Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Director: Liam Gavin
Studio: Samson Films
Review Rating: 8 out of 10
It’s very rare to find a movie that gives real credence to the amount of effort it takes to do what is generally considered ‘High Magic’ and for that matter, ‘Dark Magic’ too. To understand what is really going on here, and why this little hidden gem of a film can be considered to be talking about both High and Dark Magic, first we, like our protagonists, must be made to work for it.
Meet Sophia (Catherine Walker). She has a plan, a goal, an insistence to partake in a ritual of some very serious Magic, and she’s trying to contract the services of one Joe Solomon (Steve Oram) to help her perform it. She went out and bought a house because it met some kind of serious specifications for the ritual involved, and it does seem she’s done at least some research into the occult world, for she hisses at Joe’s reluctant attitude about the ritual at all and the stupid house, saying it met the right requirements.
It takes some hard-won convincing but she gets there eventually, and we discover Sophie wants to speak to her son, who had died in some kind of misbegotten teenage black magic ritual, to apologize to him. That struck me as a little odd, but it also struck me that I’m not a mom and so perhaps I wouldn’t quite get it. At any rate, even more reluctantly we go, Joe finally accepts, and begins with another list of requirements for Sophie and a price for his services. Which are, admittedly, well-earned.
Joe is quite serious and insistent about one thing in particular, as he prepares to involve the entire freaking house with this ritual. He stresses to Sophie quite adamantly, that once the salt circle around the outside of the house has been closed, you cannot break it or leave, come literal Hell or high water, not for nothing and no-one would Joe make that kind of risk. With very good, valid reasons, as it turned out.
The ritual itself is incredibly taxing, once it begins. Sophie is, voluntarily mind you, this was entirely her idea after all, subjected to all manner of strange things, denied proper food and rest, forcing their combined efforts into beyond this worldly capable things. Both Joe and Sophie suffer tremendously under the strain, the very efforts they both have to put in, day after day, to do every last thing right and proper, lest they just ruin everything. Sophie wants to contact an angel, right, an honest to God angel, for the sake of her dead child. Joe tells her at several points a key room will be where she meets her angel, if it comes at all.
But it turns out, Sophie is a bit more flawed in her reasons for wanting to enact this ritual, and as the layers of psyche are being peeled back just far enough to embrace the divine, we are forcibly reminded why intentions must be pure and there is a spark of the divine in the other side, hidden in the fallen. Opening the door to just the divine in general is never a good idea unless you know what the hell you’re doing. It honestly looks as though Joe does, but the moment he’s hurt enough to not be able to prevent Sophie from doing it, against his very explicit instructions, she leaves the house.
Ostensibly, she left the house to find help for Joe. Because seriously, it’s Sophie’s fault Joe got hurt in the first place. But Sophie is unable to truly leave, and back inside the house all kinds of shit has gone horribly wrong, leaving the place open to some of the nastiest demons I can imagine. Sophie’s intentions might be a mixed bag of emotions, rage and love and sorrow all wound together in a tangle of contradictions, but it appears as though she and Joe have done enough, just barely, to save her from the other side.
A truly terrific performance from just two actors throughout most of the movie and a great deal of believable practical effects usage help us the audience agree: this could be really-real, it’s at least possible. However, literally the last five minutes of the film, where Sophie finally gets her answers and there is some manner of ritual completion of sorts, takes away a great deal of the glorious tension the first three acts that the film produced. I didn’t mind the CGI too much, but the nebulous way Sophie asked for her gift was … anticlimactic? I guess divine forgiveness really can solve damn near anything and everything.
For every Horror fan who ever laughed when Ash constantly mispronounced “Niktu,” who yelled, “That’s not how it’s done!” at Supernatural, lovers and believers in the power of real ritual Magic, ‘A Dark Song’ was meant for your viewing pleasure, at least once.
Be captured by the melody of A Dark Song, available now on Netflix!