Would You be Willing?
A Dark Song centers around a ritual done in order to summon one’s guardian angel who would be able to grant you an impossible wish. The ritual is contained in the Abramelin, a sort-of book of spells in the Kabbalistic tradition. Interestingly, the Abramelin actually exists in the real world, so you can try it out yourself if you want.
Who would be the one performing the ritual in A Dark Song? It’s one British woman named Sophia, who recently lost her son. Since his death, Sophia has not been able to move on, and all she wants is revenge on the perpetrators. Needing someone to guide her as she performs the ritual, she enlists the help of the occultist Solomon.
As the setting of the ritual, Sophia rents out a house, which both Sophia and Solomon cannot leave until the completion of the ritual lest they be trapped there forever. The ritual requires Sophia to be cleansed, both physically and spiritually, and this creates tension between the two.
The question is, is the ritual true or just a load of bull?
The film’s central plot deals with Sophia undergoing the Abramelin ritual, with Solomon as his very stern guide. The Abramelin ritual involves complete meditation, focus, fasting, and persistence. Periodically, Sophia gets frustrated at Solomon since nothing is happening – she feels as if her hard work is unrewarded, prompting her to lash out. Solomon, on the other hand, is also a flawed individual, an alcoholic, and also gives in to rage.
Is Solomon the right person to moderate Sophia’s ritual? Why is the ritual not working?
Let me say that the movie is incredibly slow-paced. Day in, day out, the movie presents the ritual’s progress, which involves Sophia meditating inside a chalk circle, studying, fasting. While watching the movie, you would be emphatic agree with Sophia’s anger at Solomon that nothing’s happening.
Eventually, something happens, but by that point, however, you probably had lost interest in the movie. I don’t think this is slow-burn horror done right – look at The House of the Devil and The Visit for some really good examples.
The visual effects of the movie’s ghosts aren’t really frightening, and I must admit that I dozed off right around the time that the ghosts appear.
In the end, when Sophia eventually reaches the end of the ritual and (SPOILER ALERT) eventually meets her guardian angel, the wish that she requests is ridiculous. She underwent such a horrible ritual and all she wanted was that?
I don’t think A Dark Song succeeds as a horror film. On the other hand, as an exploration of the human condition in the face of loss, I think it’s where it at least does well.
Should You Watch It?
I’m gonna be the first to say that the movie isn’t for everyone. It’s an incredibly slow burn, and the pay-off at the end, in my opinion, isn’t worth the wait. Watch it if you’re interested in rituals and the occult. A plus point for the movie is that it’s based on an actual real-life ritual. I give it that.
A Dark Song sits at a high 89% on RottenTomatoes.