directed by Mickey Keating
starring Lauren Ashley Carter, Brian Morvant, Sean Young
Darling is the story of a young woman, named the same as the movie, who is hired to housesit in an old, spacious New York City residence with a supposed dark past. While the atmosphere within the house becomes sinister, the battle for sanity looming in Darling’s own mind also becomes apparent. It’s a great setup, and with the film clocking in at just 78 minutes, the tense atmosphere fortunately builds immediately, but nice and slowly. However, what unfortunately really killed that atmosphere was the first couple of actual scares. The film quickly flips from subtleness and mystery, to over-produced effects and scares. While I appreciate the style of those moments in relation to Darling and her mental condition, meant to imply manic thoughts and unstableness, they felt cheap in comparison to the actual setup. The mysteries that are presented, and the buildup towards them, scared me and made me uncomfortable in my seat. But waiting for jump scares takes so much away from that.
It’s always refreshing to see a modern black and white feature, and Darling is good choice for one as it really emphasizes the tone and minimalist style of the movie. The house that much of the film takes place features bare walls, either fully lit or in nearly complete darkness. Equally plain is the character of Darling, who accompanies her simple, conservative appearance with curtness and aloofness in her speech. It adds well to the mystery of her character, and with a very limited cast, Lauren Ashley Carter does a very good job in a tough role where she essentially is the film. There were only a few clunky moments, with lines of dialogue that probably looked better in written form, and a few interactions that felt a little bit forced and unnatural. For horror fans, there is also a brief Larry Fessenden appearance.
So much of Darling is really dark, impressive and the movie is downright exhilarating at points. But a few too many times, it was the style of the scares that ruined the payoff for me. It might be my own personal taste, but if the scares weren’t so in my face and ears, I think the atmosphere is maintained more consistently throughout the movie. The story is an interesting one, but not too impossible to predict right out of the gates. The ending was pretty much everything I expected, even the bits teased as lingering questions. It’s also unfortunate that there are a few moments where the low-budget is especially noticeable, but it’s hard to really fault a movie for that. Darling is the kind of movie that is absolutely worth watching, but it’s a frustrating one because it teases a much better movie.