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A DARK SONG

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A DARK SONG
Ireland / UK
Director: Kiam Gavin
Runtime: 100 minutes
Language: English

3/5

This has been a year of mildly good horror movies that satisfy but not in any way memorable — certainly not like the terrifying The Eyes of My Mother, to name one. A Dark Song hails from a country that has produced some truly disturbing pictures, and when it premiered at the IFC it was shown as a double-bill with The Kill List, a movie that if you haven’t seen it, you should, it;s that good. Liam Gavin’s A Dark Song navigates a fine line between the real and not real in telling its story of a young mother determined to summon up dark forces to bring her dead son back from the dead.

From the word go, the mood is a little unnerving. Steve Oram, seen previously in 2012’s Sightseers with Alice Lowe (herself seen earlier this Spring in Prevenge which you can catch via Shudder, by the way), plays his warlock/wiccan role with an almost frightening intensity and subjects co-star Catherine Walker into what seems to be a form of boot-camp for the magically inclined before sealing the house they’ve rented far, far from the world, and commencing with the ritual. At first we don’t see too much happening and there are stretches of time where all we get are the two characters bickering at each other, and in one uncomfortable scene, an act that technically amounts to visual rape, where Oram orders Walker to remove her clothing — not for anything magical, but to simply masturbate.

Once the paranormal starts manifesting itself, the movie takes a turn and one scene in particular is a cut above the rest. We see Walker approaching a couch that may or may not have a dark figure sitting on it, apparently having a smoke. As she gets closer, it becomes clearer and clearer that something is in the room with her, looking at her with unknown intent, but a slight change of the angle, and poof! The thing, whatever it was, is gone. Nothing like this matches the sense of dread that has been building up — partly because Oram’s Joseph is so mentally volatile and Walker’s Sophia oscillates between wanting something very badly and disbelieving of it all since nothing has actually happened of note. It’s the age-old saying that horror movies are at their best when they withhold rather than show and in this aspect, A Dark Song uses this to great effect, until the denouement arrives, and then it just becomes another typical horror flick that almost went over and into the abyss but stopped just short.

ROAD GAMES

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

 

Ever since B-movies like Ida Lupino’s 1953 film The Hitchhicker directors have been trying to up the ante while telling essentially the same story over and over. In this case, we open to an unseen figure dragging a body covered in what looks to be tarp across a backroad. We have no idea who this person might be, but the sharpening of knives and a quick glimpse of a dead face shows it’s clear what’s just happened and what’s to come. We cut then to a young British hitchhiker (Andrew Simpson, last seen in Notes on a Scandal as the kid Cate Blanchett’s teacher seduced) who witnesses a car veer to a screeching stop in front of him as an argument between a young French man and a woman (Josephine de la Baume) balloons out of control. The man, Jack, essentially rescues the woman, Veronique, from what could have been an impossibly violent situation. After the would-be-assailant takes off, Jack and Veronique continue, making small, tentative talk, each unsure if to open up to the other.

Soon after a car approaches them and a couple offers a ride. Anyone who would see the driver would probably give that man a “hell, no” from the get-go — Frederik Pierrot just oozes a kind of cheery menace I personally wouldn’t want to venture even near to. And the wife (Barbara Crampton as nervously stiff as ever), while quiet, makes allegations of a serial killer on the loose in the French countryside and later on as they arrive at the couple’s isolated mansion for a stopover, all but becomes unhinged at the seams. What could be going on with this older couple? Director Abner Pastoll keeps his cards tightly against his chest throughout the entire nocturnal sequence as the foursome have what amounts to a nearly terrifying dinner and the wife continues to warn Jack to keep his door locked at all times.

I won’t say more about what happens in Road Games because while it’s little more than cardboard horror, badly acted, it has a clever third-act that I didn’t quite see coming. Safe to say it’s an above average late night fright fest without too much gore or blood but a pretty dark center that points at the possibility, if French cinema was like its American counterpart, into sequels.