Saturday, May 19, 2012

Finding Questions in All Dark Places: A Movie Review

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*full disclosure: a DVD screener of this film was provided by Monarch Home Entertainment.

Director/writer: Nicholas Reiner.

Cast: Joshua Burrow, Stephanie Fieger, Daniel Brennan, Dylan Mars Loff and Liam Seide.

All Dark Places is a mysterious thriller of love, doubt and clowns with killer smiles. Created by Nicholas Reiner (Remedy), All Dark Places takes a look at the strain in a marriage between Jamie (Stephanie Fieger) and Chris (Joshua Burrow). This strain is symbolized by a prose spewing clown who may or may not be a figment of the family's imagination.

The film's protagonist is Christian and the story follows him and his bad decisions. He is a struggling musician with a past full of alcohol fueled benders. He uses cocaine like it is going out of style and Chris' primary means of work involves shady business deals. All of these poor choices makes Jamie doubt Chris and their future together. A roaming clown also doubts Chris, but who is the clown and what does he represent?

In the film, characters hypothesize why Chris is seeing this white faced ghoul. Miller, Chris' booze buddy, suggests that he is John Wayne Gacy's ghost, returned from the past. Yet, Gacy used rope to murder his victims and not a knife. This suggestion does not fit. The final scene would suggest that the antagonist is produced from an Oedipal complex. However, one scene and one action does not create enough evidence to suggest that this is a father son conflict, exclusively. The best guess that this reviewer can put forth involves what the viewer sees. All of the conflict between Jamie and Chris is symbolized by the clown. All of those dark energies such as doubt, insecurity, self-destruction and anger are displayed externally in this murderous character. And this character and these elements ultimately destroy the relationship between Chris and Jamie.

With so much complexity here, All Dark Places is definitely a psychological thriller and this film is also indie in scope. Independent elements seen here include the use of one primary set and only a few characters. Therefore, the actors have to carry the film. Stephanie Fieger and Joshua Burrow do a great job in making their relationship seem real. Nicholas Reiner's script also creates beievable characters and the film just feels lifelike despite the constraints of a small budget.

This film fan really has few quibbles to add. Really, this film cannot be commended enough. Reiner keeps the film in a surreal state by utilizing an off-kilter soundtrack. As well, the lighting creates a carnival like atmosphere with an edge of danger. All Dark Places is impressionistic in structure and all of these elements made the film enjoyable.

All Dark Places will release on DVD June 26th and this viewer would recommend that fans of psychological thrillers seek this title out. Then, watchers can hypothesize of what the clown represents. Is he a ghoul? A message? Or, something else? Reiner's film is smart and sometimes terrifying and often mysterious. This unknowing is what made this film such a fine watch for this viewer.

Overall: 8 out of 10 (solid writing, good use of space and characters).

The film's fan page is here:

All Dark Places on Facebook

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