By Gregg Shapiro
Photo: Bedlam Productions, Zero Gravity Management
Out actor Andrew Scott has had a special place in the hearts of many LGBTQ movie lovers since we saw him as Gethin in the wonderful, Golden Globe-nominated movie “Pride”. In the suitably titled thriller “A Dark Place” (Shout! Studios), Scott trades in his lovely Irish brogue for a thick Pittsburgh accent.
Donald (Scott) is a small-town Pennsylvania sanitation truck driver on the autism spectrum. It’s the kind of used-up Rust Belt place where it’s not uncommon to see a lot of Trump/Pence lawn signs in front of homes and banners on businesses.
Donald gets along well enough with co-worker Donna (Bronagh Waugh). He still lives at home with his mother Betty (Sandra Ellis Lafferty), who is confined to a wheelchair and is looked after by her devoted son. Donald is also close to his 11-year-old daughter Wendy (Christa Bell Campbell), conceived after a drunken one-night stand with supermarket cashier Linda (Denise Gough). This in spite of the fact that Linda wants nothing to do with Donald and occasionally makes it difficult for him to see his daughter.
Tyler (Nolan Cook), the younger brother of one of Wendy’s classmates has gone missing. She’s not concerned because, as she tells Donald, nothing ever happens in their town. But something about the boy, whose family’s house is on Donald’s work route, catches his attention. Soon after, a girl discovers Tyler’s dead body in the creek near her house. The death is quickly dismissed as an accident, that Tyler slipped and fell in the water and drowned while he was exploring the woods.
Following an exchange with Tyler’s mother, in which she tells him that her son was scared of everything and not the kind of boy who go off on an expedition by the creek, Donald takes it upon himself to begin his own investigation. He picks through Tyler’s family’s garbage, unearthing a phone bill with a lot of calls to the office of pediatrician Dr. Pomoworski (Andrew Masset). He questions Tyler’s brother Justin (Christian Finlayson), he terrorizes Tyler’s father Jerry (Jason Davis), he pays a visit to a man who was molested as a boy by someone Donald suspects of the murder.
While he is aided to a degree by Donna and detective Max (Griff Furst), it becomes obvious that no one in town wants the mystery of Tyler’s death solved. Donald is almost killed when he agrees to meet two mystery men on a bridge over railroad tracks. He is harassed by Sheriff Mooney (Michael Rose), who might know more than he lets on.
At a certain point, clearly frustrated at his lack of progress, Donald does the first of two shocking things. The good news is that another character in the movie is as shocked by the action as we are. Then, in the movie’s final vigilante moments, Donald’s behavior takes another shocking turn. It’s the kind of occurrence that will leave more than a viewers wondering if they should be cheering for the character or simply shaking their heads in disbelief.
Rating: 3 peaches – a ripe peach