Susan Granger’s review of “Dark Tourist” (Phrase 4 Films)
Sitting on the shelf since its debut at the Munich Film Festival last year, Suri Krishnamma’s
psycho-sexual drama delves into thrill-seekers who engage in grief tourism – traveling with the intent to visit places of tragedy or disaster.
Yonkers security guard Jim Tahna (Michael Cudlitz, familiar from TV’s “Southland”) is a dark
tourist. Every year, his week-long vacations from work are spent exploring the haunts of various serial killers on whom he’s become fixated. This year’s macabre obsession is Carl Marzap (Pruitt
Taylor Vince, familiar from TV’s “True Blood”/”The Mentalist”), a 1960s mass murderer in Ventura County, California. Arriving in the tiny town of Hetacomb, Jim settles into a sleazy motel; his room is situated right next that of Iris (Suzanne Quast), a busy prostitute. At nearby Cadillac Jack’s Diner, he’s befriended by Betsy (Melanie Griffith), a widowed waitress who is desperately lonely. They connect but that doesn’t work out too well.
During this entire
sojourn, Jim is haunted by memories of a cruel childhood that was filled with
torture and sexual abuse, something he has in common with Carl Marzap, who
appears to him in hallucinations. In the past, Jim has obviously undergone
psychiatric treatment which did little or no good, since he’s determined not
only to re-enact the gruesome brutality but also to become a copy-cat,
snarling, “This is what it’s like to be a victim.”
Aside from writer Frank John Hughes’s grisly plot, perhaps what’s most appalling is what’s
happened to once-beautiful Melanie Griffith. She’s had so much plastic surgery that her face is not only unrecognizable but immobile above the mouth. Despite what looks like multiple procedures – face-lift, eye job, Botox and chemical peel – she looks haggard.
Plus – everyone on-camera smokes cigarettes: Jim, Carl, Iris and Betsy. Perhaps that somehow
connects with a vendetta against trans-sexual prostitutes but I’m not exactly sure how or why.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Dark Tourist” is a degenerate, depraved 2, concluding
with the enigmatic phrase: “From this void, no one returns.”