Mickey Keating’s fourth horror feature, Darling screams Roman Polanski all over. Like Repulsion, it centers on a woman (Lauren Ashley Carter) — only ever referred to in the film as “Darling” — who’s haunted by an unspoken sexual trauma and gradually goes insane as she stays indoors by herself and cares for a large New York City house.
There’s an added supernatural layer to the psychological horror — it’s strongly suggested that the hallucinations Darling experiences could be the result of a haunting, a Gothic angle that recalls the other two films in Polanski’s “apartment” trilogy, Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant. Darling‘s derivative feeling isn’t helped by Keating’s decision to shoot the film in black-and-white and include anachronistic period details (note the old-school rotary telephones).
Still, there are distinctive touches to give this passing interest. Most are technical: Cinematographer Mac Fisken’s ominously atmospheric use of the house’s yawning, wide-open spaces, Giona Ostinelli’s brooding electronic score, and editor Shawn Duffy and mixer M. Parker Kozak’s expressionistic sound design all invite us into Darling‘s damaged headspace.
There’s also Carter’s impressive lead performance, with the actress conveying much of her fear and anger simply through body language (her trembling hands as she washes the blood off a knife is a remarkable bit of physical acting). Keating’s most notable variation on the Polanski-esque elements, however, comes in the form of an ambiguous reveal: What lies behind a forbidden white door suggests Darling’s horrified reckoning with her inner evil.
Directed by Mickey Keating
Screen Media Films
Opens April 1, Village East Cinema