Michael Cudlitz is an explosive actor masterful at keeping energy bubbling under the surface, that kind of inward explosiveness where you can’t tell just what will tip them over the edge. He does this effortlessly in director Suri Krishnamma’s psychological thriller, newly titled, ‘Dark Tourist’ (formerly The Grief Tourist). Unfortunately Cudlitz’s acting skills are as good as it gets here.

Cudlitz plays Jim, a Yonkers security guard on the graveyard shift due to his love for being on his own. We soon learn that he has an unusual hobby. Jim spends his vacations visiting the haunts of serial killers. It’s a macabre hobby, but he defends it: How is his trip to California to see the crime scenes of 1960s arsonist Carl Marznap (Pruitt Taylor Vince) any different from visiting ground zero in New York?

Michael-Cudlitz-Melanie-Griffith-in-Dark-TouristDuring his trip he strikes up a friendship with small-town waitress Betsy (Melanie Griffith) and has a chance at a normal life. At this point it seems as though she may help him heal his inner demon- although we’re not sure exactly his demons are. Is he a serial killer too? Does he love grief tourism for a particular reason? It’s all possible but not very clear, and after such a slow boil, I’m not sure if anyone actually cared.

The film is predominantly led by Cudlitz’s sullen voiceover device that works when you have a loner antihero in constant conversation with himself and the long-deceased object of his obsession. Unfortunately whilst this device does work, Dark Tourist overuses it. The audience are left to listen to Jim’s bizarre musings whilst watching him chain smoke, drive to remote locations and occasionally pleasure himself in between watching religious preachers. Finally we get a vague insight via this irritating narration that Jim shares traumatizing experiences with Carl and fears the evil lurking within himself.

From here onwards this slow-burning, brooding psychological thriller becomes a messy sexually fuelled spree of death. We got a motive from Jim, and a bit of reasoning behind his hermit nature – but it took a long slog to get there before exploding into exploitive and grotesque scenes that seem to be a last minute attempt to add some action and obligatory ‘horror’ shock tactics.

I’m still bemused as to how an 85 minute film could feel so long winded- perhaps use this as a barometer of sheer lack of direction and action.

Cudlitz does well with the awkward script and scenes but ultimately Dark Tourist had me dreaming of my next destination.

VERDICT: [rating=2]

About The Author

Emily Stockham

Emily is from South London and has a degree in English Literature. Emily is a marketing assistant who writes about films and music in her spare time. Horror and grindhouse are her thing - although she will happily watch anything if it means a trip to the cinema.