development exists for us to give in completely to that trust. It caused a conflict in my ability to get into the story, and my knee-jerk reaction of distrust of Wheeler’s intentions and objective. Luckily the story arc stays pretty focuses and moves right into Wheeler’s intended vision effortlessly by the second act. More of the story becomes clear, characters become stronger, and a hint to the intense climax starts to unfold. By the third act I found myself glued to the drama unfolding, and the big reveal about some character’s back story, I was quietly seeking, was given to me.
The special effects and sound effects didn’t really impress me, the special effects wear minimal. Wheeler had plenty of opportunity to show a darker, grittier, and more visceral side but chose to play it safe. Letting the drama, and dialog support most of the thrills. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I would have liked to have seen more gruesome effects during altercation and action scenes. What Jody Wheeler chose to give us came closer to Lifetime level of effects. With that said, “The Dark Place” does manage to create some real intense situations, plenty of emotion, and is quite entertaining. Even the mediocre instrumental music score and effects aid in the film’s suspenseful atmosphere.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by “The Dark Place”. The characters were not cartoonish stereotypes, and the story was a serious mystery, thriller. Even with the rough start, “The Dark Place” manages to become a captivating thriller. It is above most LGB&T thrillers that I have seen. There isn’t really any horror elements in the film, and the thrills are hit/miss throughout, so that was a slight disappointment. Still, Jody Wheeler does have a solid story here, with some stellar moments that create the necessary suspense and intensity. The ending was a little flat, but I was given the ending that I was hoping for, even if the final scene was a bit rudimentary and hokey. I definitely think mystery fans, and especially the LGB&T community should watch “The Dark Place”. Not that the film doesn’t have merit for the broader, hetero inclusive fan base.