Dark Tourist or Grief Tourist as it was originally and better titled is a challenging portrait of the genesis of a serial killer featuring a stunning performance from Michael Cudlitz as a man whose hobby is tracing the trail of death and destruction left by a murderer.
Cudlitz plays Jim a quiet and guarded loner who spends his holiday traveling the country on a tour of the locations linked to famous killers, the places they grew up, the homes they killed in and the sites they dumped the bodies.
Obsessed by understanding these disturbed men and what drove them to murder Jim begins to see parallels with their stories and his own leading him down a dark and nasty path towards becoming the thing he has studied so long.
Directed by Suri Krishnamma from a script by Frank John Hughes Dark Tourist attempts to get inside the mind of a killer making it comparable to movies like Taxi Driver, Monster, Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer, The Last Victim and Chained and just as powerful and successful in its exploration of what makes someone a mass murderer.
Opening with a voice over almost like a neo-noir the film starts out in a documentary style slowly slipping into chaos and dreamlike nightmare as Jim descends into madness talking to the hallucination of the psycho he is studying played with sick creepy gusto by Pruitt Taylor Vince.
The story and script are well crafted attempting to delve into the broken building blocks that create the psychopathic personality and the many childhood traumas and upsetting events that mold a murderer as well as the triggers in later life that set the beast free.
As mentioned it is Cudlitz star turn that makes the movie crafting a believable human being out of what could have simply been a monster. Like Jekyll and Hyde the warring sides of his personality are always partially visible with the blood lust and rage gradually taking over the sensitive damaged soul he is desperately trying to hold on to.
One person that shines like a beacon to the good side of Jim is Melanie Griffith homely and kind waitress Betsy who seems to be a savior from his psychotic side. Although looking slightly odd and a little facially over operated on for a woman on her wage it’s good to see Griffith’s back on screen especially in such a stark and brave role which she takes on whole heartedly.
Disturbing, realistic and very unsettling what is most challenging of all in Dark Tourist is its determination in revealing the tortured humanity underneath the story of a serial killer in an attempt if not to understand what makes someone do such things at least to explain that beneath all the bloodletting they are just as human as we all are.