In The Dark Half (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/08/2012

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 85 mins

Engaging supernatural British thriller with powerfully atmospheric direction and a terrific central performance from Jessica Barden, though it's slightly let down by the dialogue and doesn't quite pull off its finale.

What's it all about?
Directed by Alastair Siddons, In The Dark Half stars Jessica Barden as 15 year old Marie; a lonely, death-obsessed young girl who lives in a suburban house that backs onto acres of woodland, she regularly steals dead rabbits from traps belonging to her neighbour Filthy (Tony Curran), so she can give them a proper burial. Things take a much darker turn when Filthy's young son Sean dies in his sleep while Marie is babysitting and Marie increasingly begins to feel that she is communicating with Sean's dead spirit.

Meanwhile, the smalltown community becomes suspicious of Filthy, who had always been something of a loner. At the same time, Marie's only friend Michelle (Georgia Henshaw) grows distant from her, while her mother (Lyndsey Marshal) doesn't seem to care about Marie's grief and seems obsessed with destroying their house, continually knocking things down and stripping the walls but never redecorating.

The Good
Barden has already proven herself as a gifted supporting actress, with scene-stealing turns in both Tamara Drewe and Hanna, so it's a treat to see her handed a lead role here and she doesn't disappoint, delivering a quietly moving, introspective performance that puts her blank-faced stare to strong use. She also sparks intriguing chemistry with Curran (one of Britain's hardest working character actors) and there's strong support from both Marshal and Henshaw.

Siddons directs with a powerful sense of atmosphere, heightened by some impressive production design work, a suitably eerie soundtrack and some smartly chosen locations, such as the pillbox Marie turns into her den, complete with spirit-catchers and various unusual objects. The film is also beautifully shot, courtesy of Neus Olle-Soronellas, who makes strong use of the various authentic locations.

The Bad
For the most part, the script is engaging, preferring to hold back on the film's more supernatural elements and keep us guessing as to what's really going on; unfortunately, the net result of this is that the supernatural element ultimately feels out of place. Similarly, the dialogue occasionally veers into unintentionally laughable territory and some naturalistic humour wouldn't have gone amiss either, especially with Barden's already proven talent for a snippy wisecrack.

Worth seeing?
Atmospherically directed and beautifully shot, this is an emotionally engaging low budget British drama with a terrific performance from Jessica Barden.

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Content updated: 17/10/2017 06:47

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