Wednesday, October 24, 2018

31 Days of Dread--Day 24

A Dark Song; 2017; written and directed by Liam Gavin

Grief may be the most terrifying emotion--the most terrifying experience--known to humankind. The pain and darkness are so profound, we instinctively turn away from imagining them. Worse, once grief has us in its clutches, the desire to find some relief from it, no matter how short-lived, can drive us to do things that are likewise unimaginable.

That's the truth beating at the heart of A Dark Song, in which a mother whose child has recently died hires a practitioner of dark magic to bring that child back, if only for a stolen moment. What follows, in an old, empty house in the middle of Irish nowhere, is a months-long ordeal of rites so physically and emotionally punishing they nearly match grief's suffering. 

As the mother, Catherine Walker is equal parts determined and skeptical. At times she's committed to seeing the hellish process through no matter what; at others she's caught in doubt, unsure if the man she's hired is more interested in helping or torturing her. Steve Oram strikes just the right balance as the occultist. Beneath his ordinary appearance he's by turns sympathetic, callous and often terrifying in his demands. Occasionally what he requires of both Walker and himself begins to resemble the dynamics of an unhealthy sadomasochistic relationship.

The work of calling back a child from the dead is treated as a process, with each separate stage involving new levels of mystery and danger, with consequences both supernatural and emotional. It takes its time building up to a shocking end, but it's definitely time well spent.

A Dark Song is available on Netflix and streaming rental.

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