Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the stylized horror chiller Darling. Since it does not offer up any spoilers, I will turn to Wikipedia for the plot summary:
An unnamed young woman takes a job at a large mansion in New York that has a dark history.
Right from the get go it is hard not to notice the style of this feature as the black and white color palette fills the whole of our screens. We flash over monochrome cityscapes while ethereal humming filters out of our speakers before a chapter title appears. The title reads simply “Her” and a strobe light flashes, revealing the face of our seemingly disturbed Darling.
Honestly, this beginning was one of the more effective introductions I have seen in a while. There was a certain eerie, yet understated elegance to it that immediately engaged my interest. The best part of it is, I still had to wait a few more minutes before I even saw the title card. When that finally pops up (to the sound of shrieking violin strings) the juxtaposition of the pink lettering against the black and white background only further reinforces the fact that this is going to be a modern take on classical horror movie themes.
Since one of the main motifs is isolation, this picture functions as a mostly one person show. Lauren Ashley Carter deserves a lot of praise for making the role of Darling absolutely mesmerizing, even if we do not know a lot about her. Building a memorable character out of someone with little to no stated background is no small feat, but Ms. Carter seems to handle it with ease. As the history of the apartment begins to take a hold of her, I found myself more interested in Darling than the dark legends surrounding the apartment.
This brings us to one of the few things I found a bit lacking in this picture, the fact that there is very little backstory. Throughout the film we are given some broad hints of things that happened before Darling showed up and we are even given one vague clue about Darling’s background, but we are never offered any clear context. This proves to be both a pro and a con as we are never force fed information though we are also never privy to what makes Darling or the apartment tick. It is very clear what is happening the whole time, but the why of it remains a mystery.
I will grant that the plot’s lack of illumination does add to the overall atmosphere of the piece. Not having a touchstone for what is real and what is merely a hallucination only further reinforces the off kilter feel. While the possibly imaginary images assault the eyes, the score lurches to life with screams and shrieks that charge the ears. The fact that both of these are contrasted with elegant cinematography keeps the mood tense throughout the entirety of the film.
All in all, there are a few shortcoming, but the pacing, acting, and style are so well pulled off that they are easy to overlook. I would highly recommend this to all horror fans, but especially to those who are lovers of the haunted house movies of yesteryear.
-The Creeping Craig