Sometimes you just have to see something for what it is and ask yourself if it succeeds on its own terms.
The Dark Place is a thriller, in which a troubled young man, Keegan Dark (you can see what they've done there), returns with his new love to his mother's vineyard estate to make amends for former conflicts. But, much to his surprise, his mother has remarried in the two years since they last met, and has a new 'son', one who seems very protective of his new step-mom, and of her potentially lucrative wine-making business. Keegan's former beau pops up too, and it's clear that things didn't end well for the pair. But Keegan has a skill, which is also a curse – he has perfect recall, and forgets nothing.
So much for the plot, which reveals itself in a pretty traditional way. It's simple enough – not bad for a basic thriller, not offering any real surprises. Except for one. We'll get to that.
As written and directed by Jody Wheeler, The Dark Place could best be described as efficient in terms of storytelling, with a script which serves its characters well and, for the most part, unspectacular but far from bad directing (although the action sequences are pretty bad). Some of the dialogue, when trying not to be too expository, works well and is helped by the performances, which are surprisingly good for what feels like a TV movie of the week.
As the mother, Shannon Day, calling to mind Barbara Hershey, is terrific, and there's a genuinely fine turn by Blaise Embry as Keegan, who manages to turn a petulant, arrogant, initially unsympathetic character into one we are rooting for. Sean Paul Lockhart as the usurper son portrays just the right amount of innocence and threat, something you don’t expect of an actor more noteworthy for his roles in, well, porn (he takes his kit off a lot in this). Even the minor characters are quite well fleshed out. So, as a modest thriller, The Dark Place works, just about.
But then there's that surprise, and what a refreshing one it is. And the surprise is that Keegan is gay, and his new and old loves are too, of course. And? Well, the difference here is that, unlike other stories where someone's sexuality is offered up as some big reveal, here it isn't used as a plot device at all. It's part of the opening scene between Keegan and his new boyfriend. They simply are, from the off set. At no point is it any kind of issue or trick, and if the gay characters were replaced with straight ones, the script would be pretty much the same.
And that's something we don't get to see very often, if at all, and it's something, which elevates The Dark Place above its own humble thrills.
THE DARK PLACE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: JODY WHEELER / STARRING: BLAISE EMBRY, TIMO DESCAMPS, SEAN PAUL LOCKHART, SHANNON DAY / RELEASE DATE: TBA