Alastair Siddons’ new film ‘In The Dark Half’, set where a crumbling, suburban neighbourhood meets a dark and eerie expanse of countryside, uncomfortably shifts continuously between scenes of disorientation, anger, suspense and loss.
The film follows the life and imaginings of 15-year old Marie (Jessica Barden) and centres around two traumatic events: the sudden death of her next-door neighbour’s 6-year old son whilst he is in her care and a mysteriously fragmented, unresolved past of a clearly distressing nature which flickers in and out of clarity. Brought together by grief, Marie and Filthy (the next-door neighbour, played by Tony Curran) experience visions of the ‘spirit’ world and, although they only ever seem to exist together in moments of conflict and aggression, a strange relationship is formed centred around their mutual understanding of loss.
The extremely atmospheric and often unsettling music (Dan Jones) and the simple and sparse dialogue play a huge part in the success of this film, maintaining a sense of anticipation and unpredictability throughout. However, many other aspects unfortunately are not quite as well executed. A few momentary dream scenes, for example, are embarrassingly cliché at parts: a girl with her back turned facing a coffin, a dead rabbit seemingly inflating or breathing and something (dead again) digging itself out of the ground. However, Curran’s performance as Filthy is perhaps the most significantly disappointing. Despite portraying a series of traits well (creepy, angry, upset, dangerous), his portrayal of the ‘affectionate father figure’ (or, quite simply, the normal guy) is strangely wooden, awkward and amateur.
Although quite a few aspects of the film do disappoint, ‘In The Dark Half’ is perhaps made worth watching by Barden’s portrayal of Marie; the young actress plays the enigmatically troubled teen with an elegant subtlety and fluency. What is perhaps most significant to bear in mind however before watching this film is that it does make relentlessly bleak viewing which should be followed, most definitely, by something slightly more life-affirming.
‘In The Dark Half’ is out August 10th
words Claire Hazelton