Reviews: strange goings on in rural Wales – A Dark Song
A Dark Song,
Directed by Liam Gavin,
Starring Mark Huberman, Susan Loughnane, Steve Oram
An unusual supernatural story, set in Wales. When a young woman who is dead-set on her purpose teams up with a damaged and socially awkward occultist they start a dangerous journey to bring her Guardian Angel to a remote house. As the ritual progresses they discover more about each other and the true purpose of the ritual.
Those of you who know me, they know that I believe in the world of spirits and the paranormal; do I believe that every knock in the middle of the night is something otherworldly? No. Mostly it’s me trying to find the light switch. But when you find that one piece of evidence that cannot be debunked then it’s something that brings me great joy. I’ve had the honour of being there at different paranormal teams events and mostly it’s sitting around having coffee, eating lovingly prepared sandwiches, then one brief thing happens and you’re talking about it for months after. I’ve seen rituals like the ones performed in A Dark Song, and probably will never talk about them. Being a rational person through most of my day I know that the psychological reasons behind wanting the ritual and the results are mostly in the person’s head. I’m walking a dangerous line here.
In A Dark Song we have Sophia who is determined to have this ritual take place, and Joseph Solomon is the occultist who doesn’t really want to help to perform the ritual. Reluctantly, and with little grace, Solomon starts the ritual, but with Sophia hiding the real reasons behind why she wants this to go ahead, it’s not an easy ride. They are locked in a remote house in the Welsh countryside and cannot leave, they spend months preparing, butting heads, and we know the time is passing through the different states of the garden of the house.
What I loved here, and I do love the first three quarters of the film, it felt like The Others, the best part of the Nicole Kidman film. Later, however, they resort to the traditional ghost story tactics that in all honestly leave you wondering if the earlier and more intriguing scenes were just a fluke. The first part of the film that I did like showed a true talent of storytelling. The line between actual supernatural and just two damaged people trying to come to terms with their lives through helping each other is walked with a deft touch. Catherine Walker as Sophia is a little stage school for me, I don’t know much about her previous work, there is nothing amazing about her performance and yet it’s not awful, which leaves you feeling neither one way or the other about her.
The real revelation is Steve Oram as Solomon, like some occultist Frankie Boyle, he just nails the socially blunt Solomon. You hate him within minutes and then he’ll show a soft side that you want to invite out for a drink. This constantly swinging pendulum of emotions towards him makes it a great performance to watch.
I hate to say this as a horror fan, but I would have actually preferred the horror/supernatural element of this film to be left out. That sounds strange, I know, but the psychological element of the film, of a woman working through her pain, an occultist going through the motions, trying to fight for the integrity of his craft and the truth of why Sophia wants to carry on with the ritual, was more interesting. There was a part of the horror fan in me that just wanted the ritual not to work, for the darkness to stay in the shadows, and I’m not sure it was a good idea to then take the film in the direction it went, into a more familiar genre territory, with the predictability that often brings. The drama element of this film works like thunder, it’s a shame that the supernatural part of it is just weak sauce. I can see a lot of horror film fans being happy with this, and maybe a few years ago I would have been happier with it.