Darling is a slow burning horror film reminiscent of the Shining and Witch. It is eerie and atmospheric, with sudden bursts of shrill, frightening music that reminded me of Insidious.
I think that it’s an okay film. It “felt” smarter than a lot of other films that I’ve seen recently, that’s for sure. But ambiguity doesn’t always mean greater intellectual merit. I was not left with any haunting moments stuck in my mind.
I won’t go over the plot much because I want others to see it and the less that you know, the better.
It is filmed in crisp, gorgeous black and white. The starting montage could have easily been part of the opening to Woody Allen’s Manhattan if it weren’t for the ominous low music and lack of narration. The shots were picked very carefully so as to omit anything that might take it out of its setting in the late 1960s / early 1970s.
I will say that this film is very beautiful. The director really knew how to get the best possible range of black and white. Some of the best that I’ve ever seen.
The film is ambiguous about whether or not the protagonist becomes unhinged due to a malignant spiritual or demonic presence in the house, or if she’s actually unhinged from the start and that she’s only imagining things. Perhaps she’s using the house’s reputation for being haunted as an excuse to indulge in her revenge fantasy (or homicidal tendencies in general).
Just like Pulp Fiction, I suppose that in the end it doesn’t matter what’s in the suitcase (or, in Darling’s case, just what she sees when she finally opens the locked door at the end of the hallway). The movie is about the situation and the atmosphere, not about plot.
When I first finished watching it, I wasn’t happy. I thought that it was pretentious and that it relied too heavily on visual trappings from Jacob’s Ladder and the Shining. The ending made me say “okay, so what?”.
In retrospect, I think that Darling was finely made and tightly directed. Lauren Ashley Carter was pretty good as the tormented (and demented) protagonist. Her huge, emotive eyes sure helped. There were times when her skinny face gave me flashbacks to Shelley Duvall panicking through the halls of the Overlook Hotel.
In terms of scares, Darling uses long, slow shots without any sound, sudden, loud bursts of orchestral noise, shaky heads and jump cuts to 2-3 frames of grotesque expressions, and some substantial gore during one sequence. There are one or two jump scares which mostly annoyed me.
I think that one scene in particular would have worked better if they had made the blood more “gooey” or “syrupy”. Not sure if Rigor Mortis kicks in so soon after a murder, but the watery splashy-ness of the gore felt too fake to me.
Some key mysteries:
Spoilers start here
- When Darling finds her victim’s I.D. card, and realised that he wasn’t her intended target, was she freaking out because she killed an innocent man or because she didn’t get revenge after all?
- Is the house deliberately attracting vulnerable, unhinged people as caretakers? Is it a malevolent force that likes to create tragic murders and suicides?
- It is implied that Madam might know what’s going on with that house (and is probably in on it). If she was, why did she call the police when she found out that Darling had done something awful?
- What was behind that locked door down the hall? My theory: nothing. It’s a broom closet. Darling realises that she’s nuts, and that she hadn’t been influenced by an outside, supernatural force that condoned her terrible deed.
Spoilers end here
If you want something different, and you like the slow, eerie qualities of the Shining and the Witch (VVitch?), give this one a shot. I found it interesting, but not hugely memorable.