Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
This October I decided to watch and review some of those great horror movies (31 to be exact) that I missed on their initial release. And for Part 10 of my series of the 31 OF THE BEST HORROR MOVIES YOU (MAY HAVE) MISSED we will be checking out occult horror A Dark Song. Let’s get to it:
Day 10 of 31: A Dark Song (2016)
Director: Liam Gavin
Starring: Catherine Walker, Steve Oram
IMDb Trivia: The ritual performed in the movie is the Abramelin Operation, an occult rite attempted by gnostics such as Aleister Crowley. The ritual is meant to obtain “the knowledge and conversation” of the ritualist’s guardian angel.
Plot: A determined young woman and a damaged occultist risk their lives and souls to perform a dangerous ritual that will grant them what they want.
Review: One of the reasons I started writing reviews for the 31 Days of Halloween is because I myself wanted to find those genre gems I may have missed for one reason or another. Since starting this year’s list I’ve already seen three “new to me” movies, all of which have impressed me in varying ways. Which brings me to the latest of the bunch, A Dark Song.
Grief can be complicated as different people will deal with loss in different ways, although to be fair I don’t know many people that would go looking for literal demons to help them in their pursuit of “justice”. Sophia (Catherine Walker) hires an alcoholic occult practitioner named Joseph Solomon (Steve Oram) to help her communicate with her dead son. After convincing him they hunker down in a remote old manor, cut off from everyone and everything. And as things slowly get…weird, director Liam Gavin sucks us into a story that leaves you to wonder if this is supernatural or just the broken psyche of a grieving mother.
The stripped-down house with its lack of furniture forces your focus to remain squarely on our two leads. Steve Oram’s performance here as the off-kilter practitioner of black magic had me on edge from the very beginning, partly because he also starred in another movie that made my list this year, 2012’s Sightseers where he plays the Hannibal-esque serial killing Ben. Walker’s Sophia also makes an impact with her determination to see her dark goal to fruition. The film hits the same way watching those videos where you know someone is about to fall and injure themselves make you feel; you can’t stop it and you can’t look away either.
A Dark Song is a slow burn and requires patience and your full attention in a way some may deem tedious. While I was never bored I do think the pacing would’ve benefited from a bit of editing here and there. The intriguing aspects for me was the details paid to the occult. Not that I know a thing about that stuff, but the writings, spells, drawings and such all came across as authentic. I did a bit of digging and found more than a few videos where knowledgeable people analysed the movie and apparently a lot of it is spot on. If this stuff is truly how these rituals go I honestly don’t see the appeal as it seemed excruciating and tortuous, but to each his own I guess.
While the final act does reward the horror lovers at heart, A Dark Song plays more like a drama with horror elements along the lines of films like The Lodge or Goodnight Mommy. Focusing on the ominous tone and atmosphere of dread instead of cheap jump scares and loud noises, this is a movie that wants to hit you more on a cerebral level than a visceral one. It also features a conclusion that will leave you wondering what would you be willing to go through for power or knowledge. I don’t know about you, but I’ll stick with Google and Wikipedia thank you very much.
Sommer’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
You can check out Part 9 of my 31 Days List The Girl with All the Gifts below as well as my review of Netflix’s The Old Ways:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
Double Tap Baby!