A Dark Song Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Written and directed by Liam Gavin
2016, 100 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on September 5th, 2017
Catherine Walker as Sophia Howard
Steve Oram as Joseph Soloman
A Dark Song is a procedural drama about a woman with a troubled past trying to speak to the dead with the help of an occultist. The ritual they follow is exacting, not something to be glossed over or taken lightly. These are two strangers locked in an isolated house for the better part of a year, repeatedly performing this complex rite. The concept sounds like it should be amazing and from a certain perspective, it is. Audiences need to know going in that this is an existential film that contains horror elements. It is a story of grief and despair as a woman enters her own personal Hell in order to find closure. This intensely intimate tale explores how much someone will endure to overcome suffering and guilt.
Writer/ director Liam Gavin debuts on the scene with a strong effort, as A Dark Song makes for quite the calling card. The film is a strong character study that proves not only can he write, he knows how to direct actors. The script expertly sprinkles exposition across several scenes without submitting to the usual chore of stopping the plot in order for audiences to catch up via clunky dialogue. With the help of cinematographer Cathal Watters and production designer Conor Dennison, Gavin succeeds in creating a complex environment for his characters to explore. There are occasional touches of great beauty that come unexpectedly and are visually rewarding. Ray Harman’s haunting score adds an additional level of depth to the intensity of the scenario.
Catherine Walker (Dark Touch) and Steve Oram (Sightseers) star as Sophia and Joseph, at the center of this ordeal. Both actors give powerhouse performances and show no fear in taking their characters into extreme and occasionally unlikeable territory. Together they delve into a BDSM relationship built on blind faith and filled with the possibility of coercion and manipulation. Oram is particularly off-putting as the boorishly abusive occultist who may or may not be sincere in his practices. Walker’s character is a bit deceptive in her motives and this keeps you guessing what her true end game is all about. Unfortunately, the two do occasionally slip into mindless bickering and their yelling at each other is more tedious than satisfying.
Knowing up front that A Dark Song is not a traditional horror film will help viewers immensely. What they will see is a story uniquely presented through the rich detail of following precise steps through unknown territory. There are not really any chair-jumping scares here and the soundtrack is equally restrained. What viewers do get is a quietly introspective look at these characters as we join them on a journey filled with dark magick and the promise of inner peace.
Video and Audio:
Presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the picture receives a strong transfer. Black levels are solid and colors are muted in keeping with the cinematographer’s palette.
Both a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix are solid options here. There is not a lot of dialogue and there are no cheap jump-scare audio crashes. The music is well-balanced and never intrusive. Much of the film’s audio is front-heavy, but the third act does bring some action to the surround speakers.
Optional English and Spanish subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Interviews with Liam Gavin (4 minutes), Catherine Walker (9 minutes) and Steve Oram (7 minutes) offer a look into how the material was approached by the director and his actors. Cinematographer Cathal Watters (7 minutes) gives his reflections on lighting the picture and the particular look he wished to convey.
A collection of deleted scenes (10 minutes) were wisely trimmed from the final edit as all but one are worthless extensions. The one standout provides a little more insight into Solomon’s background.
A scrolling collection of storyboards (14 minutes) offers a look at the director’s early vision for the film.
The theatrical trailer is also included.