At first glance, it is hard to say where the film Darling will take you. Will it take you into the dark, ghostly halls of a historic mansion? Or will it take you into the mind of madness? Sometimes, it is a fine line between the two.
Chapter 1: Her
Her, Darling, is played by the talented Lauren Ashley Carter. You may recognize her from underrated horror films like The Woman, Jug Face, and Pod. She has a bright future ahead of her, especially after this performance. Basically a one-woman show, the film begins with Darling arriving at a historical mansion, full of ghost stories and a pervasive tragic past. Apparently the last caretaker threw herself off the upstairs balcony, and Darling is here to take her place.
It is apparent that Darling closely relates to the Roman Polanski classic, Repulsion. I would even go as far to say that this is a remake of it. Darling looks much like the main character Carol from Repulsion, with her retro hairstyle and doe-eyed innocent appeal. Both women seem to suffer from loneliness and a rooted fear of the opposite sex, letting their anxiety-driven thoughts get the best of them. The “tick tock” of a clock almost continuously throughout both films put isolation and paranoia in the spotlight.
Chapter 2: Invocation
This is when the story becomes a little convoluted; confusing reality with hallucination. There is a locked door at the end of the hall and Darling has explicit rules that the door must remained locked at all times. But something draws her to this enigmatic room. Does she enter the room one night or is it only a dream? The upside-down crucifix necklace she finds tucked away in her drawer only adds to the mystery.
Chapter 3: Thrills
“It’s refreshing to meet someone who doesn’t immediately think you’re a maniac.”
All gussied up, lonely Darling heads out to meet an unassuming young man at a bar. She invites him back to the mansion with her for a night cap, much to his delight. This side are Darling is unexpected considering her meek and modest demeanor, but flashes of hallucinatory images prove that there may be a devious side to her. The man might be in for a night that he least expects.
Chapter 4: Demon
Here we go! Let the crazy ensue. Not much can be said here without giving away vital plot points. Flashing lights, hallucinatory images, and screeching music are jarring when they come out of nowhere. The effective “jump out and scare you” moments legitimately made me jump on more than one occasion.
Chapter 5: Inferno
The slow pacing and unadorned scenery throughout the film is turned on its head in a violent rush of bloodshed. It is probably a good thing that this movie is filmed entirely in black and white. (I must be on a modern black & white kick lately since the last film I reviewed was Begotten.)
Chapter 6: The Caretaker
“I think I’ll become one of your ghost stories now.”
In the end, Darling gives Norman Bates from Psycho a run for his money as she stares into the camera with her big, brown eyes. I love the immensely dark ending, but it is a little unfulfilling in a sense. At the same time though, the ambiguity and unanswered questions leaves the viewers with an unsettled, chilling effect. Whether the film is about ghosts, conjuring up the devil, or a nightmarish psychosis, Darling is sure to leave her footprint in horror movie history.
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