A fraternity president becomes obsessed with a young coed but his hopeful courtship decays into sinister pursuit as unnatural secrets surface about his brotherhood.
Fred Parker, Jr.
It’s absolutely fine if your film attempts to highlight some current social, “hot button” issue. In the case of the new horror/drama Somebody’s Darling – there’s a marked focus on date rape and the college fraternity antics so prominent in news stories today.
But if your storytelling and film-making skills are not up to par – your intended expose’ of valid social concerns – will fall by the wayside.
It’s admirable that you want to tackle such issues via a supernatural film, but first and foremost, you need to be able to tell a good story.
Right off the bat – within the very first scene, in fact – I was provided a solid idea of what kind of film I’d be seeing.
A boom microphone was in one of the first few shots. And yes, I rewound to confirm what I’d just seen.
It’s interesting that such an obvious mistake is so prominent so quickly. Had it been very late in the film, it might have gone unnoticed. But if this is an audience’s first impression, it’s not a good one.
Here’s the lowdown: Christian (Paul Galvan) is the head of a fraternity and that fraternity has a secret (to be revealed). They like to have fancy parties at their newly-constructed frat house, and they like to take advantage of the many college co-eds who attend their gatherings. Christian’s high profile womanizing and stature within the organization is put in jeopardy when he falls in love with Sarah (Jessa Settle).
The film inexplicably takes place in 2006. Facebook profiles and cell phones of that era are represented here. But the question is, “why?” My guess is that the film was shot a decade or so ago and remained unfinished until now. And my reasoning for such a theory – to my eye, there’s absolutely no reason for the film to take place in that time. There was no, “to make sense, it has to be set two years before Obama took office”. There’s a call-out to the Civil War in flashbacks (and in the story as a whole), so I was waiting for some sort of anniversary of a special date in said flashbacks, which would make the 2006 date important. Nothing. It makes zero sense and is frankly a major distraction.
As for other distractions, my guess is that the filmmakers invested a great deal of their budget into the products of the good folks over at Vaseline. I can see using filters which look like the lenses have been smeared in petroleum jelly – perhaps in the flashback sequences – but the entire film is shot like this. All I could think about was, “what are you trying to hide?” and “Why was this necessary to tell your story?”
Other than one pretty good supporting performance, the acting is overall quite bad. We’re treated (i.e. made to suffer through) lots of college-aged angst and pseudo-emo behavior from the majority of the lead characters. Nothing about it is engaging.
However, Fred Parker, Jr. as fraternity brother, Victor is quite good. Is it his wide eyes which are so intriguing? Partially, yes. But it feels as if he is the only performer with any real acting chops. In a sea of sub-par performances, it’s a relief to find Parker in an important supporting role. As Christian’s best frat buddy, Victor seems to really care. And Parker hits all the right notes of loyalty and genuine concern.
And honestly, what was with the opening credits? They’re made to look like the old work of Hitchcock’s favorite graphic artist, Saul Bass (the gent behind the opening credits of such films as North by Northwest, Vertigo and Psycho). But this doesn’t offer up any clues as to the film’s tone or story. Sure, they’re cool, but ultimately they serve no purpose.
There’s a pretty nifty visual as we’re shown some sort of hallucination/fantasy on Christian’s behalf. It looks like something out of a Ken Russell film, and so I was immediately impressed with it. And one of the flashbacks to the Civil War battle was nicely done.
With all that is wrong with this film, I think there are whispers of an interesting idea. Had the focus been more on the fraternity/brotherhood and the inherent homo-erotic possibilities (slightly hinted at throughout), the film might have gotten a few extra points. With the tinges of ultimate loyalty and the bonds of brotherhood – in the hands of a better writer and a better filmmaker – this might have worked.
But overall, the script is poorly written, and “unfocused” is the true name of the game here. It’s never clear who the central character really is. Is it Christian or is it Sarah? There’s so much back and forth (and only the best of filmmakers/screenwriters can ever make this work) between their stories/points of view, we’re never sure who we’re supposed to follow. On top of this, the characters and performances are so bland, you’ll never truly care about anyone. And that is a central necessity when constructing a film/story. If we don’t care about anyone, your film is doomed.
And again, it’s admirable that the filmmakers attempted (attempted being the key word) to tackle important campus issues. But if all an audience is able to focus upon is your Vaseline-encrusted lenses, mostly boring performances and boom-mikes in your shots – that message takes a back-seat. Hell, it ends up in the car trunk. I think what was missed here, is that first and foremost, your job is to tell an engaging story.
This film is not worthy of your time. One good performance, the minute seedlings of a good idea and a few scattered items of quality – do not make for a solid movie-going experience. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.
Somebody’s Darling (I don’t get this title) is now available on several VOD outlets.