As Festival Director Rob Nevitt says the secret film is always a bit of a gamble, and Darling left many of the audience bemused or angry. It wasn’t helped by being in the late night slot after a fair amount of alcohol had been consumed during the day. Whilst Mickey Keating’s film wears its influences on its sleeve (he’s clearly aware of the works of Roman Polanski) and tries too hard to play up to arty pretensions, there’s still much to be admired.
A young woman (‘darling’ – Lauren Ashley Carter) takes up the position of housekeeper in an old house. As she’s given the keys she’s ‘madam’ (Sean Young) casually informs her that the last incumbent threw herself off the roof. She’s also told, in no uncertain terms, that she’s not to enter the locked room at the end of the corridor. A chance encounter with a man sends darling into a downward psychological spiral, at the same time the house starts to ‘talk’ to her.
Filmed in beautiful black and white (as previously seen in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night), Darling looks incredible. There are some beautiful shots but unfortunately it story feels stretched to a feature length. I’m going to hazard a guess that Keating’s favourite Polanski films are The Tenant and Repulsion, and there’s too much misappropriation going on. The visual effects feel more arthouse than conducive to a good horror film, but sound is brilliantly used (the best I’ve witnessed since Under The Skin and Berberian Sound Studio). Darling has atmosphere, but lacks the editing or scares to work well as a horror. It’s more suited as a straight psychological drama.