A Dark Song Hits All The Right Notes
Horror films come in many shapes and sizes. Some use jump scares, some cover their stars in blood and others use shocking imagery. A Dark Song manages to buck all these trends, instead showing a more methodical, dread filled side of horror that manages to grip from start to finish. With a well paced plot, a booming, unsettling score and good character building from the two lead actors, A Dark Song is unlike any horror film you’re likely to see this year.
As the film begins, we follow grief-stricken Sophia (Catherine Walker) who hires sociopathic occultist Soloman (Steve Oram) to summon the spirit of her dead son. A Dark Song is a film that pays meticulous detail to the journey and its here that the film sets itself apart from the masses. With a painfully long ritual to summon the spirits, the film plays on the uneasy tension it builds through its unsettling score and unusual camera angles. The usual horror tropes of jump scares and buckets full of blood and gore are nowhere to be seen. The purity to which A Dark Song carries out its story, using medium and far shots with lots of empty space in the background, is nothing short of genius and props must go to Director Liam Gavin for not falling into cliched horror tropes that stifle this genre.
A Dark Song also boasts realistically depicted characters, with enough depth to make their motivations feel real. Although some of Sophia’s lines come across as wooden very early on, as the story starts to become more involved and the ritual process begins, so too does the way Sophia relaxes and settles into her role. In contrast, Neil’s deliciously unhinged performance as the occultist is excellent. With sporadic, angry outbursts and an emphasised focus on the seriousness of the ritual, there’s an urgency about Neil’s mannerisms that give the picture some much needed realism.
For all of its positives, there’s no denying that A Dark Song is a slow burn which makes it an acquired taste. Its small amount of genuine horror elements make for an exhausting watch at times and may well turn off those expecting a more generic by-the-numbers scare fest. The uneasy dread that suffocates the film works well in negating the impact this has but for predominantly the entire picture, the film is played out inside the house and between the two lead actors. Its also worth noting here too that the ritual sequence that takes up a large chunk of the film does a great job in depicting the realistic tedium of actually summoning spirits from another world. Whereas other films might have shown this in a 2 minute montage, A Dark Song defiantly refuses, instead deciding to relish in the process and making that the main focus of the film. If there’s one major gripe that this reviewer had with the film, its with the ending. The jarring nature and abruptness to which the film is wrapped up did slightly sour the experience which is a shame, because for vast stretches of the film, A Dark Song is outstanding.
Ultimately, A Dark Song is unlike any other horror out there. The claustrophobic setting of the house works well to build a suffocatingly tense atmosphere throughout, even if the ending feels rushed and jarringly out of place with the rest of the film. The two lead actors do a fantastic job of transporting you to their world and with such a tight focus on these characters, both step up their game. You really get a feel that this is a dark, twisted ritual, not for the faint-heart among us and shouldn’t be replicated. Although this isn’t a by the numbers horror and is somewhat of a slow burn, those that persevere with this horror will see A Dark Song hits all the right notes and delivers a great horror experience.