A DARK SONG [London Film Festival]

PrintE-mail Written by Peter Turner

Not since Fifty of Shades of ‘Bloody’ Grey has a woman had to so willingly give herself over to such perverted and humiliating suffering for the benefit of a bit of an odd chap. Forget ‘Mr Grey will see you now’. A Dark Song has Sightseers’ not-quite-as-sexy as Jamie Dornan, Steve Oram as Mr Solomon, a man who bends a grief-stricken mother to his will with alarming ease.

Sophia (Catherine Walker) lost her son three years ago and is now determined to make contact with him by hiring alcoholic occultist Joseph Solomon (Steve Oram). When we meet Sophia, she is forking out a large amount of cash for a secluded old house in the Welsh countryside and asking the letting agent for privacy. Soon, Mr Solomon (as he is strictly to be called) arrives and the torturous process of invocation can begin. Sophia has been prepped for the difficulties that lie ahead, but is fully committed to submitting to Mr Solomon’s authority and abuse as he has assured her that she will be able to speak to her son again.

A Dark Song is a film full of promises, and like Mr Solomon, you can never be too sure that it's going to completely deliver. Again and again, Mr Solomon tells Sophia, ‘things will start to happen now’ and like Sophia, you may just find your patience tested. But actually it's in the early details of setting up and beginning the occult ritual that A Dark Song hits its highest notes. The interplay between these two focused but flawed characters is disturbing and dark with Steve Oram showing a far nastier side than usual. Their motivations are revealed to be murky, with Sophia particularly offering up a number of different reasons for her desire to take part in the long-lasting ritual.

The build-up is incredibly brooding with Ray Harman’s score all rumbling drums and low strings[ reminding of Sicario’s similar score. Cathal Watters’ cinematography also makes the most of the great location and occasional shots of the countryside under foreboding clouds.

But it’s in the climax where A Dark Song fails to live up to all this promise. Mr Solomon may deliver on his, but writer/director Liam Gavin falls short on providing a truly terrifying final chorus. There are definitely some creepy moments, but after such an intriguing and painstaking setup, the descent into darkness and religious iconography conjure up something not entirely fulfilling.

Whether it's creating a circular seal of salt around the house, or drinking blood and eating toadstools, the devil is in the details. A Dark Song is magic for much of its running time, but much like its protagonist’s willingness to have ceremonial sex with a madman, it loses the plot in its final scenes.


Expected Rating: 6 out of 10

Actual Rating:

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