Film Review: A DARK SONG (2016)

Film Review: A DARK SONG (2016)

Nov 6, 2016

IMDb: A Dark Song (2016)
Director: Liam Gavin
Stars: Steve Oram, Catherine Walker, Susan Loughnane

Like most of the audience I saw it with I hadn’t even heard of A DARK SONG until I saw it listed on the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival schedule, where it stood out as the only non Asian film showing on Saturday. Saying it turned out to be a great discovery is an understatement. It ended up taking second place in the audience awards behind TRAIN TO BUSAN, and it certainly deserves all the awards it gets. The debut feature from writer/director Liam Gavin is a uniquely chilling piece of occult cinema.

On it’s face it sounds like so many other films, a grieving mother rents a secluded house and hires an occultist to perform a ritual that will let her speak to her dead child one more time. But this goes in an entirely different direction from the usual direct to DVD jump scare film. The ritual in the film is based on actual rituals and rather than something that takes fifteen minutes and some spooky lighting, this could take up to a year, a year in which Sophia (Catherine Walker DARK TOUCH, FEROCIOUS PLANET) and Joseph (Steve Oram THE CANAL, SIGHTSEERS) will be unable to leave the house. With few signs to tell them if the mentally and physically grueling ritual is working the stress begins to work on their sanity.


The film uses the first hour to build the suspense. We see what the two of them are putting themselves through as part of the ritual, staying up for days at some points, extended meditations, fasts at some times, along with memorization, incantations and all other manner of magic. One scene showing Sophia meditating inside a magic circle looks almost peaceful until you notice the puddle under her, shes been in her position so long she’s wet herself. Add to it the personality clashes of these two totally different, damaged people and the lack of indications that anything is happening it’s no wonder they’re on edge and ready to snap. But when the results do come it’s not in the way expected. The last half hour leaves no doubts as to whether or not they’ve summoned something and comes as close to conventional horror as this film gets, but even then it has a mind and direction of its own.

A two person film, held together with excellent performances and tons of atmosphere A DARK SONG isn’t for everyone. It’s a slow burn and those watching it will, like the leads, be in for a long trip but the payoff will be worth it.