‘Dark Places’ Returns as HBO Limited Series – Can It Succeed Where the Film Version Failed?

Gillian Flynn’s psychological thriller ‘Dark Places’ is getting a second shot at adaptation success as an HBO limited series. This comes after the 2015 film version starring Charlize Theron underperformed at the box office, fading from public memory.

For those unfamiliar, ‘Dark Places’ centers on Libby Day – the lone surviving member of a brutal 1985 murder dubbed the ‘Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.’ With her mother and two sisters slain and her brother Ben convicted as the killer, Libby grows up exploited for profit through talk show appearances.

Twenty-five years later, Libby crosses paths with a pair of amateur investigators who believe Ben is innocent. Hoping to capitalize on the renewed interest, Libby reexamines that horrific night. But peeling back the layers of the past places Libby squarely back in the path of danger.

Gillian Flynn, who penned the original 2009 novel, will serve as co-creator and co-showrunner for the HBO adaptation – joining forces with Brett Johnson (‘Escape at Dannemora’) and Guerrin Gardner (‘Chowchilla’). This talented team offers strong creative pedigree, while HBO’s track record with limited series and Flynn’s previous HBO project ‘Sharp Objects’ suggest a production with the care and budget to do the dark story justice.

But the key question is whether general audiences have an appetite for another dip into the twisted waters of ‘Dark Places’ – especially after a recent failed film attempt. The novel and 2015 movie share extremely similar DNA. To stand out, the series will need to expand or alter the source material to offer a fresh vantage point.

There are glimmers of hope, however. The limited series format may allow for deeper exploration of characters and themes given extra runtime. And a prestige HBO production could potentially draw in talent that elevates the material. Not to mention the current boom of true crime docuseries, which prime audiences for the story’s real-life overtones.

In the end, Gillian Flynn’s tale remains compelling and rich with possibility – even if the last adaptation underwhelmed. Let’s hope that with the right approach, HBO can finally unlock the full potential of ‘Dark Places’ and deliver the definitive on-screen version this dark story deserves.

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