Darlin’

I’ve seen very few films this year at the fest but this is the one I was anticipating the most when I saw it on the list. The Woman (2011), directed by Lucky McKee, was a standout that year and remains one of my favorite horror films in recent years. For those not in the know, Darlin’ is the third film in a series, with The Woman being the second, a sequel to Offspring (2009), which was itself an adapted sequel to the Jack Ketchum book The Offseason.

The Woman was quite different in style, tone and storytelling to its predecessor, so I kept any expectations at bay for this one. McKee, who was a big part of The Woman’s qualities, didn’t return for this one. The project was written and directed by The Woman herself, Pollyanna McIntosh, who played the role in all three films.

It’s not necessary to have seen the previous films to understand or appreciate this one, though it does help in understanding more of the feral characters’ backgrounds and existence if one has. There’s no recap or explanation so one has to just accept the presence of mysterious cannibalistic feral people wandering the rural areas…

The woman is out to kill…men. Coincidentally.

It’s unfair to just compare the film to its predecessor(s), especially a revered one as is my case here, so I won’t. In a nutshell, two seemingly homeless women show up at a hospital where one is hit by an arriving vehicle and admitted, while the other disappears back from where she came. The patient, who has a bracelet with the word Darlin on her wrist, is immediately named such by the staff, as it’s evident that she is quite feral and doesn’t speak in any known language.

The decision is made pretty quickly that Darlin’ will be put into the care of a local catholic home under the care of The Bishop and the nuns. The plan is to socialize her and document the process to profit the home. This agenda is laid out pretty much from the beginning and so is the nature of The Bishop, who is obviously *the* character you’re supposed to hate.

Left- great performance, middle: great performance, right: if I had a mustache, I’d fucking twirl it while giggling maniacally

Essentially, this is a big Fuck You to The Church. It’s evident from the first scene with The Bishop, whose performance shows no subtlety at all. He’s obviously scum, and portrayed as such. He’s not out to help Darlin’, but to use her. All of this is obvious from the start. There’s also a none-too-subtle anti-patriarchy stance throughout, since most male characters are presented in a (forced) negative way. The Woman, in her quest to track down Darlin’, ends up killing only men, most of them having previously displayed at least some kind of negative behavior, just so it can sort of be justified that they should be killed (even though that behavior is oblivious to The Woman, who basically just kills them because they’re in the way or for their meat). Early on, she slits a (random, to her) homeless man’s throat in his sleep so she can cut some meat off him, but there was a point made to have shown him gratuitously call someone a whore not long before. The intent is not lost.

Now I don’t have a problem with a film having an agenda, but the tone here was a bit too on-the-nose and uneven for my tastes, especially since the main focus of the story, Darlin’s education and socialization, is dealt with serious care. For the most part, the story is engaging and is helped immensely by the performance from its lead, Lauryn Canny. She gives a terrific performance, at odds with some of the broader, more exaggerated ones from Bryan Batt (The Bishop) and others.

The one likeable male in the movie. Is it a coincidence that he’s gay?

I guess the uneven tone didn’t work for me. The satire and (dark) comedy (which I didn’t like) is at odds with the more serious aspects (which I did). That being said, there’s more good than bad here, and the bad is all dependent of how one takes the approach to the performances of some of its characters and the handling of its social issues. I mean yeah, ‘’The Church’’ might be evil and all, but is it better to be a cannibalistic killer?

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