“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.” — IMDb
A Dark Song, Irish director Liam Gavin’s first feature film, has it all on paper… but for me, it just didn’t come through strongly enough in vision.
Sophia (a steely Catherine Walker) is consumed by grief when she asks occultist Joseph (Steve Oram) to help her contact her guardian angel. It’s a grueling, painful, desperate process, and many things are lost along the way, but in the end they both get what they truly want…
** SPOILERS! **
This movie, cinematically, has aspects of isolation, the occult, some gorgeous and moody landscapes, a small bit of gore, nudity, and some very personal cinematography. Emotionally, it deals with regret, grief, vengeance, stubbornness, and just the raw core of the human psyche. Like I said, on paper it has it all… but it just didn’t deliver for me.
I love the slow burn aspect to movies. I don’t need it to be all explosions and gore and stabbings to keep me interested. But this movie was about 95% slow burn with only 5% pay off. Every time I’d think we were getting to something of a climax, I’d be let down. And when the suspense isn’t all that much to begin with, it’s just a series of small hills.
I thought the acting was excellent. The cinematography was great, and there were some truly amazing scenes — floor-sized etchings in chalk, papers scattered all over covered with mysterious scribbles. The brief scene of Sophia sitting in the circle while metallic bits rained down around her was magical. The drowning scene was particularly intense and viscerally uncomfortable. Sophia escaping the circle of salt and walking for what seems like forever only to discover her own house in the woods was chilling. There were even a few moments of true fear — when she sees the man shrouded in shadow, only a lit cigarette visible… or when the dark hand pulls Joseph’s body down the hallway.
I loved the entire theme of the paranormal, the occult, that which cannot be rationally explained. At one point Joseph says, “Science describes the least of things. The least of what something is. Religion, magic… bows to the endless in everything, the mystery.” I wish THAT feeling had been explored a bit more, because I got glimpses of it now and then and I loved it.
It had some true moments of magic, of promise, and for that reason I will absolutely watch anything else that Liam Gavin makes. This one just didn’t hold me.