Liam Gavin’s A Dark Song

I always appreciate it when a horror film spends like 80% of its runtime lulling you into a trance with slow burn pacing and impossibly subtle advances in plot and then, in the final few minutes just cranks the dial up way past eleven and let’s it’s climax rip for a no holds barred grand finale that leaves you in the dust. Liam Gavin’s A Dark Song does precisely that and is superior quality atmospheric horror that sees a haunted, introverted young woman (Catherine Walker, who has an appropriately angelic presence) hire the services of a jaded, ill tempered occultist (Steve Oram) to guide her through a spiritual summoning ritual, for reasons that she’s.. not entirely honest about. So the two of them rent a small cottage in the remote English countryside (filmed just outside Dublin) and vigorously prepare to summon some otherworldly forces. Now, I wasn’t kidding when I said this is a slow burn, because for literally most of the film we see these two odd characters simply interacting, practicing occult magick, bickering and running about the house looking for signs that their efforts are even doing anything at all. It might feel interminable to an impatient viewer and I wouldn’t blame anyone for giving up at least halfway through. However, if you have the patience to stick it out through this very, very restrained and character based piece and make it to the final ten minutes or so… well, let’s just say you’ll be rewarded with one of the most harrowing, bonkers, surreal, atmospherically disorienting, thoroughly creepy final acts I’ve ever seen in the horror genre complete with a few dark narrative surprises and even a light one. It’s a brave, bold story structure and once the ritual takes hold, the heavens shake and the supersensible realm is made tangible, it’s nothing short of breathtaking and terrifying in equal measures, and all the more effective as a jarring thunderclap in the story after almost an entire runtime of only restless overcast skies. Terrific, unconventional and highly recommended.

-Nate Hill

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