Darling, a young woman in New York, becomes the caretaker of an old house with a bad history. Shortly after arrival her mental state begins to degrade, the lines between reality and hallucination become blurred with horrifying results.
April 1st theatrical, April 9th VOD
Lauren Ashley Carter as Darling
Brian Morvant as The Man
Sean Young as Madame
Mickey Keating’s Darling is a uniquely troubling horror film. It’s stark black and white photography, choking atmosphere and an utterly spellbinding performance from Lauren Ashley Carter Darling is a startling and fascinating horror yarn.
Darling (Lauren Ashley Carter – The Woman, Jugface) has just been given the job of minding an historic old house in New York, New York. Madame, the owner (Sean Young – Blade Runner, Jugface) says that they have worked to try and rehabilitate the reputation of the building stories persist of hauntings and the terrible suicide of the previous caretaker. With that, she hurriedly leaves Darling alone by herself in this large house. Darling explores the house while making herself at home, finding she can enter every room except for one at the end of a narrow corridor. Things begin to become strange when Darling starts to put away her things in her room and finds an inverted crucifix on a chain.The next day Darling goes out to buy groceries and is stopped by a man who says she dropped something: the same cross. Darling’s utterly terrified reaction to seeing this man is a turning point. Darling starts down a path towards violence and hallucination where what’s real and what isn’t are irreparably blurred and the consequences horrifying.
This film begins with a warning about flashing lights but also “hallucinatory images” which sounds like a seizure warning deftly combined with a cheeky Alfred Hitchcock-like warning of what is in store for the viewer. What it doesn’t warn you about is the sensory overload of not just flashing lights but multiple layers of brilliant sound design, an unnervingly intimate shooting style and a deliberate intent to disorient the viewer. Shot in brilliant black and white Darling immediately stands out from its peers by evoking 60’s style and sensibilities including those of Hitchcock and Polanski. The stark photography gives the film a cold otherworldliness, exterior shots of New York city look imposing and unwelcoming. That the film also contains anachronisms throughout helps create the feel that this film is taking place in a world of its own. This along with other surreal touches such as in the sound design are David Lynch-inspired choices which result in a surreal feeling of being trapped in this young woman’s nightmare.
This movie wants you to squirm in your seat. Comfort will be the furthest thing from the viewers’ minds as Darling assaults the senses. Further enhancing the fear and discomfort is the flashing lights and incredibly fast cuts which brings to mind something like Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: the Iron Man. The sound design punctuates these cuts, sometimes with plucks of a violin other times with jarring and terrible sound. At one point we are even barraged with the cacophony of death metal. The soundtrack is constantly changing style, calming the atmosphere with pleasant music before again jarring us with discordant noise and startling visual cuts. Darling is relentless in its goal to keep the viewer off-balance, to disorient and terrify.
The center of this film and its biggest asset is Darling herself, played with incredible skill and energy by Lauren Ashley Carter. Carter has some tremendous performances under her belt already, this scribe was especially impressed by her in Jugface, but her performance here is on a whole other level. There are moments throughout the movie where Darling walks straight towards the camera or just stares directly into the lense, the stark photography rendering her huge eyes a deep black that drill their way into your brain and beneath your skin. Darling knows that we’re watching. We are complicit in what she experiences but we have no better grasp on what is happening than she does. We have to watch on as Lauren Ashley Carter runs a whole gamut of emotions and states of mind, from confusion and fear to focused rage, to intense anguish. Carter walks that line between being genuinely sympathetic as her ordeal continues but is also detached and terrifying. This small, unassuming young woman unravels before us in brutally devastating fashion. Comparisons could be made to Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning performance in Black Swan but even that cannot match the sheer intensity of what is felt here. This might very well be one of the most outstanding performances you will see all year.
Darling might not be for all tastes. It’s extremely small scale, singular style and it’s unsettling and surreal mystery is quite unlike the usual horror experience. However those who experience the film through to it’s deeply chilling final scenes will find themselves rewarded with one of the most unique and excellent horror films of 2016. A new classic in the making