As a female I had many mixed feelings when watching “Somebody’s Darling” by first time director Sharad Kant Patel. The movie handles some truly uncomfortable subject matter. Getting past that and watching it just from a horror movie reviewer point of view, made it easier and after a slow start I got into the groove of the movie. “Somebody’s Darling” handles the dark side of college fraternities carefully and hinted that there were even darker, more ageless creatures hunting at these parties. The idea that obsession makes a person go against everything they are and believe in, is shown, as our main character Christian (Paul Galvan) can’t tell the difference between his fantasies of coed Sarah (Jessa Faye Settles) and what is real. I felt some fleeting empathy for him because of that; watching someone self-destruct is tragic in any case. But it didn’t excuse his behavior or that of his “friends”.
I really loved the retro look of the entire film. It didn’t look like the low budget movie it really is. This was a nice surprise, since so many indie movies look like they are shot with cheap equipment in someone’s back yard. “Somebody’s Darling” is described by Patel himself as “a love letter to 70’s style dramatic horror films.” In his bio he states, “This is a micro-budget feature trying to break the mold of budget limitations through creative sweat. It is my first feature length narrative that without funds to hire a conventional post production team, I learned to edit, create special effects, compose and produce music, design sound effects, and even design the poster.”
“Somebody’s Darling” is a love story of sorts- even if it is a very creepy one. I don’t want to describe it too much, spoilers are not really my thing. My biggest complaint with it was another problem you see in some lower budget films, (and big budget too) Just so-so acting. I would have liked to see more emotion from both Christian and Sarah’s characters. There were times they seemed almost bored with their parts. I did like the movie though and if it comes across your path I suggest you watch it. If your 18 year old daughter just left for college- maybe think twice about that, but over all I feel like it is a great effort and that Patel has a future in film making.
Here are a few questions and answers from director Sharad Kant Patel:
Why use a retro style for “Somebody’s Darling”?
Patel: “As a childhood fan of 70’s horror, I miss the slow burn, the psychological and environmental build that makes those movies such a substantial experience. I wanted to bring back that feeling. I’m also aware that watching horror movies in a group has evolved into a kind of fanboy party, where death and gore are cheered like spectacular fireworks. My movie critiques this kind of peer-encouragement. I wanted to return the impact of suffering, and did so by humanizing the victims, and even the monsters. We become numb to genre conventions through repeated exposure. I wanted to scratch open a raw place. Maybe even piss off a few people, but with meaningful intent. People gasp at the end. Everything builds up to it.”
What movies are you influenced by?
Patel: “You can see subtle references to the influential horror movies of my childhood throughout the movie: I put shot and blocking references to ‘The Exorcist’, ‘The Shining’, and even ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’. For example in one scene I have two characters walking and talking outside in public. Here, I mimicked the long-lens gritty feel of the scene in The Exorcist where the mother first meets and pleads with Father Karras outside, even down to the ADR. I know many viewers won’t get my references… but film geeks like me might!”
What is the strange pre-title sequence that seems to be a collage of found footage?
Patel: “In my experimental intro, I’m priming the viewer for the layered content in the movie (very real contemporary issues collide with staples of childhood genre monsters), and also show how I see a movie’s value as far beyond surface narrative or performances. This is a stylized feature film in which every single line and detail either references or foreshadows, and it’s is all interconnected to create a circular pattern of reincarnation within the fiction. I’m also trying to twist how conventional movies work and lead an audience on with tropes and story devices. For example, we expect a lead character to evolve. I play with that. Horror cliché says the teenage sinners die and the innocent survives… not here. The crafted aesthetic dimension is like dressing up that subversive layer in a tuxedo, so that it doesn’t punk you straight away. I wanted a slow reveal, but I didn’t want it to be totally obscured, so I use style and the intro as an orientation to my misuse of these tropes and the later introduction of staple horror.”
What or who else was influential in the making of this movie?
Patel: “The film wasn’t created under a conventional schedule or with a traditional team. It’s a passion project driven by the simple enjoyment of weaving a cinematic story and learning all the steps to finalize that vision. Originally shot and test screened as a short film, the project was slowly expanded over years, out of pocket. My original rough cut of the short was 40 minutes (intended to be whittled to 20 min). I felt, however, that it lacked narrative backbone, and decided to write more scenes that fleshed out the plot adding dramatic arc. The current feature is now locked at a tight 80 minutes. It’s completely self financed with no investors. It’s a joint personal effort between the original producer & story writer, Sebastian Mathews (who produced half of the material with the intention of a short), myself, (writing, directing, and producing 50% more material to create a feature), Robert Murphy (DP throughout) and many subsequent volunteer actors, 2nd unit producers, and production assistants in the Texas independent film community. From the storyboards I drew on set, to animating the final end credit roll, I had a hand in, and sometimes the only hand in, every step towards completion. I learned everything from directing actors to special effects to singing harmonies (my voice is on the soundtrack). I come from a background as a painter and illustrator, and I really went about this in the manner of a lone studio artist. I researched techniques and learned through rough attempts that became more and more polished. I especially enjoyed the creation of the score, composing and mixing by ear with no training or ability to read or write music. I was lucky to team up with violin player Collin McRae, also a visual artist. With her added talents, I was able to flesh out the very abstract push and pull relationship music had to the plot and visuals.While the result could be considered a bit rough and simple by industry standards,we’re proud that it has screened well with many different audiences.”
DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT: “Although I have screened short experimental films at SXSW and Raindance, this marks my first feature length narrative. It was recently accepted into the Silver Scream Film and Comic Festival run by Famous Monsters of Filmland. That’s coming full circle, because staring at Monsters magazine as a little kid probably led me to making this film as an adult. We tried to go a little bit against current genre fashion .Hopefully fresh audiences will appreciate a micro budget horror film that does not use shaky found footage, explicit gore, or sudden shocks scares; one that partially used West Side Story as a touch point for visual style. It’s an arthouse/grindhouse concoction. I’m trying to use psychological horror to reflect upon very real issues of rape culture, peer pressure, and elite privilege that are surfacing in recent news. This is also my retro love letter to the crazy films I loved as a kid (genre movies by Ken Russell, Brian DePalma, and John Boorman) and my self challenge to create a full movie experience on a micro budget through independent, Robert Rodriguez-style, guerrilla means. This entire feature cost less than many short films. We have attempted to present an inversion of a traditional genre plot. I wanted to view it from a dark, anti-hero vantage. I hope it feels like a compelling and haunting campfire ghost story.”
Written & Directed by SHARAD KANT PATEL
Produced by SEBASTIAN MATHEWS
Based on a short story by SEBASTIAN MATHEWS
Director of Photography ROBERT MURPHY
Editor SHARAD KANT PATEL
Main Cast PAUL GALVAN • JESSA FAYE SETTLES
FRED PARKER • KRISTEN TUCKER • MATT TRAMEL
CATHY BARON • MONIQUE CORTEZ
Score composed and produced by SHARAD KANT PATEL
& COLLIN MCRAE
Additional music by STEPHAN KOGA
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: SomebodysDarlingtheMovie.com