Credit: Doane Gregory

Mystery junkies looking for another Gone Girl fix from author Gillian Flynn might want to downshift expectations for this adaptation of her 2009 novel, Dark Places. It isn’t terrible, exactly, but disappointing considering its cast and source. Charlize Theron stars as Libby Day, the cash-strapped, emotionally scarred survivor of a massacre that occurred 25 years earlier on her family’s Kansas farm. Her mother (Christina Hendricks in flashback) and two sisters were killed in cold blood, whereas Libby, who was just 7 at the time, managed to escape. And while her memories of that night are murky, she still carries around anger and guilt from helping to pin the murders on her teenage brother, Ben (Tye Sheridan then, Corey Stoll behind bars now). Written and directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner (2011’s Sarah’s Key), this so-so procedural starts off with the false promise of the sort of toxic tabloid satire that fueled Gone Girl, as Libby is lured by an underground “Kill Club” of ghoulish true-crime obsessives (led by Nicholas Hoult) to help prove Ben’s innocence. There’s a ­tantalizing idea in that setup—that Libby’s tragedy makes her a twisted kind of celebrity—but it’s never pushed far enough. Instead, Dark Places just becomes an overstuffed, low-simmer potboiler with too many improbable detours and overly convenient twists. C+

Dark Places
  • Movie