In The Dark Half

In Films, I by David Watson

Eerie. It’s rare these days for a film to be eerie. To be mysterious.

Eerie. It’s rare these days for a film to be
eerie. To be mysterious.
To withhold information, be ambiguous,
create an atmosphere of creeping dread.
A horror film that’s not really a horror film, dark psychological drama In The Dark Half is
a devastating exploration of grief and fracturing personality that’s genuinely

On the outskirts of a West Country town 15-year-old Marie (Jessica Barden) lives alone with her
DIY-obsessed mother Kathy (Lyndsey
), neither one acknowledging the grief-shaped hole at the centre of
their lives. Something bad
happened a year ago and Marie and Kathy aren’t talking about it.

Lonely and alienated, Marie spends her days running in the
local countryside and hiding out in an old stone bunker/den where she ritually
buries the dead and dying rabbits she steals from the snares of local poacher
Filthy (Tony Curran) who lives next
door to her with his young son and is regarded with suspicion by the local
community. Nursing a crush for
Filthy, Marie agrees to babysit his young son Shaun while he and his only
friend Steve (Simon Armstrong) are
hunting on the hill one night.
When Shaun suddenly dies without explanation in her care, Filthy is
distraught, consumed by grief.
Desperate for someone to blame, he’s a ticking timebomb of rage,
threatening Marie, telling her he’s going to kill her. Convinced Shaun’s spirit is haunting
her, that he’s taken up residence in her bunker and that he wants to be
reunited with his father, Marie is forced to confront the traumatic past that
haunts her…

A tense, compelling little study of grief, love and loss
that’s also a dark, psychological ghost story, In The Dark Half is a nightmare to review as it features a
devastating final act twist of The Sixth
variety that throws a fresh perspective on everything that’s gone
before. The script by Lucy
Catherine (Being Human) is lean and
spare, its focus on character easily allowing the film to encompass both the
mundane, downbeat, kitchen sink elements of the film as well as the more
metaphysical ghost story while director Alastair
makes a virtue of his low budget, tautly building a cloying
atmosphere of claustrophobic dread.

The performances are excellent with Lyndsey Marshal both
concerned and ambiguous as Marie’s mother Kathy while, despite being hampered
by a dodgy West Country accent, Tony Curran’s grieving Filthy is almost a
wounded animal, both pathetic and dangerous, a real and palpable threat to
Marie. As Marie, Jessica Barden
(so good in last year’s Hanna and
2010’s Tamara Drewe) is
astonishingly good, giving a raw, committed, soulful performance that drives
and dominates the film.

Low-key, scary and unsettling, In The Dark Half is a
haunting little Brit flick that deserves a wider audience than it’ll get. Seek it out.