“All my life, I learned to go by my instincts. I never thought it would trip me up,” says fraternity president Christian Roane to his female prey. The “prey” in Somebody’s Darling ultimately has two meanings: a symbolic one with social relevance that I like, and a literal one that resulted in a climax more unsatisfying than a one-night stand at Sigma Alpha Epsilon. (Don’t ask me how I know that last part.)
Somebody’s Darling is the debut feature film of Sharad Kant Patel, and it comes with all the high and low notes expected of a director’s first full-length film. Patel and co-writer Sebastian Mathews made a bold move: it’s not quite a “horror” film until the last 4-5 minutes, but rather a drama about the anxieties and consequences surrounding date rape and sexual assault on college campuses that follows a horror film structure.
The scariest thing about being a female college student: dealing with fuckboys.
The film begins with some fine, upstanding young men in a Lynchian-looking frat house observing several screens connected to hidden cameras, located everywhere from the front door to the bathroom. They’re the kind of rich college kids who wear Adidas socks and sandals and who disrespect their moms while relying on them for everything. You know the type.
And so does Sarah Stein, an attractive young woman who becomes the object of Christian’s affection, and rejects him due to her knowledge of the frat guy modus operandi (wooing a girl, having sex, leaving forever). They eventually become acquaintances, but Sarah stays juuuust out of Christian’s reach, enough to drive him into a complete state of obsession and sinister pursuit.
Meanwhile, the skeletons begin to come out of the frat house closet. His brothers seem to have a continuous issue of covering up date-rape crimes, but their biggest concern is that Christian won’t be “Chris” anymore once he falls in love with a girl, with their only ominous solution being to “end it quickly.” Which also seemed to be the solution to ending the film. I’ll get to that later.
Christian lives up to his name with a god complex. Instead of having normal horny college guy sex fantasies, we see his illustrious, creepy fantasies of him sitting on a throne above several dead bodies, his arm around an empty one. And there is only one girl to fill the seat.
“You keep resisting,” he says to Sarah as he begins to loosen his shirt and tie. We think we know what’s about to happen next.
Yes, the film is very clearly a critique on sexual assault and date rape, but more so about the culture surrounding it that it thrives off of. It embodies the entitlement a man can develop when put in a position of power, money or status-wise. Christian and his brothers clearly use these to their advantage, but feel immediately threatened at any point where they might lose their alpha-male status.
In defense of feminist influences, it was also refreshing to see the realities of sexual desires and peer “encouragement” for both genders; finally, someone has figured out that yeah, girls like to have sex too. But it turns out that sex is not what these young men are after. It’s not Sarah’s love or her body that Christian wants, it’s… her blood?
Yes, they turn out to be vampires. I know, I yelled “no” repeatedly at the screen too.
Once this secret is revealed, many of the details leading up to the climax begin to make sense: Christian’s extensive knowledge of the Civil War (he was actually there), his body and face becoming more and more pale and sickly the longer that Sarah rejects him, his frat brothers struggling to dispose of girls’ bodies that we assumed had been drugged, not drained. “Look in the mirror, you’ve been very blessed,” says a hallucination of Sarah in Chris’s booze-induced Civil War-era nightmare. The clues were there, and I guess I wasn’t super surprised, but I was definitely disappointed.
After biting Sarah’s neck, Christian snaps it, killing her. He holds his beloved for a minute, gets up and gets dressed, and heads to another swanky frat party. The color is back in his face, now sporting a smug grin. Now, I totally understand the symbolism behind this: once a girl is raped, she is left to deal with it and may never recover, while the rapist gets off scot free to enjoy the rest of his life and never deal with the consequences. After all, he has such a bright future! (Or eternity, in this case.) I greatly appreciate the social commentary, but plot-wise, we spent 80 minutes watching this film only to find out that he was hungry.
It just seemed strange to see such a strong, socially relevant (and important) message juxtaposed by a last minute thought to include a horror trend that wearied itself out by the time I graduated from middle school.
Aesthetically, Somebody’s Darling is subjective, but interesting. Half of the time our view is poised as voyeuristic, and the other half uncomfortably claustrophobic like a Lars Von Trier film. I can see how some could argue against it, but it served a story about obsession well.
Patel’s film comes with all the expected blunders of a first feature film, but those will be shaken off after time. Somebody’s Darling is a solid rough draft that has all the necessities of a good story with a message; it’s a nice suit that needs a good ironing. I really want to like this movie, but I believe Patel will have much better works to offer in the near future.