Travis (Christopher Brown) is a military veteran who is struggling with both PTSD and an addiction to pills. After some unspecified troubles in New York City, Travis and Rochelle (Hailee Lipscomb) move into a new home. The house isn’t particularly fancy and Travis isn’t really sure who Rochelle is renting it from but it does seem like a place where they can start to rebuild their lives. Rochelle has a job at a law firm and is excited that the house has a pool. “I’m going to swim everyday,” she says. Travis, meanwhile, can work on his sculptures in the basement. Travis has a show coming up and it’s important that he get his work done. Perhaps not surprisingly, he spends most of his time sculpting replicas of heads. Perhaps he feels that if he can create someone else’s head, he can figure out what is going on inside of his.
From almost the moment that Travis moves into the house, he starts to feel that there is something wrong with the place. He is haunted by nightmares of finding a body in the pool and of Rochelle calling out for help. He has sudden bursts of rage and paranoia and he soon becomes convinced that Rochelle is cheating on him. It doesn’t help that Rochelle’s friends from college, the materialistic Linda (Sabrina Cofield) and the douchey Tom (Michael Forsch), keep coming by the house. Rochelle is always happy to see her friends but Travis doesn’t feel that he has much in common with either of them. As well, it’s hard not to notice that Tom seems to be obsessed with trying to get Travis, a recovering addict, to drink wine. With Travis convinced that Rochelle is cheating on him with almost everyone that he sees, it doesn’t take much to set him off. Even a simple card game is not a safe activity when Travis is around.
Early on, we discover that Travis and Rochelle’s house is sitting on a street called Shining Way and I imagine that was a deliberate decision on the part of the director. The film has much in common with Stephen King’s classic novel and the subsequent Kubrick film version. Much like Jack Torrance, Travis struggles with addiction and the dark memories of the past. Jack Torrance tried to escape his demons through writing while Travis tries hold them at bay with his sculpting. Much like Jack, Travis has to deal with people who seem to be intent on forcing him to drink despite the fact that they know that Travis has issues with substance abuse. The viewer is left to wonder whether it’s the house that’s driving Travis mad or if Travis was always mad and the house just provided him with an excuse to embrace that madness.
It’s a deliberately paced film, one that occasionally feels a bit too slow for its own good. The movie has a nearly 2-hour running time and it’s hard not to feel that some of the nights with Tom and Linda could have been trimmed down a bit. That said, the overall film did hold my interest (which is no small accomplishment when you consider just how short my attention span actually is) and the film created a suitably ominous atmosphere of growing dread. Travis, bearing both the physical and mental scars of his service, become a symbol of the damage that the horrors of war and addiction can do to both the individual and to society as whole. Darkest of Lies is currently streaming on Tubi.
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