A Dark Song

Critics Consensus

A Dark Song offers atmospheric, unsettling horror -- and marks writer-director Liam Gavin as one to watch.



Total Count: 38


Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,900
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Movie Info

A bereaved mother (Catherine Walker) and an occultist (Steve Oram) retreat to an isolated house in Northern Wales to practice black-magic rituals. The pair hope to contact the dead, but their attempts at witchcraft lead to something even more terrifying. Written and directed by Liam Gavin.


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Critic Reviews for A Dark Song

All Critics (38) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (35) | Rotten (3)

Audience Reviews for A Dark Song

  • Mar 29, 2018
    I know I've made it perfectly clear, in several reviews, that I've never been a religious man. I abhor organized religion and how people use it to justify their own prejudices. Even if it wasn't for that, I don't think that, in the universe we live and the fact that an errant solar flare could destroy the planet and all life on it as I'm writing this, that this is all by design. Pretty shitty design if you ask me. I do think that there are unexplained mysteries in this world and those mysteries are worth exploring and debating about in a well-thought out way. The best way to do that, in my opinion, is through science. Religion simplifies everything down to 'god did it' and that doesn't help anybody find any real answers to life's most important questions. Having said that, religion is a tricky subject to explore in any movie and one that's bound to create controversy one way or the other. That's why most movies never bother exploring these ideas, they're just too heavy and they might end up pissing someone off. I've always found that the best movies fall somewhere in the middle, they're not some preachy bullshit like the God's Not Dead and they're not completely anti-religion. As much as I abhor religion itself, that's not to say that I think all religious people are bad, many of my friends believe in some sort of deity and they're stand-up people. Not because of religion, that's more of a complement, as it were. There is a way to tell a smart, compelling and thought-provoking movie revolving around religion without preaching or chastising the concept. Calvary, for example, is one of those movies. The reason I bring all of this is up to say that this is also one of those movies that explores the concept of religion in an intelligent manner. And it's a fucking horror movie too. Let's be honest, sometimes, horror movies aren't exactly the most subtle of experiences. I think that's part of their charm sometimes. That's not to say there can't be subversive and metaphorical films that explore ideas in a less straightforward approach, like It Follows, The Babadook or The Witch. This movie doesn't use religion to tell a story of demonic possession, it uses religion, and the physically and mentally rigorous ritual, to tell a story of a mother overcome by grief and vengeance, to the point where she wants to use what should be a special and unforgettable experience to make those responsible for her son's death pay. Personally, part of me believes that, even though Sophia paid something like 80,000 pounds for Solomon to perform this ritual, I don't think, subconsciously, she had any inclinations that it would actually work. From what I understand, I felt that part of her was doing it simply because sitting around, in a mental institution at that, wasn't doing anything to help her with her grieving process. Part of me likes the fact that the ritual itself isn't something silly like gathering crows' feathers, frog blood and a hair from a harpy or some shit like that. It's actually a really elaborate ritual requiring steadfast dedication. According to some information I've found, the actual ritual (the completion of which allows to speak to your guardian angel, which is what the narrative's goal is), according to the German texts, requires 18 months before any contact with the 'divine' is known. There's another version of the Abremalin, the Mathers version apparently, that says the ritual only takes six months. Either way, it's an elaborate ritual that takes a lot out of both the occultist and the person paying for the ritual. But, at the same time, I think the elaborate nature of the ritual itself is the film's biggest flaws. Say this this your first time even hearing of the Book of Abremalin, which it was for me, and the movie goes into this much detail, it's bound to be a little overwhelming. And, for me, it was a little overwhelming keeping track of everything. Obviously, I got the gist of it. The ritual opens up a gate, if you will, to...another dimension, for lack of a better term, and that dimension contains gods, demons, angels, etc. Not following the strict instructions and leaving the house before the conclusion of the ritual has its negative consequences, naturally. That much is obvious, but the smaller details and the smaller moments of the ritual themselves are just the film's biggest flaws. In all honesty, while it is necessary to detail the ritual itself, I also don't think the movie needed to go as in-depth as they did. Go in-depth, but not too much, in the long run, while the ritual is what drives the narrative forward, it's not the end-all, be-all. That's a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things, of course, because, to me, the movie ends up being more about the relationship between Sophia and Solomon. Solomon is quick-tempered and he's constantly yelling at Sophia about what she did or didn't do. And let's just say that their relationship is contentious to say the least. Steve Oram and Catherine Walker really did have quite antagonistic relationship with each other. And I think that would sort of manifest itself for these characters, given that they're stuck in the same house, together, for months on end, unable to leave as a result of the ritual. There's definitely some uncomfortable scenes between the two, but it's by design, of course. This is not a buddy comedy. Solomon takes advantage of his position as the occultist in one particularly messed up scene. Of course, Steve and Catherine are both excellent, so they make it work. So, let's move on to the horror. The movie definitely takes a more cautious approach to its horror. It doesn't really kick in until over an hour has already passed. But it's still really well done regardless and I think it helps give the third act the intensity that it needed. The movie makes great use of its concept in that the horror only really kicks in until Sophia breaks the rules set forth by Solomon (if she leaves, they'll be trapped in the house forever) and she leaves the house and, when she finds that she's gone in a circle and ends up back at the house, the demons start appearing. I think these demons also manifested itself as a result of Sophia's own state of mind. She's concerned with vengeance and only with vengeance. She acts as the conduit, the host, for these demons to come out as a result of the ritual, so the fact that she's got such a vengeful mission in mind, in a way, makes her attract the wrong kind of spirits. She needed to be pure of soul and mind for the ritual to work and I don't think she was either of those. But it does make the ending all the more satisfying as Sophia realizes the fact that, if she goes through with her original intentions, she'd be just as bad as them. Her transformation feels genuine and what she asks her guardian angel for is, let's just say, unexpected, but poignant and bittersweet. It's not a preachy ending or anything of the sort, but it is the perfect ending for this story and the journey that these characters went on. So, yea, I'd have to say that this was a really damn good movie. The overwhelming details surrounding the ritual itself notwithstanding, this is still a really damn good movie with a strong story that pays off in a way that you might not expect. I'd definitely give this a recommendation if you're a horror nerd. If you're looking for something more casual, this might not be the movie for you.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Aug 15, 2017
    A film that seems to have slipped under the rader aside from under the noses of dedicated horror aficionados, a Dark Song strives silently from it's grabbing premise to it's artsy finale with its claustrophobic camera angles and fantastic performances from the film's two leads. Unconventional in many senses, from casting to the film's interesting jump from having no budget to suddenly having quite a substantial one at the conclusion, the film takes many risks and they all thankfully pay off. It's a very memorable film and a very sad one as well. It's not as scary as I'd say it's intense and distressing in parts, the story is exhausting whilst also restoring a bit of life in occult horror.
    Harry W Super Reviewer
  • Oct 07, 2016
    A satisfying clash of magical realism, down to earth emotion and hysterical apparition. It's too long by 15 minutes but mostly is wonderfully weird and very well acted. Would make a great double bill with Sisters of the Plague.
    Daniel P Super Reviewer

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