Tom Humberstone


horror week - day 8

Darling (2015)

"I am honestly one of the good ones."

Quick summary: A young woman is left as the caretaker of a posh New York brownstone. Is the building haunted and trying to drive her mad?

From the opening scenes, the immediately reminded me of The Innocents and, perhaps most obviously, Repulsion. Polanski is clearly a touchstone for director Mickey Keating here. There are so many similarities to Repulsion is terms of story, themes and aesthetic that it would be tempting to dismiss it as a derivative work - certainly, anyone who has seen Repulsion will know how the film will end. But Keating brings his own directorial flair enough that it comes across more as an inventive love letter to seventies satanic horror than an outright copy. Honestly, I'd love to see more modern directors take their cues this era of horror cinema.

I enjoyed Keating's previous film Pod - another tense psychological horror that played with a lot of the same ideas as Friedkin's Bug. He uses some similar techniques from his first film here (subtle strobe effects, disturbing sound design, off-putting editing) and I think this film cements his reputation as one of the most interesting horror directors working today. I need to seek out his most recent film - Carnage Park.

Lauren Ashley Carter, who also appeared in Pod (as well as Jug Face/The Pit - which also starred Sean Young who has a cameo in Darling) is excellent as the unnamed protagonist ("You didn't even ask me my name."). She has to carry the film almost entirely without dialogue and she makes it look easy.

I liked the six title cards introducing each chapter - the playful typography and timing of them added a much needed element of (black) humour to the film.

Also enjoyed the non-specific era the film is set in - no modern signifiers and the music and clothing is well chosen to allow the film to have a timeless quality.

It's a Glass Eye Pix film so - Larry Fessenden cameo time!

I also watched:

Mama (2013)

"Victoria. Come. Mama."

Quick summary: Two children go missing due to some plot, only for them to be discovered five years later. Having lived in the woods all this time. When they're taken in by their Uncle (Jamie Lannister) and his partner (Jessica Chastain), it becomes apparent that whatever took care of them is still around - and they call it "mama".

I was absolutely in the mood for a decent ghost story horror film this week and this didn't disappoint. Directed by Spanish filmmaker Andres Muschietti based on his short of the same name (it's here and only two mins of your time), and exec produced by Guillermo Del Toro. This has the ambitions of The Orphanage in terms of delivering a solid ghost story with heart and soul - and while it isn't as successful as The Orphanage, it's in the same spirit.

The kids are excellent - the physicality of them as they scuttle around in Exorcist spider-like fashion is brilliantly creepy and they handle the later emotional scenes well. Chastain, the reluctant new mother, is almost unrecognisable in heavy eyeliner, Misfits tee and tattooed up while Jaime Lannister is fine as the new father and ridiculously handsome illustrator ("Annabel is in a band, and you draw pictures for a living..." - said in a moment when their fitness for parenthood is questioned).

So we've got the popular paedophobia horror theme, some early fairytale table-setting (the film opens with "Once Upon A Time...") and ghost effects that cherrypick pieces from Dark Water, Ringu, and - as the director said - "a Modigliani painting left to rot." All in all, a recipe for some slightly generic but satisfying horror.

I enjoyed some of the early scenes with the ghost playing with the children - it was pretty sweet while being unnerving. It had me hoping for a Beetlejuice style ending that had everyone living peacefully together. While that doesn't happen (and Del Toro apparently had to fight for the bittersweet ending) I liked the choices made in that final act. It didn't feel like a paint-by-numbers horror ending and while I found that refreshing, I think that will possibly annoy some viewers.

Dr Exposition was a bit of bum note and he makes some monumentally moronic decisions to keep the plot ticking along. But even that left me feeling endearingly towards the movie. Maybe I've just been broken by watching 16 horror films in eight days.

Tonight: Not sure yet... Only tonight and tomorrow left so I need to figure out what my final four movies will be.

Check out the archive of the horror week here.