We’re at Fantastic Fest this week and are bringing you impressions of our favorite films shown at the event. For all of our hot, hot takes, head over here.
Mickey Keating’s Darling is a lovingly-crafted Polanski mixtape. If the idea of “Repulsion, but also The Tenant” gets your juices flowing, stop reading here and find a way to watch it.
Indie stalwart Lauren Ashley Carter (Jug Face, The Woman) gives an incredible performance as a woman (only called “Darling” in the film) beset both by trauma and supernatural assault; she’s withdrawn, awkward, savage, enraged, and terrifying by turns. It’s really her show: other actors pop in and out but Carter dominates the majority of the film.
Darling is the new caretaker of a luxe New York apartment, and slowly finds herself coming under the spell of a mysteriously locked room upstairs. To say any more about the story would literally constitute a full plot synopsis. Keating and company (special mention goes to editor Valerie Krulfeifer) conjure an atmosphere of bleak dread, punctuated by ruthless, liberally-deployed jump scares and made beautiful by luminescent black-and-white cinematography, assaultive sound design, and a sort of addled, hazy jazz score that on several occasions lurches into grindcore.
This is the type of movie—tone-heavy, stylish, minimal—that is really, really difficult to get right. Darling knows that. That’s why it’s a cool 78 minutes. There’s not enough time for its tricks to wear thin. It doesn’t go anywhere unexpected, and in fact takes a few turns that irked me in other recent horror movies: but it executes with such white-knuckle style, such confident abandon, that it’s mesmerizing. Everyone involved in this thing gives it their fucking all, and the result is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time, festival or no festival.