A Dark Song
As I've mentioned before, I'm absolutely loving the attention that small, quiet, indie horror films are receiving these days and A Dark Song fits very comfortably into that branch of the horror tree. I gotta say, it's a weird weird film, and I didn't love the entirety of it, but I have to admit that I've never seen anything else like it and that I found a large portion of it fascinating.
In the beginning we meet the film's protagonist, Sophia, who has tragically lost her son. Her deep desire to reconnect with him one last time leads her to hire a troubled occultist named Joseph, who promises Sophia that he can help her summon a god-like entity who will grant her her wish. Using specifications provided to her by the Joseph, Sophia purchases a home in the countryside with just the right number of rooms and proper orientation on the land needed to aid the ritual. Joseph moves in and begins to prepare the home. He warns her to take a long walk before the ritual begins, as she won't be allowed to leave for months once they get started.
Okay. So far you're probably thinking "I've seen loads of films about people wanting to reconnect with loved ones who have moved on." But, where A Dark Song distinguishes itself is in illustrating just how much of a strain - both mental and physical - such a task would be. And it makes sense, right? Most films like this gloss over the specifics of what one needs to do to open the door between worlds. But instead of a quick ritual mumbled in Latin that takes 10 minutes to perform, A Dark Song gives us blood and sweat and tears and mental breakdowns and terror over and over again. The attention to detail and the feeling of "realness" that the film provides viewers around the ritual is unlike anything else I've seen in films of this nature.
Much of the film is spent witnessing this - watching the two leads go through the ritual itself - and we see how their relationship crumbles under the stress as their true personalities bubble to the surface. Turns out, Joseph is highly abusive and manipulative, and Sophia isn't being 100% honest about her intentions. While watching two people kinda break down while stuck in a house together isn't for everyone, I found it hypnotic and it's a credit to director Liam Gavin that he is able to make this portion of the film tense and interesting despite its confinement to one space.
Where the film broke down for me was at the end, when Sophia nears her goal and the membrane between our world and the world beyond begins to break down. It's here that the film lost the considerable amount of the tension that had been built previously. Despite this stumble, I enjoyed A Dark Song overall and thought it was an interesting update on the usual tropes horror fans see in films like these.