A Dark Song – BFI LFF 2016 – Review

Grief-stricken, Sophia (Catherine Walker) rents a secluded estate home in the country, ensuring its privacy with a lot of cash. Believing she will find what she seeks via the dark arts, she enlists the help of Joseph Solomon (Steve Oram), who by appearances looks more like someone going to a music festival than summoning the presence of angels and demons. Per his guidance, they are to remain in the house whilst Solomon purifies Sophia via a torturous routine, after he prepares the house to the set up as by his scriptures.

A Dark Song plays a balancing as to whether we perceive Solomon as a conman, preying on Sophia’s weak grief stricken state as she descends into moment of disillusion, or whether their surroundings are transgressing to a world not their own. There’s a decree of minimalism and the atmosphere and a slightly unnerving soundtrack orchestrates tension, that for a while mask a script that is shy of early intensity or moments of shock and awe, that is more engineered to being a slow burner, but unfortunately the climax is a back garden bon fire rather than a forest fire that it really needs to be. It’s closing scenes border on the amateurish that feel clichéd and restrained. It’s hard to tell whether director Liam Gavin wanted to create a nuanced piece but has unfortunately left me feel rather underwhelmed. Oram plays his role well, although his character is slightly untraditional, he lacks a real sinister edge to heighten the psychological edge and Walker fails to convince her character to have been truly affected by her treatment. In comparison to recent British psychological horrors such as Berberian Sound Studio or The Witch, A Dark Song fails to unnerve you or invoke a sense of amazement.


Chris Aitken

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