A Dark Song Review: Simple But Effective Genre Fare

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Stripped down and utterly devoid of fluff, A Dark Song is a very accessible sort of occult horror film. Resisting the urge for a jump scare induced cold open, the film opens with the true reason for its success, it’s lead character. Sophia (Catherine Walker) is a woman in grief after her son was kidnapped never to be seen again three years ago. Now she’s prepared to go to great lengths to get to speak to him. So she hires occultist Joseph Solomon (Steve Oram) to take her through a ritual that supposedly won’t just let her speak to her son, but also bring down her guardian angel.

Of course, the ritual is very dark and involves extreme physical and mental stress. And that’s the crux of the film. For over an hour of its runtime, A Dark Song is Sophia and Joseph performing unordinary tasks and arguing about whether they worked. It’s the rare horror film that relies on its performances to take us through their journey, and Walker is more than up for the task, terrifically displaying despair and anger as Catherine embarks on this quest. Oram overdoes it here and there, but is largely successful in what he’s setting out to do.

For his debut, director Liam Gavin has made a beautifully shot, slow-burn horror flick that, once he starts playing with the genre’s most familiar tropes, gets to be quite a bit of fun. But the film’s later rewards couldn’t land so successfully had we not taken both characters through such rigorous crises of faith. Catherine’s arc unfortunately gets a little rushed by the end, taking her to a place it’s a little difficult to buy, but for a horror film, the resolution is refreshingly emotional. There may not be much here to really redefine the genre or anything, but well-acted and thought-out horror films aren’t easy to come by. For that, despite its flaws, A Dark Song is a worthwhile horror film for those craving something with a little more meat to it. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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