Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…

Forgive, if you will, this protracted love in of Larry Fessenden that I’m about to embark upon, but who out there isn’t willing to kneel at the altar of the great independent filmmaking genius?

From Habit to Wendigo to The Last Winter, the native New Yorker offers a keen eye, and an enviable knack for fine tales of the macabre. But, there’s another side to this auteurs body of work that deserves a heaped helping of praise, and that’s the role of the production company that he founded in 1985 – Glass Eye Pix.

The last decade of their resume reads like a buyer’s guide to indie horror, with such indispensable fright flicks as The Roost (2005), The House of the Devil (2009), Stake Land (2010) and Late Phases (2015).

Joining the ranks of these iconic little pictures is Mickey Keating’s impressive psychological nightmare, DARLING, which makes its way on DVD in the UK this week courtesy of Soda Pictures.

Hired as the caretaker of a large mansion in New York, an unnamed young woman soon discovers its haunted reputation and troubled history. Left to her own devices for extended periods of time, she gradually begins to lose her grip on reality.

Opening this black and white masterpiece is a handful of gorgeous shots, the first of which sees a foggy New York skyline nestled tight against the perimeter of Central Park. It’s a lush sequence, which while impressive is also greatly disorientating, as this contemporary film could easily have been lifted out of the fifties or sixties, such is the impeccably aged nature of it.

Keating has admitted that the style of his picture originated from a blend of Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, The Innocents and Diabolique, and such influences perfectly encapsulate what Darling is all about. The success of his project owes a meaningful tip of the hat to intelligent lighting and bold cinematography, but it’s with the sound department and Shaun Duffy where a vast chunk of the credit is deserved.

Darling is an aural journey of nightmarish proportions, with every aspect of both the score and sound effects orchestrated to achieve maximum disorientation. Its seventy minute runtime is perfect for a picture of this style too, and with Lauren Ashley Carter on screen for the almost every minute of it, she really does deserve every plaudit for such a testing performance.

Trippy to the max, Darling will undoubtedly leave a section of its audience cold, but I implore you to seek it out, and stretch those rarely used horror muscles of originality. Chilling but poetic, disturbing yet beautiful, this is a movie that demands a little admiration.

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I’m officially anthologied out. I’ll admit, I was there four years ago with the arrival of The ABCs of Death and V/H/S, lauding these portmanteau’s and the fact that they offered a misty-eyed moment of reminiscence back to the glory days of Torture Garden (1967) and Vault of Horror (1974). Now though, with the decidedly so-so nature of Holidays, Tales of Halloween and All Hallows’ Eve 2 dropping on UK shelves all with a couple of weeks, it was with a degree of weariness that approached THE HORROR NETWORK.

As in the case of the aforementioned movies, it’s a pretty mixed bag here, although I’m pleased to finally fire some props in the direction of indie British distro Left Films, who have at last released a title that I don’t have to chastise mercilessly for its micro-budget inadequacy.

A slow start it may be with the somewhat disappointing 3am, this medley of fright-bites hits its stride with Edward, a very well executed two-hander that offers plenty of surprises up its sleeve. The Quiet spends an unsettling few minutes in the life of a bullied teenager with a severe hearing impairment, before the fourth chapter, Merry Little Christmas, takes us to Spain for the longest and most polished entry in the compilation. Finally, rounding out this collection is The Deviant One, which is not only my favourite but it also seems to be my second black and white recommendation of the week! Revolving around a serial killer who’s partial to the occasional moment of fellatio with a dismembered head, it’s a truly disturbing short, as a shaven-headed bear of a man slices and dices his victims, interspersed with a litany of bible quotations on screen. It’s a strong finish to a slightly-above-average compendium of films, that if seen for a steal could well be worth an investment.

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All of this week’s discs were released in the UK on the 24th October 2016


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