Written and Directed by Mickey Keating (Pod, Carnage Park)
Starring Lauren Ashley Carter, Sean Young, Brian Morvant
Review by Jordan
‘I think I’ll become one of your ghost stories now’
Not enough films are preceded by warnings these days. There is something instantly, and giddily unsettling about a brief text displayed prior to a horror movie (or spoken narration in the case of some of the classics), that has been largely lost as filmgoers become more accustomed to the mise en scène. So, when Darling opened with the statement: This film contains flashing lights and hallucinatory images, I was naively excited at the prospect of something eerie and unexpected.
This naivety was unfounded, as from the initial, striking black-and-white shot of a foggy New York onwards, Mickey Keating explores psychological terrors with a deft touch owing both to the density of ‘60’s Polanski and contemporary art-house cinema.
Told in six chapters of escalating insanity as the ghost story comes full-circle: Her, Invocation, THRILLS!!, Demon, Inferno and The Caretaker, Darling is emboldened by tout pacing and editing, and feels like a series of high quality vignettes matured into a feature. The story follows a young woman who accepts the job of caretaker for an impressive New York City apartment, and soon after comes to fully realise why the previous occupant had taken her own life and a shadow of superstition hangs over the building. As with most films of this type, it’s less the plot and more the method that determines its success, and the method here is sublime.
As director, Keating is aided tremendously by a career best turn from the arresting Lauren Ashley Carter (The Woman, Jug Face). Her wide eyes express her torturous inability to alter her sad trajectory, and she remains a tragic figure throughout moments of madness. The set design, cinematography (particularly shots of the towering cityscape) and distinct soundtrack, that veers from the expected loud jabs to atmospheric interludes of French lounge music, all support Carter’s performance and elevate Darling to celebrated heights.
This is a film that can be enjoyed for its finer details and overall aesthetic. There are small clues that can be missed in appreciating the artistry, but when noticed add to the overall impact. The most effective haunted houses reveal their secrets subtly, wishing for them to be discovered in a manner earned, not forced. Darling too deserves to be discovered, and appreciated for its presentation of psychological disintegration and a city of secrets.