It’s somehow fitting that my #moviesimissed choice of the week comes from a work inspired by the late great author Jack Ketchum, a tour de force in the genre, shaking up the boundaries that have shaped horror.
Ketchum’s mentor as he was finding his voice was Robert Bloch, author of Psycho, (the subject of our latest podcast at the time of writing) and would enter the scene with his controversial novel, Off Season, a tale that would take form based on the legend of Sawney Bean, the clan leader of a band of cannibals living in Scotland during the 16th Century.
This in turn would spawn two sequels, (Offspring, released in 2009, and The Woman 2011, directed by Lucky McKee and starring Pollyanna McIntosh) and follow the lives of these cannibals.
The Woman would centre on one member of the tribe, captured by a family on the brink of humanity, guided by their oppressive and domineering father, Chris. Chris tries to domesticate the woman by caging her up and raping her, vilyfying her very nature. The tale was a harsh but vital look at women who are subjected to violent suppression from the hands of a volatile male figure. It rightfully stands as a dark look at the lengths and breadths that humanity can turn to when steered by the misguided.
Where Darlin’ picks up, the woman and her teenage daughter (Lauryn Canny) are still living on the edge of society when the daughter, known as Darlin’ in the film, is taken into hospital and another form of rehabilitation begins. In this case though, it comes under the guise of religion, when she is harboured by a Catholic boarding school, and again is domesticated or bred as a public image for the school. The grooming process is exactly as it sounds, where The Bishop (Bryan Batt) preys on the girls who board there.
The rest of the story focuses on Darlin’s rehabilitation into society and wrestling with her inner nature and the ways of catholicism. As much as she conforms to the religious ways, the kernel of her makeup lies dormant throughout the story waiting to unleash at any given time.
It was great to see Nora-Jane Noone (The Descent) on screen as the troubled Sister Jennifer who is equally dealing with an internal conflict about her upbringing and the impact that the school had on her as a child, conflicting with her beliefs.
McIntosh was clearly inspired by her previous role as The Woman and the writings of Jack Ketchum to have further developed the story on screen again and proves more than accomplished in her (as yet) only turn in the director’s chair.
While Darlin’ walks a predictable storyline and is not as brutal as its predecessor, the threat is still present with ‘The Woman’ on the outskirts threatening to strike at any given moment, which hides or glosses over any flaws contained within the narrative.
- Saul Muerte