Wednesday, December 03, 2014

"The Dark Place": a young man outwits an evil stepfather when he returns to the family estate

I had wondered if the new film from Blue Seraph, “The Dark Place”, directed and written by Jody Wheeler but produced in part by Carlos Pedraza (“Judas Kiss”, June 4, 2011), would follow the Henry James story “The Turn of the Screw” as does “In a Dark Place” (Oct. 24, 2014).  It does only in the sense that a young adult goes to a large estate, and perhaps in the sense that child abuse from the past will be unearthed.  But this is a film about the risks of inheriting or being in line for a large estate, especially houses and real estate (in this film, a wine ranch in Oregon).  In that sense, it has something in common with yesterday’s film, “The Invoking”. The tagline is "Your mind can get you killed". 
And it also centers around largely gay male characters, operating in the world pretty much as their straight counterparts would.  Call it a gay mystery if you like, but it could work in a heterosexual setting – and in fact, one could probably construct some Venn Diagram parallels with “Invoking”.

The film-making style is a bit like that of “Judas Kiss” – with the use of special effects to convey other realities.  But this time, the alternate reality falls within the main character 26-ish Keegan Dark (Blaise Godbe Lipman), his videographic photographic memory (called "hyperthymesia"), which is shown as ghostly visions, and which functions like a digital database, a search engine of all knowledge, a brain patterned after Google.  Now, that concept has already been covered in an artistic biographic film covered here Nov. 26. (Hitchcock covered the idea in “The 39 Steps”.)   In fact, when I lived in Dallas in the 1980s, I knew a gay man, and coworker, with pretty much the same kind of memory.
The film opens in a restaurant, resembling a real one I visited in Palm Springs in 2012.  This technique might be inspired by a similarly spirited and busier scene that opens “The Social Network”.  Keegan is briefing his boyfriend Wil Roelen (Timo Descamps) on the visit to the Dark Estate for his mother’s birthday.  Wil seems to be fixing a computer. There are hints already that something could be wrong there. 

Now in this movie, the major actors take on roles related to their real lives.  Wil (while looking a little like Will Horton from “Days of our Lives”) is from Belgium, as is Timo.  In fact, Timo Descamps wrote the lyrics for and sings two songs (“Addicted” and “Bad Things”) in the film credits, with his usual crisp voice and accurate pitch.  Timo plays a role of the solid, role-model type (a law student), potential gay husband.  He is perhaps a bit like Will Horton in Days.  His acting style is a little more subdued than it was with his exhuberance as Shane Lyons in “Judas Kiss”.  If Shane was a little “mean” and “spoiled”, at least he was irresistible. Timo, though from Belgium, looks like an American MLB baseball pitcher (rather than a soccer player).  There;s a contrast between the characters Wil and Keegan; they seem to be two sides of a "gay Clark Kent" concept.  

Once at the estate, Keegan finds his mother (Shannon Day) remarried to a scheming doctor (Andy Copeland), with his son (effectively becoming Keegan’s step-brother Jake (Sean Paul Lockhart).  A boyhood friend Ernie Reyes (Eduardo Rioseco) hangs around and seems to be part of the plot.  (I wondered, could Richard Harmon, “the greatest of all time”, from “Judas”, have been cast here, to get the entire “3-musketeer” trio back;  in any case, the character won’t get to win any maze runs.) 
Now, a lot of the plotting of the new family seems to center around the even step-father and his minions to get the estate away from Keegan.  We learn that the winery will have an IPO soon.  In time, Keegan’s relationship with Wil seems strained (even after a powerful sex scene that is well done, ironic and that carries a certain existential meaning, to discuss later), but later, we learn this will contribute to a plot twist.  But Keegan’s life starts to really run off the rails when his mother falls into a coma and the female sheriff (almost out of “Smallville”) suspects Keegan.  The very ending is a bit of a stretch.

The dialogue in the intimate scene, as Timo says the lines, is rather interesting. "You push me away and then draw me close. I want to see all of you."  It draws out Timo's particular acting style in some roles.
The official site is here  and features a shot from the opening restaurant scene.  The production companies are Blue Seraph and Shoreline, with distribution by Breaking Glass (DVD available Dec. 2). One artifact: the total count of male chest hairs in this movie is pretty close to absolute zero. Just as in the daytime soaps. 

Wikipedia attribution link for Oregon picture. Other pictures are mine: Palm Springs, and a wine estate in Virginia.  The author is David Jolley and Staplegunther, under CC-BY-SA 3,0, unported, GNU free documentation license.  

(See also "Limitless"< March 24, 2011.) 

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