Dark Tourist Movie Review
Written by Joel Harley
DVD released by Monster Pictures
Directed by Suri Krishnamma
Written by Frank John Hughes
2012, 84 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 27th October 2014
Michael Cudlitz as Jim
Melanie Griffith as Betsy
Stefanie Kleine as Olga
Pruitt Taylor Vince as Carl Marznap
The tale of a sullen, isolated night shift security guard and his holiday in small town America. Dark Tourist is a more interesting film than it might otherwise sound thanks to the security guard being Abraham from The Walking Dead (or at least the heavily moustached fellow who plays him) and his holiday is a famous murder site. Jim is a grief tourist – a serial killer buff who visits crime scenes for kicks. It's not all sightseeing and fact finding though; as Jim's grip on reality loosens and his deep buried personal demons begin to emerge, his fascination with crime history threatens to turn into something a little more contemporary – and illegal.
Director Suri Krishnamma and writer Frank John Hughes would love for me to liken this film to Scorsese's Taxi Driver, its meathead loner antihero so inviting that comparison that he might as well be wearing a mohawk and driving a taxi. It tells a completely different story, but its character study is so entrenched in tradition that there'll be no surprises here if you've seen Scorsese's classic or any of its imitators (including another recent Monster release, Strawberry Chocolate Vanilla, which comes very highly recommended). As such, Dark Tourist's success rests almost entirely on the shoulders of its lead.
Thankfully, as fans of The Walking Dead will attest, Michael Cudlitz has some pretty hefty shoulders. With his Abraham Ford emerging as my new favourite character (Daryl Dixon is so series 3) Dark Tourist makes great use of his talents. Granted, the story doesn't give him much to do beyond looking either glum or flat-out angry, but he does it so well. Whether it's looking sullen at work, gloomy in a diner, angry in a motel room or quite sad while giving in to his basest desires, Cudlitz owns the screen. He's well supported by a cast of equally glum, essentially normal looking people (including Melanie Griffith and Pruitt Taylor Vince) in an all-too believable world of hookers and minimum wage. Like the films it aspires to, there's not a lot of story going on, the glacial pace being more concerned with character work than action.
There's no denying that Dark Tourist is an impressive film. Assured in its tone and pace, it's well-directed, well-written and outstandingly performed. Still, there's no hiding its clichéd story and predictable outcome. For all of Jim's fury, he's simply not a very interesting man – even the crimes he's so obsessed with are boring. Dark Tourist offers an interesting time with good company (although I am disappointed in the lack of lustre to Cudlitz's wonderful pre-Walking Dead hair) but, well, it's always nice to come home.