Tuesday, 14 August 2018

A Dark Song (2016) Quick Review - Country House

Note: This review is part of my reviews which I publish directly onto my Facebook Page, and are intended to be quick-fire projects.

When I was away recently, Sam recommended some films to me. My wife calls any film Sam recommends a 'Sam film', which includes brilliant trash such as Videodrome, Burial Ground, and Possession. One of these films was a 2016 independent Irish film called A Dark Song. I'd never heard of it, but was immediately intrigued when I discovered it was based upon an old occult text called The Book of Mormon Abramelin.

Abramelin's book is a text associated with the likes of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (which is probably a dogger's club for posh people) and Aleister Crowley. Being loosely connected to the 'wickedest man in the world' (that's Crowley not Sam, by the way) lends the film's premise pedigree. Right off the bat you just know some of modern history's notable people have tried this shit.

A Dark Song concerns Sophia (Catherine Walker), a grieving woman who rents a house in rural Wales in order to carry out a months-long rite to contact her dead child. Aiding her in this undertaking is occultist, and first class cunt, Joseph Solomon (Steve Oram). Solomon knows his stuff - which is just as well, being called Solomon he'd look a right prat if he didn't. The two spend months trapped in the house, and performing the rite, with Sophia hoping to speak with her dead child (and secretly desiring revenge) being the finishing line. But as the ritual progresses and nothing seems to happen, the relationship between the pair rapidly sours.

Everything about A Dark Song screams low budget. For a start, there are only the two characters on screen for the majority of the movie. This is fine, as the pair play their roles brilliantly and work well together. The other thing that gives away ADS' indie breeding, is that nothing happens for 85% of the movie. It's a bona-fide slow burn, slowly building up the tension and palpable sense of dread to an ending which is unambiguous in its use of the supernatural.

But that's why I like it. ADS is confident in its story, characters, and actors that it rarely has to rely on flashy imagery. The only exception, perhaps, is the awesome depiction of an Angel at the very end.  What starts as a creepy occult film set in a dilapidated manor house, slowly becomes an affecting film about love, loss, grief, faith, and the human condition. This is told mostly through the powerful interactions between the two protagonists.

It's not a scary film. It's not even a captivating film. But the truth strength of ADS naturally lies in the emphasis on ritual, warts and all. 'Sit here for 24 hours', 'eat this', 'don't eat anything', 'piss yourself', etc. The film depicts the ritual as one confusing ordeal with endless gruelling steps. And it's better for it. All the major religions have lengthy difficult rituals designed to test one's faith, so it makes sense the pagan ones would too.

Besides, if I were an Elder God, I'd make worshippers fucking work to invoke me. That'd also stop me from being accidentally summoned by wiccan girls who smell of stale milk and finger themselves with rolled up posters of Sam and Dean from Supernatural.

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