In the end, Darling is a fairly unique movie which takes the guts of other horror/suspense movies and puts them together in a new way. The slow burn and intensity build up throughout the chapters of the movie make it very entertaining, and a bit unsettling to watch. However, if you’re looking for a movie that you don’t have to constantly be thinking about, going over why this is happening and what does that mean, and why won’t someone answer the damn phone, then Darling is probably not for you. Loud screeching noises, random cutaways that seem to lack any linear time cohesiveness, and dialogue that could probably fit on one page of the script all contribute to making this both a good and bad movie. The ending offers no respite or satisfaction and is by all measurements lackluster, but the black and white choice was perfect for the film, a nod to the Hitchcock style of movies. – 3.3/5 (genre)
As we approach Halloween it seems appropriate to get back into the horror/suspense genre and start putting up reviews with more frequency. With just over a week to go we begin with Darling.
I would like to preface this with two things: One if you have epilepsy DO NOT watch this movie, there’s more flashing lights in this movie than a disco. Second, yes the entire movie is in black and white (although certain parts in the beginning feel more like sepia but I think that was just me), which can be off putting to some people since it makes it feel like an old movie or some such.
With that said, Darling is a unique movie in many ways, while at the same time feeling very familiar. If you have seen any Hitchcock movies then you will immediately notice the Hitchcockien feel Darling has, with ambiance and music being the main drivers for scare factor. Despite this it doesn’t stray so far down that path to be unoriginal but takes its own side path that, while it does parallel the aforementioned movies, maintains its own identity. It’s broken down into six chapters, with each being a marker for a major shift in the film. Darling begins with a woman, Darling (Lauren Ashley Carter), who is taking on the job of a caretaker for a families home while they are away. The owner of the home, Madam (Sean Young), thanks Darling for coming to watch their home despite its reputation, and when prompted explains that there are stories of the home being haunted, and that someone once lived there that tried to summon the devil. Oh yea, and the last caretaker jumped off the upstairs balcony for no apparent reason, and with that she’s away to leave Darling on her own.
There isn’t a lot of dialogue, okay that’s being generous, there’s next to no dialogue aside from the indiscernible whispers that Darling continuously hears. We see her move into her room and find an upside down cross on a necklace, which she takes and carries with her. As she explores the house she finds a single room, upstairs, which is locked and she can’t get into. It’s here that the voices she hears are the most prevalent. Darling later has to go out for groceries and while returning drops the cross. A man, Henry (Brian Morvant), stops her to return it and what we assume are flashbacks begin to happen, but like many of the flashes in this movie they are only long enough to get a sense of them. In this case it seems Henry assaulted Darling at some point. From this point on she begins to stalk him, following him to work and later from work to a bar.
As a short aside I would like to say that I spent far too long trying to discern the area the movie is set in. It seems obvious at first that it must be in the 50’s or 60’s, but with non-specific hairstyles (fairly common now and then) and clothing that gives no clue I found myself actually annoyed that it wasn’t expressly shown. The major issue I think is that there are historical inaccuracies that, if done on purpose, lend something to the movie but more than likely were due to low budget or lack of attention while set building/location filming. Perfect example, look at the toilet during the eh, well any scene where it’s visible since there are quite a few, it is definitely a modern toilet. Oddly enough, now that I think about it there is quite a bit of the movie in the bathroom, what’s that about?
But back to the movie proper, Darling stalks Henry and eventually invites him back to the house, of which the history he is aware (mildly awkward sentence there). My primary thought while Henry is talking to Darling, who only occasionally blurts out harsh and awkward sentences which don’t seem to put him off, is that “yea, you screwed”. Spoiler: Darling kills Henry, well she does eventually though it does take quite a long time, something she very much seems to enjoy. It is rather brutal and vicious (both rounds) and probably won’t set well with some people, but if you’ve made it this far in the movie you’re best to see it out. The movie takes a rapid turn here as it’s only been mild suspense and no horror up to this point, and becomes, well suspenseful in some ways but still not horror. It’s oddly captivating to watch everything unfold from Chapter 4 on, and the weird zombie-esque Henry is fairly disturbing, mostly by the way it’s shot (consider yourself warned). But it does add that missing element to the movie, that little spark that holds your attention and gives the final act momentum and purpose.
Sadly, Darling gives itself away far to soon, and the obviousness of what is going to happen is like a slap in the face. If you watch not even that closely in the first chapter, you know exactly where this is going. But as another once said, just because you know how the story ends doesn’t mean it isn’t worth hearing, or in this case watching. In fact, it’s somewhat satisfying to know that you were spot on about how it was going to end, even if that ending is muddled and unclear on its reasoning.
There are a lot peculiar elements to Darling that make it both unique and interesting, and at the same time somewhat annoying. My god, somebody replace that phone, or answer the stupid thing every now and then instead of letting it ring forever. But I digress. The random injection of images, scenes, and events all throughout give a disconcerting feeling, and in fact at one point it seems that we are viewing things as Darling is and that there is no meaning to time or linearity. We get shots from present, past, and future albeit with missing elements that are or were filled in. We never see what’s in the mystery room despite Darling opening it, and having a breakdown upon doing so, though I could make some guesses as to what she say but I don’t want to influence anyone else’s imagination and so won’t. The near complete lack of dialogue for almost an entire chapter of the movie is really going to throw some people off, and the random smattering of shots of Darling around the house, looking into the camera, and having Jack Nicholson like manic episodes can get a bit confusing, or annoying depending on who you are. The use of music as almost entirely the sole element of suspense and jump scares is much more akin to older horror movies and will definitely appeal to some, especially for those nostalgic for the horror movies of yore (I kid, it’s not that long ago).
One observation I did make was that there were a couple of shots of the drain in the shower while Darling is taking a shower, once while she was “normal” and once covered in blood. The feeling was akin to her “feeding” the house the blood, like it needed it. The shots weren’t long and they weren’t numerous like the other bathroom scenes (cleaning the bathroom thoroughly, that’s right you get to watch all the glamour and glory of cleaning a bathroom), but they felt very poignant. The house as a culprit in these machinations is never really even implied, but it still feels as if it must have some part in the events.
The ending leaves a little bit to be desired. After all the slow burn, and mystery behind the actions of Darling, like suggestions she’s crazy to the house made her do it, we get very little payout in the end. What happens is expected and very unsatisfying as an ending, and just left me feeling rather ambivalent about the film. Everything leading up to the end felt right on track to give us a big reveal/unexpected ending, but even the title of Chapter 6 just gives it away, in case you missed it in Chapter 1. There is a short scene post first credits (I know, what?), which does give us some inclination of what is really happening, but if you look again it just raises more questions than anything which normally is a good thing, but when your movie has produced nothing but questions, adding more at the end doesn’t help. Oh, and did I mention the phone, wow that’s an annoying element, even more so than the random screeching.
You’ll notice by now I’ve said next to nothing about the acting. That’s because really, with as little dialogue as there is the acting is almost completely irrelevant to the quality of the movie. You’ll understand if you watch it. Lauren Ashley Carter (Darling) does a good job of emoting crazy, fear, pleasure, and other feelings but greatly lacks in her speaking parts. Brian Morvant (Henry) is no better and probably would have been better had they stayed in keeping with the rest of the film and had him say as little as possible. But as I said, this doesn’t really detract from the movie since the acting is not a major focus, and so I can’t really fault the director or actors for not trying just a tad bit harder.
In the end, Darling is a fairly unique movie which takes the guts of other horror/suspense movies and puts them together in a new way. The slow burn and intensity build up throughout the chapters of the movie make it very entertaining, and a bit unsettling to watch. However, if you’re looking for a movie that you don’t have to constantly be thinking about, going over why this is happening and what does that mean, and why won’t someone answer the damn phone, then Darling is probably not for you. Loud screeching noises, random cutaways that seem to lack any linear time cohesiveness, and dialogue that could probably fit on one page of the script all contribute to making this both a good and bad movie. The ending offers no respite or satisfaction and is by all measurements lackluster, but the black and white choice was perfect for the film, a nod to the Hitchcock style of movies.
Overall: 3.3/5 (genre)