M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Six of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2015 and going through September 30, 2016. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on April 8, 2016. Available on DVD, BluRay, and On Demand! Also streaming on Amazon Prime, Tubi, and Shudder!

DARLING (2015)

Directed by Mickey Keating
Written by Mickey Keating
Starring Lauren Ashley Carter, Sean Young, John Speredakos, Brian Morvant, Larry Fessenden, Helen Rogers
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here

Mickey Keating is proving to be a force to be reckoned with in the horror genre. He knocked my socks off last year with the paranoid masterpiece POD. And now he unleashes DARLING upon us.

DARLING tells a simple descent into madness tale of a lonely girl named Darling (Lauren Ashley Carter, who is racking up quite the horror resume starring in THE WOMAN, JUG FACE, and the aforementioned POD) who applies for a job as a caretaker in a townhome in a big city. The owner of the building, simply called Madame (Sean Young, Carter’s co-star in JUG FACE), warns Darling that something horrible happened to the previous caretaker resulting in her death. Unfazed by this ominous warning, Darling takes the job and moves in. Immediately she finds a necklace with an upside down cross hanging from it which seems to belong to the previous caretaker, but that’s just the beginning of the spooky happenings as doors close, hallways shift, and Darling begins having visions of ghostly forms roaming through the rooms. Darling doesn’t run out of the place screaming, though. She simply ignores the obvious signs of haunting and remains in the building and, thus, slowly goes insane.

DARLING is Mickey Keating exercising his more experimental muscles. Some might call this film a bit pretentious as it is mostly dialog free, filmed in black and white, and doesn’t offer any easy answers for the viewer. Personally, I found myself transfixed by Keating’s choice in setting, elegant décor, eclectic music, and unique imagery he chooses to focus on rather than spoon-feed a typical narrative to us. Reminiscent of Polanski’s REPULSION, DARLING offers up a quiet and powerful view of a woman being swallowed up in a home due to her own paranoia (and a little bit of the supernatural), which eventually leads to her seclusion from the outside world and the destruction of anyone who enters Darling’s domicile. Despite its artsy delivery, the film is thorough in accentuating the deep dark descent into Darling’s madness.

The thing that makes this film so transfixing is Lauren Ashley Carter, through and through. Carter is an absolute beauty, but also possesses a soulfulness most young actresses simply don’t possess. While she moves in a dreamlike trance through most of this film, reacting in a manner that is more and more alien as her soul seems to be sucked away by the house she is residing in, her eyes are hypnotizing and convey a sense of melancholy that simply touches the soul. Keating’s camera is obviously in love with Carter as he makes her look beautiful be she covered in tears, screaming in horror, or bathed in blood. Carter makes this film soar because of her simple presence in her quiet stare and giant sullen brown eyes. Carter is a gift to horror, and hopefully she is comfortable and stays in this genre as she is able to convey emotional depth while being a ravishing beauty all at once. Her descent is convincing here because she is so convincing every step of the way.

Less substantial than POD as it feels Keating was interesting in doing something simple in between the paranoid nightmare that was POD and the dark road trip film CARNAGE PARK, DARLING is powerful in its silence and beauty. Through Keating’s artistic lens and his threadbare story, DARLING’s resonance comes from its simplicity and the truly astounding star power of Lauren Ashley Carter. This one is not for big budget horror freaks, but if you like your paranoia at a personal level, DARLING will definitely fill the bill.

Click here for the trailer!

THE 2015-2016 COUNTDOWN!

#28 – BASKIN

M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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