The Four Brains regulars, Frankie Saxx, Bradley Kornish and Dan Pullen get a chance to review and discuss one of the best genre(?) films of 2017 Liam Gavin’s ‘A Dark Song’ a beautifully filmed and acted story about two strangers meeting for a months long occult ritual in an old home, sealed off from the outside world. We get deep on this one with a discussion clocking in at about two hours, with a few random distractions along the way (talk of ghost squirrels, necrophilia and the dangers of eating too much Irish soda bread).
Director: Liam Gavin
Writer: Liam Gavin
Stars: Steve Oram, Catherine Walker
Bradley’s quick Review:
The film is really an extended chamber piece involving two characters who meet to perform a ritual to help a grieving mother speak to her dead son. over the runtime of the film, which is a fairly lean 1hr 40m we get through many layers of character and story. Throughout the process many questions unfold about the honesty of the characters and the legitimacy of their process. There are a few surprises along the way, and a few scenes are wholly unexpected. This is a unique film, not too many others I can compare it to. It does have a claustrophobic vibe and the occult overtones are genuinely present in the material. It’s a totally different film than this example, but Rosemary’s Baby comes to mind as far as the vibe of the movie goes, albeit, this film is not as paranoid. The movie steers clear of sensationalism, which adds to the credibility that what you are seeing on-screen is akin to an authentic ritual process.
The two leads, Steve Oram and Catherine Walker, came across very naturally and both are two of my favorite horror movie performances of the year. I am familiar with Oram’s brilliant work in Ben Wheatley’s 2012 film he wrote along with Alice Lowe, ‘Sightseers’. When I saw him in that role, I told myself I want to see more of him, as well of course, more of Alice Lowe; and with this film and the recent Prevenge, both of them are not disappointing. As for Catherine Walker, I haven’t seen her before, but as I did with Oram in ‘Sightseers‘, I will be looking forward to what she does in the future and even seek out some of her previous roles… she was quite good. If I can compare her to anyone, it would possibly be a young Jacqueline Bisset. Walker’s role was intense and in a few places the script may have required more from her than what was really needed for this story, yet her performance was grounded enough to keep the film from losing its tone and believability.
The story was solid and suspenseful, the shooting was great, and the sets seemed very authentic. What little I know about ritualistic performance, the film showed me that there was obvious knowledge or research that went into this. I am a wee bit familiar with sacred geometry and the folks who did the staging, they did a fine job of utilizing some classic esoteric forms.
I personally dug the film and would recommend it to just about anybody who doesn’t have a stick up their ass. The end of the film may spark some controversy because the film dips into fantasy elements. Where others may have hoped to see the film move in a more horror-based direction, I thought it worked as is. I am sure however, that I would have also enjoyed the film just as much if the ending would have went darker.