A Dark Song (2016)


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7/10
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A Dark Song is an Irish horror drama from first time writer/director Liam Gavin that's been getting quite a bit of praise from the festival circuit. There's actually some merit to the praise since it's a fairly unique genre effort that's more of a multi-layered character study than a straight forward horror film.

The story follows a grieving Mother, who enlists the help of a brutish foul-mouthed occultist to perform a ritual that will grant the user any wish they desire. Unfortunately, the ritual itself can take up to several months to perform, so the two seclude themselves in an old home in the Welsh outskirts. From then on they must be on a specific diet and of the right frame of mind before they can even begin. Once their minds and bodies are ready, they must memorize and master each and every segment of the ritual. After several months, if they've mastered everything, only then will their wish be granted.



While most horror films will focus on what happens after a ritual is performed, A Dark Song primarily centers around the two leads attempting to master the ritual itself. This takes up a majority of the movie's running time and doesn't actually start to resemble a horror movie until well into the third act. Until that point it's essentially just a moody dramatic character driven feature that's main focus are these two tortured individuals, who over time we question whether the ritual is actually working or if these people are slowly going insane because of it.

As we progress through the story more layers are peeled that reveal additional truths and details about the leads and whether or not they will ever finish this arduous and demanding ritual. From the start the movie seemed to lead to a big and possibly satisfying climax, but unfortunately I felt a bit underwhelmed by the end. Some viewers may be moved by the ending, but I was hoping for a bit more to come from it. Next to the fact that there wasn't anything remotely scary in the movie (aside from how long the ritual takes) the somewhat lackluster ending is my biggest issue with the film.

Flaws aside, it's an interesting, well written and masterfully-performed look at a couple heavily burdened characters and the movie proves that there's still some talent and creativity behind the normally clichéd occult subgenre.

Viewers are likely going to be pretty split on this feature, which is more of a multi-layered character-driven drama than a horror film. Much of the movie is simply focused on two people and their journey to mastering a lengthy ritual and less on the results of the ritual itself. While very moody and atmospheric, the familiar genre elements don't really appear until towards the end and unless you've been captivated by these characters the entire time, chances are you'll be checked out by then. Though, if you just go in expecting a drama with minor horror elements then you'll likely come out pleased.
OVERALL: 
Viewers are likely going to be pretty split on this feature, which is more of a multi-layered character-driven drama than a horror film. Much of the movie is simply focused on two people and their journey to mastering a lengthy ritual and less on the results of the ritual itself. While very moody and atmospheric, the familiar genre elements don't really appear until towards the end and unless you've been captivated by these characters the entire time, chances are you'll be checked out by then. Though, if you just go in expecting a drama with minor horror elements then you'll likely come out pleased.