April 13, 2016

Movie Review: Darling

The horror genre can be a tough nut to crack. There are so many different varieties, styles, sub genres, places to draw inspiration from, and countless variables to consider. It just may be the one type of film that can come in the most flavors. Do you like your horror with a side of blood? Perhaps you are partial to psychological chillers. Do you prefer serial killers or slashing creatures of the night? Vampires or zombies? The possibilities are endless. With the case of Darling, writer/director Mickey Keating has gone the internalizing route, making a movie that is stripped down to its bare essence with the majority left to the imagination.

Darling is Keating’s follow up to the excellent alien flavored oddity Pod, featuring the same two leads, Lauren Ashley Carter and Brian Morvant. It is a black and white excursion in one woman’s descent into madness, which manifests itself in rather gruesome fashion. Shot almost entirely in one location, Darling is minimalist almost to a fault. There are shades of Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45 and The Addiction, Larry Fessenden’s (who cameos in this film, as well as serving as producer), and Polanski’s Repulsion.

The movie opens with a young woman (Carter) arriving at a townhouse to take on the role of caretaker. We meet the woman who owns the house (Sean Young) giving some last minute tips about the job, including the story of why the position is open. After this brief conversation she is left to her own devices. She takes her bag to her room, walks around the house, all with this unsettling blank look on her face. She hears noises, or thinks she hears noises, she finds a locked door and no key, and it is always quiet.

She does eventually leave the house, where she meets a man (Brian Morvant) at a bar. After. A brief an slightly awkward conversation, they end up back at the house. Once they get there, things get a little weirder, not to mention a little crazier. This young woman is certainly troubled and this meeting is just the trigger that sends her sailing over the ledge and into the abyss.

Darling is not for everyone, evidenced by my small group of friends, it's me being on the short side of quite liking it. It is a movie that doesn't give much of a middle ground. I will not stoop to the “if you didn't like it, you didn't get it” hyperbole, that is just stupid. It is not so much a case of understanding, it is more on whether or not you like the style. This is a very stripped down tale, not unlike what Ti West has done with House of the Devil and The Innkeepers (one of which I liked).

The story of Darling is told in Lauren Ashley Carter’s face. Sweet and innocent giving way to paranoia, before finally landing in full blown madness. Much of the film has no dialogue, there is no backstory given, all we have to go on is the limited dialogue and Darling’s reactions. It works. It works well, it is a satisfying film that plays its hand close to the vest and let's you fill in the surrounding details. It is a movie built on its minimalist atmosphere and Carter’s solid performance.

Will you like Darling? I don't know. It really is a love/hate sort of movie. It looks great and does a lot without really doing much. It helps that Lauren Ashley Carter is fearless in her performance. While I sat there watching it, I couldn't help but wonder about her performance. The movie is so stylized, giving it a rather surreal edge, that it would probably be very easy to take it over the top, but it never really gets their. The acting decisions stick with the minimalist feel of the movie, yet she is still able to do a lot with a look. She is a big reason why I liked it as much as I did.

No, the movie is not perfect, it might call to mind one too many other films, and while I like the lack of detail, I would have liked to have gotten a little more to open up the world a touch. Still, I was drawn in to the world, I still wonder about some of the things on the movie that were never explained. Somehow, I think it might be better that they went unexplained, let your mind attempt to fill in the pieces.


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