In The Dark Half

In The Dark Half


Reviewed by: Merlin Harries

In the Dark Half tells the story of Marie (Jessica Barden), a 15-year-old girl growing up on a gloomy, unremarkable housing estate and the tragic turn of events that catapults her into the life of her neighbour, Filthy (Tony Curran). An allegorical, haunting tale of grief and tragedy, the fiction feature debut of director Alastair Siddons is a chilling and poignant masterpiece.

Made on a budget of £300,000 as part of the Bristol City Council and BBC Films iFeatures scheme, the film boasts an ensemble cast of established actors and fledgling talent, coupled with some truly singular visual effects work. This ‘micro-studio’ picture benefits hugely from the collective vision of cinematographer Neus Ollé-Soronellas and production designer Max Bellhouse, who both deserve equal share in the plaudits for the film’s eerily visceral visual motif.

Copy picture

The story explores a number of deeply sensitive themes and is wrought with emotional truth, as it tells the tale of Marie, Filthy and the tragedy that binds them following the sudden death of the latter’s son. As a whirlwind of emotional turmoil engulfs them, Marie, with her own pre-existing inner battle, seeks solitude in an abandoned shelter in the nearby woods. Here, in this remote, leafy seclusion, she finds herself gripped by a host of disturbing, ominous visions. In many ways, it is this juxtaposition between the relative mundanity of their gossipy suburbia and the mystical wildness of the isolated woods that is as central to the film as the converging emotions of the pair.

The film is fleetingly reminiscent of the work of Ken Loach, most notably Kes but there are greater subtleties brought about through visual effects that are evocative of more recent European and Scandinavian horrors. The tense veil of calm that engulfs Marie as she plunges into the woods, fleeing the omnipresent pressure of her nearby home, has a chillingly dark edge.

Siddons’ direction is superb throughout and is bolstered by powerful performances from Barden and Curran, both supported by fine turns from Lyndsey Marshal (The Hours, Hereafter) and Simon Armstrong (Game of Thrones, Killer Elite). Barden, surprisingly only 18 years of age, is remarkable in her emotional fluency as Marie and special mention must be made of Curran. As something of a journeyman between TV and cinema over the years, he is undoubtedly an exceptional talent, and delivers a performance that is laudable, brave and, in places, inspiring. The viewer is caught between caring deeply for Filthy in the midst of his woeful, grief ridden plight yet also being terrified by him. A truly masterful piece of acting, Curran is beguiling and unnerving in equal measure.

For an incredibly modest budget that would, very likely, not even cover the catering on a vastly less interesting mainstream blockbuster, In the Dark Half represents a remarkable and important achievement in independent British filmmaking.

Reviewed on: 16 Jul 2012
Share this with others on...
The lives of a young girl and a grief-stricken father are brought together and haunted by a death.
Amazon link

Director: Alastair Siddons

Writer: Lucy Catherine

Starring: Tony Curran, Jessica Barden, Lyndsey Marshal, Simon Armstrong

Year: 2011

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: UK


Raindance 2011

Search database: