I often find myself spending hours late at night browsing movie options in an attempt to both stave off insomnia and ultimately discover the "diamond in the rough" that I have been looking for in the streaming world. When I decided to try out "A Dark Song," I was overwhelmed with the abundance of titles that I was skipping over, and simply gave in. I mostly expected this one to be just another late-night occult bomb that I would walk away from after ten minutes. Yet, despite a slow start, I soldiered through and it definitely paid off. This 2016 Irish, independent film stars Catherine Walker (Sophia) and Steve Oram (Joseph Solomon), and was the directorial debut by Liam Gavin.
According to the Abramelin, a European Kabbalist grimoire, there is a months-long ritual that can be used to summon one's own guardian angel, who, if contacted successfully, will grant a wish, regardless of what it is; the abrasive and unlikable, Solomon, claims to be an expert in this field. This summoning ritual requires a much more complicated preparation compared to the usual Ouija board scene filmed at a kitchen table, and so the majority of the movie unravels in several rooms located inside of a remote home that a naive, yet determined, Sophia had purchased earlier on.
The cinematography beautifully illustrates makeshift alters of dimly lit candles, salt lines, chalk drawings, and just a few drops of blood. Though these items are cliché for the average occult scene, there is nothing campy about their appearance in this film. There is an exceptional authenticity in the atmosphere and it almost purposefully steers clear of the outlandish phenomena typically portrayed in a piece about sorcery. This is not your basic Harry Potter film.
"A Dark Song" portrays an intense believability in emotional conflict - something that is rare for low-budget films. Solomon's personality was so strong that I found myself yelling at Sophia in hopes that she would hear me, then tell him off and find someone more professional to assist in her mission. Some of the scenes are truly disturbing, especially when the sex-magic is introduced - it is definitely not sensual by any means.
I had more questions than answers as the movie rolled along, and being more of a psychological thriller than horror, I often wondered if I would bear witness to anything remotely scary. However, when the creepiness finally showed up, I was not disappointed. I was also thoroughly excited when the storyline dipped into some time-altering sequences, and I am glad I decided to stay the course because the real action happens after the first half. Is Solomon truly a master of the dark arts or is he merely a grifter with dark intentions? Do you they complete the ritual and finally meet their guardian angel or something more sinister? No spoilers. You will have to watch it to find out.