Director: Mickey Keating
Starring: Lauren Ashley Carter, Sean Young & Larry Fessenden
Synopsis: A lonely girl’s violent descent into madness.
Rating: 18 Duration: 73 minutes Release date: 24 October 2016 (UK)
Darling is not your typical modern horror film. Hollywood values and genre tropes are not to be found here, and what we have is a far more indie focused film that does its best to be art-house horror. Mirroring modern directors like Ti West while similarly taking inspiration from The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby, Darling takes an old school, less is more approach to things and results in an intriguing if not wholly fulfilling horror film.
Darling immediately strikes you as a film that dares to be unique, while ironically wearing its influences quite clearly on its sleeve. The film begins with a young woman known as Darling (Lauren Ashley Carter) who takes a job as a caretaker in an upmarket New York home. Her new employer; Madame, warns Darling of the fate that befell the last caretaker the home had, but is reluctant to go into much detail, dangling the carrot in front of both Darling and the audience as to what really occurred. As Darling begins her solitary existence in her new job, she begins to see and hear things that cause Darling to question her sanity and what secrets the home is hiding.
Instantly striking with its visual style, Darling marks itself out as something both modern and retro giving it a timeless feel. The decision to film in black and white marks the film out as being different instantly, and allows for a wonderful noir feel that adds shadow and atmosphere to scenes that may otherwise lack it. There is a classic tone to scenes that add extra weight to scenarios and mark one scene out as being truly creepy. It may be a gimmick to help sell the film one could argue, but on the other hand it is a unique vantage point to portray the gradual downfall of one woman’s mental health.
Lauren Ashley Carter has a wonderful on-screen presence here. Her lines are limited, as is the script for most of the film, but with her striking features and soulful brown eyes Carter is utterly beguiling. In many ways, she has little to work with and one presumes the director may have allowed the actors off the proverbial leash. Carter owns every scene she is in and is quietly making a name for herself as one the best indie horror actors working at the moment. With the amount of actors to work with limited here, Carter’s work is both remarkable and fearless.
The unique selling point for Darling may, ironically, not work for everyone. The build up is slow at times and the film threatens to meander when it should be building up pace. Some moments will simply pass the audience by and appear to be there more through artistic licence than through a desire to progress the story. But that would be to miss the point and miss out on a challenging and intriguing indie horror deserving of more attention.
- Three features
The extras on the DVD won’t give fans much to shout about. The three features focus on characters, the house and music. All three are fairly short in length and focus on several talking heads and the process that went into the various aspects of the film. Director Mickey Keating has a clear enthusiasm for film and his rapid fire way of talking echoes Quentin Tarantino. He has a clear exuberance and deep knowledge of film, but none of the three features are very long, around two minutes each, and leave you wanting more.