A Dark Song Has Some Heart
Review by Aaron Haughton
Magic is the focus of writer/director Liam Gavin’s debut film A Dark Song; although it’s not the smoke and mirrors, sleight of hand type magic that we commonly see. No, this is — just as the title implies — some dark magic. It cannot and will not happen immediately; it’s a lengthy, meticulous process, and it requires sacrifice.
The story follows Sophia (played by Catherine Walker), a mother grieving over the loss of her 7 year old son, who was abducted by some teenagers for a cult ritual. Sophia rents a large house in the gorgeous northern portion of Wales and hires Joseph (played by Steve Oram), an occult expert who’s to perform a detailed, month long ritual, which is said to allow one to summon their guardian angel for one granted wish.
The lengths in which Gavin portrays the ritual is both meticulous and grueling, and, as Joseph warns, once it begins, it cannot be stopped and must be seen through to the end. While it appears to be a straight-up horror flick, it errs on the side of psychological horror. In fact, much of the tension stems from the dynamic of the relationship between Sophia and Joseph, which ranges from light friendship to out and out abuse. I think one of the best aspects of the film (aside from the knockout of an ending) is how well Gavin sets up the occult world to which the film is set; everything is clearly explained down to the most granular level. The film throttles between abusive terror and fantastical whimsy with relative ease, but does trip up and fall flat at points.
My only major complaint with the film is that the pacing is awkward, which a major problem considering its lean 99 minute runtime; there are scenes that move quickly you’d like to see expanded on, and slow scenes that Gavin allows to play out that should be trimmed down. Although, this would be more problematic if the narrative built up to a trite, clichéd ending; however, Gavin stands and delivers. The ending of the film is one, like many aspects and turns in the film, you won’t be able to expect, and I speak from a place of utmost confidence when I say you’ve never seen anything like it before.
The film opened to wide critical claim, but seems to be divided by nearly a 50/50 margin by the mainstream popcorn going public. I would say that this is in part due to the on again/off again pacing, or the film's slow burn, but I can also say that's it's worth sticking with till the climactic end. A Dark Song is currently screening in select cities, but is available for rent on iTunes, as well.
Rating: 3 magic circles out of 5.
What did you think? Did the ending blow you away? Was the pacing a deal breaker? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and, as always, remember to viddy well!