A Dark Song (2016)
October 23, 2018 6:21 PM - Subscribe

A determined young woman and a damaged occultist risk their lives and souls to perform a dangerous ritual that will grant them what they want. 91% on Rotten Tomatoes.
posted by DirtyOldTown (9 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
If the film had taken a different turn, it could have been an occult take on kitchen sink drama, like some Ken Loach or Mike Leigh characters who'd wandered off the estate and tried their hand at the dark arts. These are really resonant characters, really working their way through very real pain. The exhausting/tedious/difficult nature of the ritual they build is like a genre film translation of the very real emotional work people do to get over psychological damage. The fact that their ritual actually works takes it somewhere else, but it all felt of a piece.

Some people will probably be rankled by the ending. I was not. I really liked it. The angel's sad smile as she made her wish. Just perfect.

This is one of the very best independent horror films of the last 10-15 years.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:29 PM on October 23, 2018 [8 favorites]


Yeah, I thought it was an excellent film until the last ten minutes or so. I liked its vision of magic as something one has to really sacrifice for and invest time in--rather like Primer's attitude towards time travel. And it was effectively tense since it tells you very little about either person and gives you reason to suspect each person's motives. I thought the buildup was masterful. It was done in a way that let you wonder whether magic was real or she was just hallucinating because she was depriving herself of so many things...

But then the muddy creeps were a let down. And after repeated mentions of how tragic it would be if a certain law of magic was trespassed upon, once it occurs the film seemed to suggest something incredible and terrifying had happened, but then it backed away to a much warmer ending.

I think I took it at face value, and perhaps I shouldn't because your assessment of its message sounds accurate.
posted by heatvision at 3:36 AM on October 24, 2018 [2 favorites]


This film had such a great bleak atmosphere. The soundtrack was great, too, especially this piece.
posted by dng at 6:16 AM on October 24, 2018


I think it's important that the ritual succeeds for her, as otherwise the message of the film would go from "You may have go through unspeakably dark times to get through loss" to "Not even heaven and not even hell can help you when you lose a child."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:21 AM on October 24, 2018




I really enjoyed this film, but it's been a while. Thanks for reminding it's time for a rewatch.
posted by miss-lapin at 9:01 PM on October 25, 2018


The growly zombies were a bit meh, but I loved the tension and atmosphere of the build-up, and I absolutely loved that the movie takes a last-minute swerve on the question of what magic is, what it's for, and whether it works.

My favorite small touches were the lines about the distantly barking dog and the moments where she takes comfort from the sound of her son's voice, knowing it is a mocking demon.
posted by Scattercat at 7:04 PM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


I just rewatched this and it is still amazing.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:38 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


I watched this for the first time over the long weekend, and I so loved the choice to build the movie around the Abramelin ritual, and to have it be this grueling, claustrophobic thing that didn't lead to any flashy magic. What an excellent frame for a story. You could certainly get many more lurid, obvious horror movies out of such a ritual, but I'd be pretty damned thrilled by a whole subgenre of Abramelin ritual movies that kept it psychological and tense, or surreal and psychedelic, or made it even more of a ghost story, or went with a bildungsroman...anything, really.

That said, while I had a pretty immediate psychological understanding of the movie's resolution and ending, I had very little spiritual/religious understanding of it what with not being Christian, and had to have a friend who was raised Catholic explain the religious/spiritual nuances to me.

But then the muddy creeps were a let down. And after repeated mentions of how tragic it would be if a certain law of magic was trespassed upon, once it occurs the film seemed to suggest something incredible and terrifying had happened, but then it backed away to a much warmer ending.

I mean, I think something incredible and terrifying did happen! Solomon died because he fucked up the ritual. Yes, he died of an infection, but given that the magic legit worked, I think the takeaway here is that his death was certainly the result of his own failures at the ritual. Part of the tension of the movie is whether the magic is real at all, whether Solomon is just a scammer. By the end, I think we're meant to unambiguously believe the magic is in fact real, and thus Solomon's death isn't just bad luck and bad choices, but his moral desert and his failure at the ritual. Also, Solomon said they'd be stuck there if they broke the salt circle, and that's exactly what happened to Sophia: her car didn't work, she walked and walked and ended up right back where she started, and then she got dragged to hell, or something like it. It was only when she asked for mercy and forgiveness that she was saved.
posted by yasaman at 3:03 PM on July 8


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