As much as this month is about trashy horror, it wouldn’t be complete without a moody slow burner about dealing with grief through a countryside retreat to practice occult rituals. With a man who is essentially an extremely ginger Paul Giamatti.
A Dark Song
A woman hires an occultist to perform a ritual allowing her to communicate with her murdered son.
Sophia has been mourning her son’s unsolved murder for a long time (understandably) and finally decides to do something about it. Her solution? Occult ritual to summon a guardian angel that will grant her a request. Though she claims the request will be to speak with her child one ore time, does Sophia have ulterior motives? Spoiler alert: yes.
The occultist she meets with is Joseph, who has had a 1 in 3 success rate, which I guess isn’t too shabby in the occult world? In order to complete the ritual, Sophia will have to follow Joseph’s instructions without question, some of which are pretty gnarly. Joseph initially turns down her request, even for a shitload of money, but decides to take on the ritual when she convinces him her motives are pure.
Joseph explains the ritual is basically a journey (I guess he’s a New Age occultist) in which they’ll travel through 5 circles, invoking the angel at all stages. Most likely, the angel will materialize after the 4th or 5th step. Of course, there are also really horrific tasks along the way for purification. Sophia has to do things like shave Joseph’s body (what), spend hours to days reciting from one of the dark magic books (obv I totally know a lot about this kind of thing…) without food or sleep, drinking stemless wine glasses of Joseph’s blood, and getting naked in front of him so he can “purify” himself (gross gross gross).
There are some signs that the rituals are working like birds hitting the window and Sophia hearing her son’s voice speaking to her. However, after a while, it becomes clear that they’re really not getting the intended results from all of the blood drinking and…uh, emergence of other bodily fluids. As it turns out, Sophia’s real motive is to rain down vengeance on the teens who killed her son in a pseudo-occult ritual (and were never caught). Joseph says it’s fine as a motive, but lying about it was distinctly not ok.
For the ritual to work now, Joseph insists Sophia must be purified, which means nearly drowning her in a cold bath in the middle of the night.
After Sophia’s near-death experience, she’s angry with their lack of progress and lashes out at Joseph. Things escalate rather quickly in ways that aren’t wonderful for Joseph. After Sophia tries to leave the house, she discovers she can’t… and of course things get really sinister from here on out.
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
The eerie ambiance is perfect and burns so slowly, leading to a suspenseful ending. Not a lot of horror can do what this film does. However (as always), men ruined it for me. I had trouble getting around Joseph being an asshole for 95% of his screen time. Sophia isn’t necessarily the most likeable character ever, but she’s easier to understand and feel sympathy for. The last 30 minutes or so of this are pure perfection, though, and (SPOILER) blissfully Joseph-free (sorry, dude).