If you like occult movies – and I mean full-on proper occult movies – then you should be watching A Dark Song. In fact, you should be watching it and recommending it to your occultist friends.
A Dark Song tells the story of Sophia, a woman grieving a terrible loss, who enlists the aid of a somewhat broken and world-weary occultist, to lead her through a grand ritual to attain what she desires the most. The ritual, taken from the works of Abremelin, will take them weeks of constant work that will push the limits of their bodies, their sanity, their faith and their courage. But should they be successful, they will achieve the great magical feat of summoning Sophia’s Holy Guardian Angel, so that they both may be gifted with the thing that they desire the most.
This is a great film, though certainly niche, even within Pagan and occult circles (that’s occult circles, not Occult Circles – get it?). Writer and Director, Liam Gavin, clearly knows his stuff and is either well versed in the ways of magic and the occult, or has done one hell of a job researching. The result is a film that portrays not just a realistic interpretation of this kind of high magic ritual, but also a realistic depiction of how such a rite can affect a person and the world(s) around them.
Catherine Walker and Steve Oram give fantastic and convincing performances, as disciple and master performing the rite. While Sophia (played by Walker) and her motivations lead the plot, Joseph Solomon (played by Oram) is a wonderfully filled-out supporting character – wonderfully down to earth and matter-of-fact, even when lecturing on the metaphysical. A pleasing departure from past depictions of occultists, that have graced the screen in by-gone days of Hammer Horror and Dennis Wheatley stories. Balancing that, Walker gives us a performance that is both strong and tender, at the same time. She is resolute, but carrying a trauma and her strength of will doesn’t just pull her through, but the audience, as well.
Owing to the subject matter of the movie, it is unsurprising that the film is essentially a horror. But I would also say that for those with an understanding and appreciation for the occult material that it depicts, it is very easy to see that the movie is also more than just a horror. It is also a psychological thriller and a drama, though much of that is played out through subtext and the struggles of the main character.
While general audiences may receive the film as more of a 3 out of 5, due to its esoteric subject matter, for those more inclined to the occult this movie has to be a 5 out of 5, if only for how faithfully it approaches and depicts the material.
After a year of playing at a number of cinema festivals, A Dark Song is now available to purchase on DVD.