Horror is a difficult genre for filmmakers to tackle. Most of the time, they fall into the clichéd tropes and fail to bring anything original to the table. However, in the last few years there have been a few little gems that have slipped through the cracks and some of them even managed to make my top ten favourite films over the last few years. What’s even more difficult to discover is a good Irish horror film. There have been attempts over the last few years such as 2012’s Stitches, which was stupidly funny but a bit rubbish to be honest, Citadel which was mediocre and Corin Hardy’s 2015 creature feature The Hallow, which had some great moments in a film that was only okay overall. In other words, the majority of Irish horror films have failed to progress beyond mediocracy. So how does Liam Gavin’s film fit in? Do we finally have a great and terrifying Irish horror film?
The focus of the film is on a young woman named Sophia (Catherine Walker) who, following a recent family tragedy that I won’t spoil, seeks the assistance of a skilled occultist Joseph (Steve Oram) who is battling some demons of his own. And so these two damaged individuals barricade themselves in a great big mansion in the hopes of successfully carrying out the ritual. Walker gives a very good performance here, she is both sympathetic and terrifying, particularly in the moments in which she truly displays her obsession of carrying out this ritual. Oram on the other hand is a bit of a mixed bag. I found his performance very inconsistent as there were parts where he acted like a creep before suddenly shouting all of his lines and using profane language, making him sound like a cartoon character rather than someone who is genuinely troubled by his past. The film solely depends on these two characters to carry it and we do get a brief and touching scene with Sophia’s sister played by Love Hate’s Susan Loughnane,
That being said, I was more than a little disappointed after watching this film. My biggest issue with it was that the director appeared uncertain as to exactly what kind of horror film he wanted it to be. At times, it feels like a paranoia psychological horror, which I felt the film executed quite well. But it then starts slips into a haunted house flick, which was definitely where the film took a nose dive in terms of quality, leading to a climax that will have viewers scratching their heads in disbelief.
A Dark Song is not an awful film, it’s just nowhere near as scary as I wanted it to be. Although it does feature some strong performances from its central leads, there is a major imbalance with regards to the film’s tone and the third act really had an impact on the overall quality of the film. I sat in anticipation hoping that something scary would happen and aside from two effective moments, one involving a chair in a dark room and the other involving a dreaded walk down a corridor, there isn’t really that much to be frightened about. Sean Moriarty