“Funland” is a short horror story by Daron Silvers, and one that I really liked when first hearing it. The main character describing his love of arcades and animatronics as a kid reminds me of my own early years, so I can relate to his nostalgia when going to them after so many years. The writer also creates a very vivid picture of the abandoned park they’re visiting by describing the scene in both its heyday and forgotten state. This really gives it a feeling of innocence corrupted since it’s a place the character remembers so fondly from his childhood, but has been reduced to faded ruins that shouldn’t be reentered. I especially like how much detail is used for the character’s favorite animatronic, a humanoid dog part of a mini golf course that would come out of an outhouse and shout at players after getting a hole-in-one. It’s never described as creepy in the main character’s memory and sounds like something you would actually see in a children’s park. It also makes it a much bigger contrast when the character gets another hole-in-one at the abandoned attraction and the animatronic comes out of the outhouse after him.
Though, one thing I noticed when going back to it was it’s similarity to another good story called “Abandoned by Disney”. Both involve the main character exploring an abandoned children’s park where they’re scared away by what should be an inanimate character. Then again, this story is about a character revisiting a distantly past part of his life and realizing he isn’t meant to be there anymore, and the other is about uncovering a horrible secret in what is supposed to be one of the happiest places on Earth. I really do like this story, but the biggest thing bugging me about it is the sequel, “Return to Funland”. Even though that one focuses on the original main character’s brother and he’s going to Funland because he knows something wrong is going on ahead of time, it’s basically a rehash where he goes in, gets chased out by the same animatronic and decides to leave the place alone. The reason it really bugs me is because it’s by the same author, so it is canon and kind of detracts from the first story because of it. It just felt forced, like the writer wanted to continue the story but didn’t put a lot of thought effort into giving it something new.
Darling is a 2015 thriller/horror film written and directed by Mickey Keating, and stars Lauren Ashely Carter as the main character, Darling. I heard this was a very good psychological story that took a lot of inspiration from older horror films, but was very underwhelmed while watching it. The plot is Darling is left alone as the caretaker of a large house where the previous caretaker committed suicide, and there’s one locked door on the second floor that she’s forbidden from entering.
One positive thing I read about it was that Carter is supposedly the Audrey Hepburn of indie horror, and I have no doubt the filmmakers tried as hard as possible to make her look that way. The whole movie is shot in black and white in an old house with 60s style clothing and house phones, but is also shot in HD and never shows much of the world outside the house. The camera is always very close to the characters as they walk down sidewalks and almost never shows the street, probably because getting too many shots with modern cars doesn’t fit with the time period. Not showing much of anything besides the house also doesn’t really allow for the house to seem so weird when there’s almost nothing normal in the movie to compare it to. Right from the start, it’s long silent scenes with only Darling and a lot of attention put on the door.
I could see some inspiration was obviously taken from The Shining with her being the caretaker and there being one mysterious room that might have some malevolent force in it, like room 237, but whereas The Shining had time descending into the weird stuff, Darling just tries to be extremely tense from the start, whether it’s her staring into the camera or just dragging a suitcase up the stairs. It starts with her just wandering around the place and starring down a narrow hall leading to the door which she unsuccessfully tries to open before weird editing is used in an attempt to make the scene more intense. It only left me wondering why she acts this way when nothing strange has happened with the door yet and she’s expressed no desire to see what’s in the room before this scene. Another problem with this movie is the lack of dialogue.
Most of it’s just Darling wandering around the house in the dark while nothing out of the ordinary actually happens. She eventually starts following a man she met on the street, waits for him in a bar, has a very awkward date, and takes him back to the house. The small talk continues until she attacks him with a kitchen knife and starts talking about what he “did” to her. Darling still has no backstory at this point, the actress didn’t even try to look like there was any force behind the stabbing, and I had no time or reason to care about the man, so I felt none of the horror the director was trying to inspire. There is a very morbid scene with unsettling editing and sound effects where Darling has a nightmare where his body comes to attacker her, so she dismembers him, but that’s the scariest the movie gets.
It ends with the homeowner calling to tell Darling she found out about her history in an asylum, the police show up, she kills herself, and another girl who looks like her is shown accepting the keys from the owner while being told about the last caretaker’s suicide. I know I’m just listing things off instead of going into any real analysis, but with the movie being so empty I can’t think of any to give. It was just a serious of events amounting to the beginning of itself.