Category Archives: Movie Reviews

31 Days of Halloween (2018): A Dark Song

01What would you do to have one last moment with the ones you love and have lost? What would you give up? Would you risk your life? Would you risk your soul? That’s the question at the heart of A Dark Song.

A Dark Song investigates a paranormal subject that has always interested me but I’ve never seen a movie tackle—just how dang hard it is to pull off a magical ritual. Forget what you’ve seen in the films, the ancient mystics made it more or less impossible to actually complete one of these things. The Grand Grimoire, written by Satan himself some say, contains a ritual that takes some six to eighteen months and involves privations that would make a masochist blush. If you ever wondered  why more people aren’t walking around casting spells—other than the, you know, fact magic isn’t real—the difficulty involved is a place to start.

Why am I mentioning all this? Because that’s the bulk of A Dark Song. A women rents a house in the wilds of Wales so that she can lock herself inside with her mystical guide and embark on a quest to complete a magical rite–this one contained in the real grimoire The Book of Abramelin. It will take months, and during that time they will be stuck together. You can imagine how well that’s going to go. The ritual may or may not be working, but will they kill each other before we find out?

I very much enjoyed this movie, more so than I think most people would. (Hat tip to the names of our two main characters, Solomon and Sophia, both of which have esoteric significance.). It’s the definition of slow horror. Towards the end, it goes a little wacky in a Silent Hill kind of way, but that doesn’t take away too much from the rest of the film. I’ll give this movie Four Stars, well aware that many of you will find that rating inflated. But if you’ve ever wondered what this sort of ritual involves, this movie is for you.

4 Stars

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The Ritual

p14607106_p_v8_abHorror is having its [latest] moment, and the availability of mediums like Amazon and Netflix mean that horror movies which might have disappeared into straight-to-video oblivion ten years ago have a chance to shine today. But The Ritual is a coup for Netflix. This is a movie good enough to go to theaters, and it is can’t miss for anyone with a Netflix account.

Four friends from University strike off into the Scandinavian hinterland to honor their fifth member, killed in a robbery gone wrong. But at least two of the crew aren’t the athletic specimens they once were, and after an accident gives one a bum knee, they decide to take a shortcut through an uncharted forest. Things get bad when they discover the corpse of a large animal hanging from a tree–gutted–and they get worse when they find an ancient idol in a forgotten farmstead. Now something is hunting them, and what started as a camping trip soon becomes a fight for survival.

The Ritual is based on the novel of the same name by Adam Nevill. I enjoyed that book quite a bit, but it was flawed, particularly in its second half. In adapting Nevill’s book, the filmmakers have taken what made the novel great and fixed its shortcomings. And the creature design is inspired. The beast stays just beyond the frame for most of the movie, but the usual disappointment when the monster is revealed is completely absent here. It’s too good for just one movie, and I hope for more exploration of its mythology in the future.

The Ritual is an unmitigated success. Everyone involved should be proud.

4.0 Stars

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31 Days of Halloween: Cast A Deadly Spell

250px-castadeadlyspellWhat a crazy trip of a movie this is. Released in 1991, Cast A Deadly Spell (available for free on Amazon Prime) is quite literally a Lovecraftian movie, and they aren’t subtle about it–the main character is a hard-boiled detective named H. Phillips Lovecraft. The movie takes place in an alternative 1940’s Los Angeles where magic has been discovered and everyone uses it. Everyone but Phil. Phil’s on the trail of a stolen book that is said to be able to open the gates between this world and the world of the Old Ones. The Necronomicon, of course. Cthulhu gets name dropped, and Yog Sothoth makes an appearance.

I’m not sure how I missed this movie all these years. It’s got a fairly well-known cast–Fred Ward plays Phil Lovecraft, David Warner plays the big bad, and Julianne Moore shows up as Phil’s love interest. The movie is decidedly tongue in cheek (the style actually reminded me of the Dick Tracey movie from a year before). At times, it’s downright silly, but delightfully so.

I don’t know, I’m sorta at a loss here. Just go watch the movie and tell me what you think. It has it’s flaws, but if you are a fan of Lovecraft, it’s hard to imagine you not enjoying it.

3.5 Stars

 

 

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