Reviews are in for Mickey Keating’s DARLING, starring Lauren Ashley Carter, Brian Morvant, Sean Young, and Fessenden.
Darling – 5 out of 5
By Daniel Wilder
February 22, 2016
FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND
• RELEASE DATE: In Theaters April 1st
• WRITTEN BY: Mickey Keating
• DIRECTED BY: Mickey Keating
• STARRING: Lauren Ashley Carter, Brian Morvant, Sean Young, Larry Fessenden
I really, REALLY love when our beloved horror biz goes and gets itself all artsy and experimental. Give me a BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW over yet another tired 80s slasher throwback any damn day. Well, to that end, I have a real doozy of a flick in front of my eerie eyeballs today: a stylish lil’ number called DARLING.
DARLING starts out like a throwback to the Gothic thriller genre: a young, seemingly naïve woman comes to find herself as the caretaker of an aged grande manse (this one happens to be located in Manhattan), and of course, said estate just happens to be rumored to have a haunted past (in the form of the previous owner, a student of the occult who had tried to summon the devil). Well, before long the ol’ arcane abode starts messing with our heroine’s mind… a mind that may not need much of a push when it comes to being a bit off.
Now I admit, that die-scription above was e’en vaguer than my legendarily legendary vague summaries, but I really want you cats to check this one out. Because the easiest way to convince someone that they’ll love something is to make a comparison (and I’m all about takin’ the easy way out, as anyone that’s read one of my reviews can plainly see!), so here goes: DARLING is kinda like what would happen if Tim Burton and Stanley Kubrick got together to die-rect a version of THE HAUNTING, but they only had a vague notion as to what that story is actually about. That’s a good starting point, but the actual film is so much more interesting than that!
Filled with gorgeous black and white cinematography, disjointed and off-kilter soundtrack choices, whispering voices, shocking violence, and subliminal edits (not to mention an ever growing sense of dread), DARLING is the perfect fusion of arthouse and grindhouse, and it works so much better than you would ever assume it would. And while the aesthetics are unique and stylish, the performance of lead actress Lauren Ashley Carter really hits this one home. Surrounded by only a handful of other characters (including a great cameo by Sean Young as the upper-class owner of the house), Carter carries the film. She is in nearly every frame of the film and offers up a performance that runs the gamut from doe-eyed waif to screaming nightmare with equal aplomb.
DARLING is truly one to savor—experimental, shocking, and filled to the rafters with good ol’ malevolent evil, it’s Grade-A F’n awesome!
[Review] ‘Darling’ Mesmerizes With Minimalist Filmmaking
By Luiz H. C.
February 15, 2016
In a world full of soulless remakes and unnecessary sequels, it’s good to have a robust indie market to fulfill our more obscure horror needs. There is a dark side to independent filmmaking, however, as most of these films walk a fine line between artsy trash and low budget masterpieces. In Mickey Keating’s Darling, we’re presented with a mesmerizing experience that knows which side of the line it’s on, due in no small part to Lauren Ashley Carter’s amazing work as the unnamed protagonist.
The story follows a troubled young woman that becomes the caretaker for a mysterious New York mansion with a dark past. Left to her own devices by the mansion’s owners and tormented by confusing visions and nightmares, the woman begins to lose her mind as she encounters impossibly familiar faces on the street and deals with terrifying memories. Seemingly trapped by the house, she is left with no choice but to descend into madness.
It may not be the world’s most complex story, but the screenplay seems almost superfluous in a film that relies so heavily on visual storytelling. In fact, there is very little dialogue in the movie, and the few lines that are spoken are so ambiguous that they sometimes leave you with more questions than answers. This works in Darling’s favor, as the viewer is never quite sure if either the house or the leading lady is responsible for the horrific events depicted onscreen.
Although Darling boasts a modest budget, the cast and production values are phenomenal. There are only a couple of defined characters here, but their interaction (or lack thereof) helps to sell the protagonist’s extreme isolation, despite living in a metropolis. In the end, Carter does steal the show, but Sean Young and Brian Morvant are also excellent in their small but effective roles. Larry Fessenden also has a small cameo towards the end, which is always a pleasant surprise.
Mickey Keating’s direction is also inspired, with German expressionist undertones and classic horror atmosphere permeating every scene. The monochrome visuals may be off-putting to some, but they are masterfully used here, enhancing some of the gothic imagery instead of looking cheap. Darling does have some pacing problems, but the slower scenes are almost all done in service of mood and atmosphere, so these moments are easy to forgive.
There may be quite a few other films out there with a similar premise, but Darling is too charming and impactful to criticized for being derivative. The minimalist script and direction leave you mesmerized, and Lauren Ashley Carter’s stellar performance simply can not be ignored. It may not be a perfect horror film, but it’s damn good one, and I hope to see more of Keating and Carter in the future.
4 of 5
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