Darling (2015), wastes no time setting up the unsettling. Slow, creeping shots of a monochrome New York City, ripe with chilling musical cues, create an atmosphere of strained uncertainty that keeps you deliciously uncomfortable throughout.
Set in an anachronistic New York City, Darling stars a wide-eyed Lauren Ashley Carter (Premium Rush, The Woman) as Darling, the shy, newly hired caretaker of a venerable mansion owned by the dour Madame, Sean Young (Blade Runner, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective). in a moment of palpable foreboding, the Madame candidly informs her of the house’s grim past. The last caretaker jumped off the third-floor balcony, before leaving her in the desolate depths of the macabre mansion.
Left to her own devices, Darling does whatever a 20-something year old would do, she finds the expensive brandy. She proceeds to meander through the house, drink in one hand, cigarette in the other, only to discover a locked door at the end of an ominous hallway. The Madame, naturally, tells her to not mind that room, which only peaks her interest further.
Distressing shots interlace the story as Darling gradually begins to fray at the edges. Hallucinations of the locked room and the previous caretaker take hold. She eventually runs into a man, she evidently has a dark history with and brings him home. Without revealing too much, from this point on, everything spirals out of control as we witness Darling throw herself right into the deep end.
Although this might be a story about a slow descent into madness, it could also be a story about possession, a haunting or any other horror staple.
Shot in black and white, (a wise stylistic choice that helps gloss over a minuscule budget), Darling is rife with popular horror tropes. Although stylistically magnificent, the story line feels as if director Mickey Keating (Carnage Park, Pod), tossed every horror stereotype into a hat, pulled some out and haphazardly threw a story together. I am all for eerie, open endings but Darling, as a whole raises more questions than it answers. The incredible moody, haunting and unsettling majesty of the ‘old’ New York setting is perfectly set up only to be left without any payoff.
Despite a trite, noncommittal storyline, Darling is visually stunning and worth the 76 minutes to watch it, although it leaves us wanting. Lauren Ashley Carter is absolutely mesmerizing and holds our attention until the bitter end. One thing is sure, after watching this, you’ll think twice about hiring a house-sitter.