How far would you go to get the chance to talk again to a loved one that passed away? That is the question that Sophia, a grieving mother that can’t move on from the loss of her son will have to answer, and thru a black magic ritual taken from the book of Abramelin, with the help of a very cynical occultist, she starts a journey that will test not only her faith, but also her mental and physical endurance.
In “A Dark Song”, the debut film from Liam Gavin, we get a very interesting drama with a touch of horror, skillfully carried by the performances of Catherine Walker (Bitter Sweet, Critical) and Steve Oran (Sightseers) as Sophia and Solomon, who develop a complicated teacher and student relationship, enclosing themselves in a country house for months in order to preform the ritual. As the story unfolds we see the tension rising when it becomes clear that one of them is keeping a secret that can destroy the whole process and put their lives (and souls) and risk.
One of the things that I liked about the film is how it takes its time to explain with great detail the ritual of Abramelin, and how Sophia goes thru months of sleep deprivation, fasting, a very strict process to purify herself both in body and spirit, blood ceremonies and other things that I rather not mention. The ritual has the purpose of allowing Sophia to invoke her Guardian Angel so she can ask for her wish, but Solomon warns her that in every step of the ritual when she is doing the invocation, she is also inviting other beings to come, and they might be of the evil, dangerous kind.
Now, this is not a film that I can recommend to just anybody, because while I know there will be people that will appreciate all the careful details that the film goes into with the ritual and the struggle of the main character with her depression and her demons, the pacing is slow and it might bother some people. Other aspect of the film that might lose people in the audience is the fact that most of the film we just see Sophie and Solomon by themselves in the house, and at moments both characters seems to just be horrible humans beings, although is interesting to me how the plot hints that maybe Solomon is just a con artist and has Sophia going thru that awful ordeal just to satisfy some morbid obsession, while at the same time is letting us think that she might be not so innocent, or that her intentions are not as pure as she claims.
The third act is what I am sure will divide the audience, while the film manages to develop an effective tense atmosphere and give us a resolution to Sophia’s sorrow, the ending is a little ambiguous, and we could debate about what really happened. I think the ending, while not amazing or mind blowing, works and fits very well to the story, mostly because in my opinion this is not a horror film, but a drama with several supernatural elements, and as such, it needed to close as it did, but I won’t deny that I was expecting something way scarier.
“A Dark Song” is a film somehow different from what is being released lately, it takes a very original route and manages to entertain form start to finish, so be sure to check it out when it gets released on select theaters and VOD on April 28th by IFC Midnight.