It’s been a horror heyday of late. From the scare-your-pants-off “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” to the thrill-ride “Train to Busan,” the quality of scary movies keeps going up. Way up.
That high bar gets raised more so with IFC Midnight’s “A Dark Song,” one of the best horror films you’ll see this year. (IFC Midnight’s slate of creepy features has been leading the charge.)
The mostly two-character mindbender moves like a deadly, purposeful storm front, growing ever more forceful and ominous as the minutes tensely pass by. Screenwriter and director Liam Gavin doesn’t rely — for the most part — on cliched gotcha shocks and buckets of gore to create an unnerving sense of unease and dread. It’s quite remarkable that this is his first feature film.
Everything about “A Dark Song” screams first-rate. The ominous soundtrack channels an off-putting mood while the performances, particularly lead Catherine Walker whose committed turn is on par with Essie Davis in “The Babadook,” become more layered and textured as the plot unspools.
Walker goes through a roundabout of conflicted emotion as Sophia, a determined, hellbent mom unable to deal with the black-hole-sized death of her 7-year-old son. She hires Joseph, a belligerent, foul-mouthed black-magic specialist (Steve Oram, great at being shady). The duo hole themselves up in an isolated property in Wales that, of course, makes you want to shout out at the screen “get the hell outta there now.”
They don’t, of course.
What Sophia hopes to accomplish by communing with the dark side and what exactly goes down in the shadowy interior spaces (captured icily by cinematographer Cathal Watters) and what goes on in the minds of the two lead characters should not be revealed. What can be said is that “A Dark Song” is a class-act of a horror film, one that doesn’t let its high-minded intentions and emotional heft to snuff out the scares. It’s available for streaming on some platforms. Don’t miss it. (3.5 out of 4 stars)