Is God Still There?

Darlin' Review

Darlin' poster

There are quite a few films in the horror genre that are touted as being some of the best that I simply just do not enjoy. It is rare that I revisit these films to ever give them a second chance, but it is a different story entirely when said films receive a direct sequel. I was more than ready to give Pollyanna McIntosh a fighting chance to redeem what Lucky McKee had failed to do for me years ago, with her new film Darlin’.

The Plot

Found at a Catholic hospital filthy and ferocious, feral teenager Darlin’ is whisked off to a care home run by The Bishop and his obedient nuns, where she’s to be rehabilitated into a “good girl” as an example of the miraculous work of the church. But Darlin’ holds a secret darker than the “sins” she is threatened with, and she is not traveling alone. The Woman who raised her, equally fierce and feral, is ever present in the shadows of Darlin’s psyche and is determined to come for her no matter who tries to get in her way.

My Thoughts

Darlin’ is the continuation of characters created by Jack Ketchum, many of which were introduced on big and small screens to fans in the films Offspring and The Woman, directed by Andrew van den Houten and Lucky McKee, respectively.

Picking up where The Woman left off, this 2019 sequel does a fantastic job of expanding the universe of these characters into different realms than either director of the previous entries could ever imagine.

Mixing social commentary and horror is nothing new. Legendary genre filmmakers like George Romero was doing this kind of thing way back in the 60’s, but it is great to see that the medium can still be used for more than just plain old blood and guts.

Writer and director, Pollyanna McIntosh, who also reprises her role as The Woman, has a lot to say. Darlin’ is being taken care of in a group home for girls run by a Catholic Bishop (Bryan Batt, “Mad Men”). While McIntosh isn’t necessarily shedding any negative light on faith or religion in general, she is indeed doing so on the exploitative and hypocritical nature of the organized institutions and individuals sworn to spread the Good Word.

Where Darlin’ is to be nurtured and treated kindly, she is introduced instead to corruption and sin… nothing she hasn’t seen before, however.

Growing up as a foster child to the animal-like Woman has made a huge impression on Darlin’, rightfully so.  She knows only what she was taught during these important, impressionable years. Because of this, learning to finally speak properly and the entire idea of religion is more new to her than any other individual possibly finding the Catholic church for the first time.

She must come to grips with her brutal past while also finding a way to fit into this new, exciting future that lies ahead.

Darlin‘s 101 minute runtime may seem even longer to some due to its rather sluggish pacing. Even still, I urge you to stick with it because the final act more than makes up for it.

While there isn’t much visceral horror to be had, McIntosh and her team of special effects artists don’t shy away from laying some explicit violence on us when absolutely necessary.

During scenes of young Darlin’ growing more accustomed to her new domestic settings, The Woman is simultaneously depicted in her still-feral state, slitting throats and carving flesh. The most violent acts can of course be seen in the film’s final minutes, as everything comes to a head.

The Verdict

I would have loved to revisit 2011’s The Woman, but lack of time really doesn’t allow me to do a lot of the things I plan, on an almost daily basis. Still, I was able to recall enough of the film to connect the dots where necessary and have an overall good time with this third film in the Ketchum-verse.

Darlin’ features a talented cast, all who portray some very unique characters. You will love some of the ones you meet along the way (Cooper Andrews of “The Walking Dead” as Tony) and others you will love to hate (Batt’s The Bishop). Either way, this film will have you feeling something for everyone that graces the screen from start to finish.

The practical effects are very impressive and although there isn’t much gore to go around, the bloodier moments will still satiate your every horror need.

If you are a fan of McKee’s The Woman and want to see where the characters have ended up almost 10 years later, I highly recommend Darlin’.

The film will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, September 3, from Dark Sky Films. The home release includes a behind-the-scenes featurette with cast and crew interviews, as well as an audio commentary track with McIntosh herself, both bonuses giving some incredible insight into the making of the film and so much more.

I enjoyed Darlin’ more than I had anticipated and give it a final repulsive rating of 4 Apostles with balls out of 5.

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