A Dark Song
a dark song | liam gavin | steve oram | catherine walker | susan loughnane | ritual | occult | angel | demon | demons | drama | fantasy | mystery | ireland | united kingdom | mark huberman | nathan vos | martina nunvarova | breffni o'connor | sheila moloney | ruby kearns
Film: A Dark Song
Director: Liam Gavin
Writer: Liam Gavin
Starring: Steve Oram, Catherine Walker and Susan Loughnane
This is a movie that went on a list early on when I got into podcasts. I’m sure that I’ve heard about it a few times, but do not remember specific shows. I’m now getting the chance to check it out as it is part of the Summer Series for the Podcast Under the Stairs as it is on the 2016 list. It was also quite lucky that the Gateway Film Center showed it so I got to see it there. The synopsis is 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.
For this movie, we start with Sophia (Catherine Walker) going out to a see a house in the country. She asks some particular questions and the realtor seems a bit confused. She decides that the place fits what she needs. It costs her quite a bit, but she does get it into contract.
She then meets Joseph Solomon (Steve Oram). He is the occultist from the synopsis. She is trying to hire him to help her perform a ritual. She goes through everything that she has been doing to prepare her body for it. He seems leery but agrees to see the house. It is there he asks her a particular question and her answer causes him to decline helping. She tells him she wants to do this ritual for love. It is at the train station that she reveals the real reason and he changes his mind. He stresses that she needs to tell him the truth.
They start to gather supplies and we get an interesting interaction. Sophia hears a child crying and she sees a woman changing a child on the pavement of a parking lot. This woman looks to be the one haunting her dreams as well as the child looking like her deceased son. Sophia is then spooked by her sister, Victoria (Susan Loughnane), when she comes up behind her. Through their talk, we know that Sophia spent time in a hospital due to her mental state from grief.
Joseph and Sophia go to the house. He surrounds it with a circle of salt and when he gets to the door, she has one last chance to call it off. If not, once they start, they must see it to the end. It is a grueling attempt that lasts months. There are frustrations and Joseph tells Sophia to do some horrible things. This ritual is being done to see and hear her son one last time. She also reveals the reason for this as well, revenge. It will take everything they have to complete, and potentially survive, this ritual.
That will be where I’ll leave my recap for this movie. What works for me is how intimate this movie is and how serious they take what they’re doing. We have these two broken characters that need each other to get what they want here. It will take a lot out of them to do so. There are also interesting ways to read this movie and as someone who loves social commentary, you have me hooked there.
Where I want to start is Sophia. This movie does an excellent job in slowly unraveling this character. We get the idea from the beginning that she is unreliable. She lost her son of Jack (Nathan Vos). Like any mother, she misses him and her grief sent her to stint in a mental hospital. She needs to be completely forthcoming with Joseph for this ritual to work. The problem is that she isn’t. She lies to him on multiple occasions as to why she wants to go through with this. It upsets him and annoys him, but I can also see that it puts them at danger by her not. I’d say that the performance by Walker works here.
Let me then delve into the character of Joseph. He is in a position of power here since he can perform the ritual. Sophia must listen to him and do what he says for it to work. Now he is being paid and in the end, he will ask for something from the guardian angel, much like Sophia. I have to give credit to Hope from Fright Club Podcast, but he is abusive toward Sophia. I could see this play out, but there is a commentary here about her seeking out an abusive relationship. She is staying because she feels that she must. There is some physical, social and mental abuse he does toward her. It is hard to watch, but it is easier to take due to the ritual they’re trying to perform. Oram much like his co-star does a great job here in my opinion.
That will take me to the next thing I want to delve into which is taking these two characters and isolating them from everyone else. The house is in the country. There doesn’t seem to be neighbors nearby. Them being isolated as they are, you could read in this movie that nothing ever really happens. We get to see and hear things, but it could be both going crazy due to group psychosis. This makes the movie that much better for me for that it could be supernatural and could not be.
The last part of the story I want to delve into would be assuming that this movie has something supernatural happening. I love the care that is put into this. Many times, when see movies with characters performing a ritual, they are trying to perform is easy. This is taking a realistic approach that it could fail, but regardless, it is going to take weeks and possible months. With how grueling this is, that is why I could see that nothing happens. Or it could be explained that what is due to exhaustion. The movie has a deliberate pace that is slow, but it raises the tension high to a satisfying climax. I wouldn’t say that it is scary. It is more unnerving and atmospheric while also being uplifting.
I don’t have a lot more to say about the acting since this is really a two-person movie. Both Oram and Walker are great. I thought that Loughnane is solid in the information she provides. The rest of the cast is solid. The demons we see are creepy. There is something else that happens at the resolution that I could have done without. It comes off a bit cheesy. Since this character is completely exhausted, I am forgiving as it could be a hallucination or their interpretation of what they expected to see.
That will also lead me into the effects, cinematography and soundtrack. I had no issues with the effects aside from what we get at the reveal. Everything up to that is subdued. We get things that are happening just in the corner of the screen. I’ll give credit to the cinematography for that. It is also something that unnerves me. The blood and other things are fine. The atmosphere is where this movie thrives and the soundtrack helps there. The music picked builds dread. We also do some good things with sound design of characters hearing things that they don’t know if they’re real or not. We also can’t trust everything which adds a layer as well.
So, in conclusion here, this movie wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t work for me. We have an interesting premise where we take two characters that are broken and isolate them in a house in the middle of nowhere. What they put themselves through could lead to something supernatural happening or could also lead them to descend into a sort of madness. The acting from the two leads helps to drive this with the supporting cast adding what they need. The only time I have an issue with the effects is one thing, but I’m forgiving there. Aside from that, the cinematography and the soundtrack help to build the atmosphere the movie needs. This is a great movie. After this first viewing, it is the highest score I can go at this time and I could see it going up with multiple ones to be honest.
My Rating: 9 out of 10