A psychological-thriller in the haunting tradition of films like Taxi Driver and Monster, Dark Tourist takes us into the chilling labyrinth of a man’s dark hobby and his even darker mind. Jim Tahana (Michael Cudlitz) doesn’t leave much of an impression when he passes you by. But look closer and you’ll sense his hunger – the deep hunger of an insatiable American soul – always scanning to devour something – anything that might fill the searing, unexplained void within him. Jim obsesses over the hobby that has been part of his DNA since he was a young boy: dark tourism – the act of traveling with the intent to visit places of tragedy or disaster. Every year his week-long vacations from work are spent going to dark tourist locations in the lives of different serial killers he is fascinated with. This year’s obsession is Carl Marznap (Pruitt Taylor Vince), a mass murder from New Orleans, Louisiana.
There are some films that are best experienced when the viewer knows nothing more than the basic story that is going to be told. Dark Tourist is one of these films. This was a movie that I’d heard nothing about before I was tasked with writing this review, I basically went into this movie cold. I really feel like this was the best possible way I could have gone into this movie. So much so, that I actually cut the synopsis from the official Dark Tourist Facebook page down because I liked not knowing where this film was going to go as I was watching the first act.
The movie starts out by introducing us to Jim Tahana, played by Michael Cudlitz. Jim lives alone in his dive of an apartment, but Jim i s the kind of guy that wouldn’t have it any other way. In the first act of the film, Jim is narrating his day to day life and we get insight into the type of person he is and why he’s chosen to live his hermitical existence.
Jim works as a graveyard-shift security guard who loathes all of the people he works with except for the security guard he takes over for every shift. Jim is looking forward to visiting a small town in California to satiate his desire to visit places where others have experienced pain and suffering and have become infamous for one reason or another. Though we have only scratched the surface on Jim’s veneer after the introductory scenes, there seems to be something a bit “off” about Jim. He is a bit distant from society, he exhibits different symptoms of some kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and his macabre hobby all seem like they are hiding something about Jim that will be a dark journey for the audience of this film.
The cast in this film was great. There were a handful of actors that I recognized by face, if not by name. Melanie Griffith plays a small-town diner waitress with some demons of her own. Her character’s scenes with Jim is are very interesting. As I was watching these two characters interact, I was becoming excited in anticipation of where this relationship would go, or what it would trigger. Also, without giving too much away, there were other characters in this film that had some surprises of their own to add to the already.
The scenery was suitably authentic and bleak, given the nature of the surroundings and the tone of the film. The demeanor of the characters and the locations of the different scenes paired up to exude filth and darkness
Speaking of filth and darkness, I have to admit that I wasn’t prepared for how dark this movie became. That isn’t to say that this is the darkest film I’ve ever seen, only that usually when there is a film that goes to the places that Dark Tourist does, I’ve heard
something about it… especially when it’s such a high quality presentation.
There were a couple of points within the film where a line was said or something came up that didn’t make a lot of sense at the time, but later on in the film became clear as to what the line meant. This was a great touch to the movie, especially because this was more about drama than horror in the first half of this film.
Of course, the movie didn’t stay that way and the ending was somewhat of a shocker. I also thought that when the reveal was presented that the filmmakers did a great job of visually describing what an impact that it actually had.
If you read through this review and you were upset with the fact that I didn’t really give away many of the specifics of this movie, I apologize… but I assure you that it was done because I really did not want to give too many hints about how this film unfolds.
I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I didn’t enjoy this film in the same way that I enjoy a silly slasher or an over-the-top thrill ride of a movie… I enjoyed this in the way that I had my eyes peeled because it kept taking me to places that I wasn’t expecting or prepared for.
Dark Tourist (2012)