April 17, 2017 A Dark Song (Movie Review)
Dancing with the Devil can only be done to the tune of one’s own dark song, a painful aria that they carry with them until the weight of it begins to crush their spirit; in which case they are then prepared to sacrifice their life and soul for one final wicked waltz to weaken the effects of the overwhelming soundtrack of their heartbreak. Suffering a devastating trauma has the ability to alter a person, and can actually cause them to go to otherwise incomprehensible and extreme lengths in an effort to obtain even the slightest bit of silent relief.
A Dark Song is a Supernatural and Psychological Horror/Drama that presents the juxtapositions of the divine and the damned, good and evil, light and dark, compassion and cruelty, connection and detachment, and seclusion and inclusion, and which will be released in theaters and on VOD April 28th via IFC Midnight. It is the debut feature film of Writer and Director Liam Gavin and was produced by Samson Films in conjunction with Tall Man Films.
As with any film, characters as well as the actors/actresses playing them are vital to the impact the film has on its viewers, as they are the ones responsible for visually interpreting and conveying what started as nothing more than words on paper and a director’s vision. This film focused solely on the characters of Joseph Solomon, played by Steve Oram (Sightseers 2013, The Canal 2014), and Sophia Howard, played by Catherine Walker (Leap Year 2010, Patrick’s Day 2014), who both did such an incredible job of telling the story created and laid out for them by Gavin.
A Dark Song is essentially about a despairing woman seeking closure over the loss of her son, by any means necessary, in spite of the various risks or sacrifices which may present themselves. After purchasing an enormous and extremely secluded home in Wales, Sophia (Walker) seeks out an occultist known as Soloman (Oram), who, after much deliberation, ultimately agrees to help Sophia make contact with her dead son by summoning her guardian angel so that she may ask for such a favor.
It becomes quite apparent from very early on that this particular ritual is much more complex than one would assume, as Sophia must confirm that she has been following the necessary preparatory procedures allocated to her by Solomon before he ever even considers helping her. He also informs her that once the ritual begins, neither she nor he will be able to leave the house, for any reason, until it is complete; which could potentially take weeks or even months. He also warns her that a meticulous, rigorous ritual such as that which they are preparing to perform is not restricted to the summoning of just angels. As is the case with most ritualistic occult practices, opening a door to the spirit world leaves room for demons, as well as other spirits both good and bad, to enter their world and inflict incredible harm upon them.
It is always exciting to find up-and-coming directors that really exceed any and all expectations people may have when it comes to their movies; and they go above and beyond what one would believe them capable of given their rather limited resources, to create such a poetic work of cinematic art that really leaves viewers with a lasting impression that initiates self-reflection, deeper thought, and more meaningful conversations. Gavin is no different in this regard, as he exquisitely created such a beautiful tragedy that will break your heart, bring you to the brink of madness, test your faith and beliefs, and get inside your head to unleash horrors that play on the vulnerabilities of your psyche.
When a movie employs a multitude of characters played by a variety of actors/actresses, it increases the likelihood that viewers will find at least one of those characters to be interesting, relatable, likeable, and/or pleasant to watch; which, in the end, boosts potential for people to find the movie more tolerable to watch, than if they had not enjoyed any of the talent or the roles they played. With this movie, the pressure was really on for Walker and Oram because they were the focal point of the entire film, leaving everything to ride on the credibility and commitment of their performances; and for which they effortlessly rose to the occasion and brought intensity, complexity, and vigor to the roles of Sophia and Solomon.
The movie’s visually striking cinematography coupled with its telling and powerful score made for a deeply engaging experience. The tone and mood of each scene was set by both strong imagery and beautifully bleak landscape shots provided by Cathal Watters (Viva 2010, One Million Dubliners 2014), as well as the beautifully melodic, poignant film score that bled desperation and despair composed by Ray Harman (Love/Hate TV series 2010-2014, The Young Offenders 2016). The dialogue was impactful, philosophical, spiritual, and thought-provoking. The drama was the most prevalent aspect of this movie, while the horror was slow to build and more atmospheric and psychological in nature.
The special effects were minimal, but to a degree that actually enhanced the film’s story and the telling of it. Less was certainly more in this case, as there was no need for an overabundance of blood and gore because it would have only taken away from its profound, underlying meaning. Cheap thrills and a plethora of kills were not necessary to incite the intended level of fear this film set out to stir up. A Dark Song epitomizes the spiritual struggle one endures when faced with unthinkable challenges, which then causes them to turn their backs on God and travel in the opposite direction down a dangerous road in search of answers. A movie so amazingly well written and directed, beautifully shot, brilliantly composed, and skillfully acted, CrypticRock gives A Dark Song 3.5 out of 5 stars.