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A Dark Song (Blu-ray Review)

It appears that IFC Midnight and Scream Factory’s latest collaborative effort on a modern horror Blu-ray release has landed them a bit of a gem. One of the best reviewed movies they’ve ever put forth on the format (And I’m not just talking genre-junkie loving review sites and bloggers), this one boasts a very high Rotten Tomatoes score and the words and rating figures to back that up. A bit of a festival darling throughout the calendar last year in 2016, it has been around on streaming platforms for its continuing on in 2017 and expanding to a wider audience.  You’ll be able to pick this one up beginning on September 5th on Blu-ray. You can secure yourself a copy of the film and make sure you have it on that release day by pre-ordering from the link below.

Film 

Grieving Sophia despairs over the tragic loss of her murdered son. Desperate to somehow make contact with the boy she has lost, Sophia believes her prayers are answered when she crosses paths with the reclusive Joseph. An expert in the occult, Joseph reluctantly agrees to aid Sophia through a series of dark and forbidden rituals in order to bring her child back to the world of the living. Pushed to their physical and psychological breaking points, Sophia and Joseph make a disturbing descent into the most depraved corners of black magic.

A Dark Song may be the title of this film, but its fully about a dark ritual. Also, a very long, dark ritual at that. In the story, these proceedings take months as our lead Sophia and occultist Joseph stay in a house together and do their best to help her cope with loss and to get revenge. There are many different stages, acts to perform on one another, things to prepare and set up.  This is a really big ordeal. So yes, as you could probably have guessed, we are in the realm of slow burn horror. But we are also in it at its finest.

Liam Gavin’s debut takes an angle of horror films and attempts to flush it out like we’ve never seen before. While a ritual is typically a detail that happens as a device in a witchcraft or supernatural horror film (Usually a first or third act too), this film makes it the entire basis. It grounds the whole process and shows the hard work, preparation, stress and uncertainty that comes along with it. While it may come across in description as long and boring, its rather not. Each thing they perform/prepare has its own sense of art. Whether it be some cool sand design or drawing on the floor or creepy moments with drowning, its all either weird, suspenseful or interesting to digest when looking at it.

These moments all come with their own bits of suspense and dread as well. There is a terrific underlying score that boasts an uneasy violin in the mix as well as just many instances of soundscaping the events. This goes along with quiet moments, figures in the dark, short-fused violent outbursts and many other things that can make one watching at unease.  Liam Gavin seems to have a really good eye, and sometimes the scope of this movie for how low budget it is really impresses. Granted, I think the was shot around some Irish countryside which can sort of be a cheat, but you still have to know HOW to film it. The lighting for this movie is also pretty good as well.

Where everything helps fill in and give the film a real sense of strength are the in between ritual scenes. We get some rock solid drama for a horror movie. The scenes between leads Catherine Walker and Steve Oram fill us with wonderful three dimensional characters in some really committed performances. These people aren’t friends, but are interested in knowing about one another and share a real bond while being at odds with one another during the ritual. Walker is exceptionally good as she pretty much has to carry the film and seems to brings the sadness, madness, thirst for revenge and eagerness to do dark rituals with a grounded sense of ease.

Liam Gavin’s A Dark Song is a pretty surprising and well down super-low budget horror film. Its one of the better slow burn horror films in recent years and I hope it doesn’t slip under the cracks. There’s a lot of critical buzz for this movie and its well deserved. Let the film guide you and its really going to creep you out, unsettle you and spook you by the time its over.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail: A Dark Song debuts on Blu-ray with an image that is pretty strong, above average and really up to snuff with the other releases in this line. However, do to some good DP work, it really shines in its usage of overall colors and polish. The image is sharp and the details strong, like smudges on a window or, texture of a metal key to scratches on a faraway peace of molding.

Depth:  Features a solid, loose image with rock solid background to foreground relationship in the imagery. Movements are smooth and cinematic. No blurs or jitters due to quick motions were witnessed during the watching of the movie for this review.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and dark. An opening logo looks a little problematic as it fades in, but that 1) doesn’t matter and 2) the rest of the film is absolutely fine. Shading and such looks beautiful with no real loss of detail detrimental or noticeable at all. No crushing witnessed when watching for this review.

Color Reproduction: This one kinda goes for a bit of a bleached out look at times, but never forgets or shies away from showing off its coloring. Purples, blues, yellows, greens and such are all quite strong as well as many of the rustic natural colors.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and take on that appearance for the entire duration of the film’s runtime. You can see sweat beads, forehead grease, wrinkles, make-up, lip texture and more on the faces from medium to close up shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English, Spanish

Dynamics: A Dark Song’s 5.1 mix is a pretty good one, featuring a good healthy balance of vocals, musical score and sound effects. Music can provide some strong beats, while the effects in the mix sound quite layered with pretty good depth. If anything, the vocals are probably the weakest bit in the mix, sounding at times a little lower than the rest, but still quite solid.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer can hit pretty effectively when used here, in a film that doesn’t really bother it too much. There are some music hits that pound.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is a mostly front heavy track, but that doesn’t stop the rear speakers from bringing some unique traits beyond the normal ambiance. Sound travel and distance from a character’s placement onscreen are accurate.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are crisp and clean, down to the breaths a basic diction sounds made when pronouncing things.

Extras 

Interview With Director Liam Gavin (HD, 3:46) – The director gives a softer little interview, answering questions appearing as onscreen text about shooting his first film like “What’s it about”, “Why this movie”, influences, etc.

Interview With Actor Steve Oram (HD, 6:31) – The actor answers questions like the director, regarding his character in the film, working with Liam Gavin, the crew’s attitude, his favorite horror movie and some more character specific things while behind the scenes footage plays during this interview.

Interview With Actress Catherine Walker (HD, 9:05) – The film’s lead takes her turn at answering the slated questions while onset of the movie just like the previous 2 clips had.

Interview With Director of Photography Cathal Watters (HD, 6:42) – Audio starts off spiking a bit (and does here and there throughout. The DP answers some onscreen prompted questions regarding his first horror movie and how the director is collaborative yet knows when to say “No”.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 9:59) 

Storyboards (HD, 14:02)

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:16)

Summary 

A Dark Song is a very slow burn, and falls more into a “Horror-Drama” subdivision that excels in performance and pays off with your patience. This Blu-ray brings about a very good, rock solid presentation with both the audio and video as well as being one of the few of these to provide some decent extras. As always with these titles, I suggest renting them before the big purchase, but I can see this being one of the more popular ones with fans of this IFC Midnight line.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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