DARLING (USA, dir. Mickey Keating)
A young woman (only ever called “darling”) is hired to take care of the oldest house in Manhattan while its owner is away. The problem is that Darling is already unstable, and the history of the house—including the suicide of it previous caretaker—makes it inevitable that something in her mind will break before she is in the house alone for too long. It’s not too hard to guess the major inspiration for DARLING is Polanski’s REPULSION, and this film is modeled on that film’s striking black & white photography and the deterioration of a woman’s mental state as she lives in isolation in a claustrophobic space. Lauren Ashley Carter (who also played one of the leads in THE MIND’S EYE) gives a nerve-shredding performance as Darling, who is in nearly every shot in the film. Keating mostly gives her plenty of room to explore the more unsettling aspects of her character, but he also fractures many scenes with jarring near-subliminal imagery often accompanied by ear-splitting noises. Watching DARLING on a big screen is an assault on the senses with its stroboscopic imagery and startling sound design. It feels more like an exercise in style than something designed to really get under the skin, but on that count it absolutely succeeds. And at a lithe 74 minutes, DARLING avoids two of the major pitfalls of too many of its independent horror film contemporaries: it jumps into the action fairly quickly, and never wears out its welcome. DARLING is sure to be a divisive film among horror fans, but anyone looking for a stylish take on REPULSION-style psychological horror will definitely want to watch out for it.
SOUTHBOUND (USA, dir. Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath, Radio Silence)
SOUTHBOUND is a horror anthology from the producers of the V/H/S series that takes a completely different approach to the form from that series, presenting a series of somewhat connected stories that overlap as characters make their way down the road in the desert of the American Southwest. Larry Fessenden provides the voice of a seemingly omniscient DJ who sets up and comments on the stories, and where one story ends and the next begins is never entirely clear. This makes the film feel less like a standard anthology, and the consistent look throughout the different segments lends to the illusion that SOUTHBOUND is just one film with a variety of weird stories than the product of different creative teams. Featuring work from the producers and directors of the V/H/S films, THE SIGNAL (2007), ENTRANCE, FAULTS, and more, SOUTHBOUND is a fun, unique take on the traditional horror anthology.
That brings my coverage of Fantastic Fest 2015 films to a close! I managed to see and cover 42 of the 81 features screened at the festival. Next up will be my end-of-fest wrap-up, including my 10 favorite films of the fest and more. Huge thanks to Daily Grindhouse for giving me the opportunity to cover this event, it’s been a blast!
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Tags: Austin, David Bruckner, Fantastic Fest, Film Festivals, France, Larry Fessenden, Lauren Ashley Carter, Lucile Hadžihalilovi?, Mickey Keating, Patrick Horvath, Radio Silence, Roxanne Benjamin, Screenings, Texas