Monday, June 12, 2017

'A Dark Song' Engrosses, as It Takes Things Slow

Usually in movies, when a magical or occult ritual (or the like) is required to be performed, it’s just done through a quick sequence or montage.  In the Irish indie film A Dark Song, the ritual’s the entire movie.  (The next paragraph is my attempt of a non-spoiler synopsis, but I think the movie will turn out being more enjoyable if one has zero knowledge of the character motivations and clues of its reveals, so it’s fine if you skip reading that.)

After the grisly murder of her son, a British woman (Catherine Walker) rents a house in rural Wales and recruits an occultist (Steve Oram) to help her perform a lengthy, complex, risky black magic rite.  Through this, she intends to communicate with her son.  Maybe, avenge him as well.  But if not done right, the ritual can summon a far more terrifying evil than she bargained for.
As a horror film, A Dark Song isn’t that scary.  Yes, it gets unsettling and eerie, and bad things do finally happen to the characters, but the movie won’t really make your heart go pumping on overdrive.  It provides an amount of thrills, but not in the aggressive manner that horror movies usually do and genre fans crave for.  It takes things slow.  Hence, moviegoers expecting a typical horror film experience may get disappointed.

Still, A Dark Song is a very unique, entertaining horror film.  Having a “how to instructional” narrative, the whole thing could easily become boring.  But it really does a great job in making its audience just as immersed and mindful as the characters regarding the details and process of the ritual and what they are trying to accomplish.  In addition, an atmosphere of mystery and tension is sustained, and the direction peels the layers of the story masterfully in measured pacing.  Its big payoff, brief it may be, is well built up to.  As a result of these, the film is generally engrossing.

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