★★★ 1/2 out of ★★★★★
The slowest of slow-burn horror… and yet creepily effective.
For those of you who know and love 70’s horror (Like Mike Campbell), you will be familiar with movies like The Wicker Man, The Sentinel, and Let’s Scare Jessica to Death. These movies are what Mike and I refer to as “slow burners”. They don’t hit you with jump scares and shaky cam chase sequences, but instead, they trade their horror cards in for layered dread and an ominous sense of foreboding. In some cases, you’re not even sure if you’re watching a true horror movie, until the climactic clincher scene.
A Dark Song is one of those types of movies. It is a mood piece; quite affecting with the shadows and the occasional a-tonal keening in the soundtrack. On second thought, I might have done away with the keening. It is the story of Sophia (Catherine Walker), who after losing her young son to an occult ritual sacrifice/kidnapping, enlists the help of a Gnostic wizard, Joseph (Steve Oram) and they embark on a complex ritual in a remote estate in the Welsh moors. Oh, those moors! This is horror by way of Bronte if Charlotte was fond of ritual circles and candles.
Much of the movie has Sophia attempting to follow the wonderfully cantankerous Joseph’s ritual directions, some of them quite disgusting, and finding herself, like the audience, wondering if this guy is for real or not. And, little by little, we begin to sense that maybe this ritual is working. Unlike rituals from movies like The Evil Dead, or say… Beetlejuice… (BOO! Told you that Necronomicon was bad news!)… the process in A Dark Song is weeks in the making. It also heavily features the idea of “We have to do it again!” And then the collective groan of the audience sets in.
However, it is a very creepy movie, and worth it for a patient observer. The two leads (Really, pretty much the only two people in this movie) are very interesting. Their motivations shift and turn, and they follow two very interesting story arcs. It just… takes… a… while. The ending of the movie is quite satisfying and even comes with a couple of almost gotcha endings. I half wonder whether the director had one ending in mind, and then focus groups changed it around. I was glad they didn’t close with a cliche, having felt like I had been on this torturous procedure with Sophia for the full duration, and really wanted to see this to the finish line. A happy ending? Oh, I wouldn’t dare spoil that!