For the release of the upcoming film, A DARK SONG, Craig had the pleasure of interviewing writer/director Liam Gavin about his creepy occult feature as well as what it's like to make a horror movie based on something real, bucking the recent horror trends, and his love of THE EXORCIST (1973).
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Liam, thank you so much for speaking with us today. To start things off, how would you describe A DARK SONG to the average movie goer?
Liam Gavin: It's a film that shows the occult done for real. A slow burn, anti-jump scare film.
NC: At one point did you decide that you wanted to make an occult movie that did not have an exorcism scene?
LG: From the get go. One of the reasons I wrote this was to do something new. I'd had a conversation with a Producer who was bemoaning the fact that people were just making films about vampires, zombies, and exorcisms. So an exorcism was out of the film in one short conversation. I wanted to tread fresh snow. That said, I know what I'd do if I was going to do an exorcism in a movie.
NC: You have mentioned in other interviews that THE EXORCIST is your favorite horror movie and, as a Catholic, you feel it speaks to the church. What about that movie specifically connects to you?
LG: THE EXORCIST asks the deep questions. It's a philosophical film. Is evil a thing, a privation or both? Is evil embodied in something/someone? What is God's relationship to this? What is man's? What's great is that it places these questions before you, it's not didactic. I think anyone, not just Catholics, can be pulled into this and find themselves in the whole 'there are more things in heaven and earth...' thing. I was very consciously chasing that kind of feeling or impulse when I was making A DARK SONG.
NC: You said in one interview that you gave the actors some notes on their characters' backstories then left them to create the roles. What was one thing they created that you had not thought of beforehand?
LG: Actors always come up with new things. If you're working well together that can be a joy. You spend a long time writing a script with the character's 'voices' in your head, talking a certain way. When the actors come in you've got to consciously jettison this and that can be quite hard. Part of the rehearsal process is me letting go and letting the actors take possession. It's always for the best.
NC: How much research did you perform to properly represent the ritual being performed?
LG: I did quite a lot of research. It grew as the development process rumbled on, it was an ongoing process. When I first researched the Abramelin on the internet there was very little information around but it expanded. I'm actually quite careful not to show the actual proper ritual on screen. Call me old fashioned but I don't want to enact a black magick invocation on screen, I don't want that following me about. If you look at the film we're always just coming out of something or going into something when we show the ritual in action. The structure's all right though, and what happens.
NC: Were there any aspects of the characters or story that drew upon your own life experience?
LG: I took my own sheer bloody minded, tunnel vision that it took me to direct my first film and placed that on Catherine's character. It's as much me there as Catherine.
NC: In your mind, what is the creepiest aspect of A DARK SONG?
LG: That it's a real thing. It gets back to what I said about THE EXORCIST (which is also a real thing), 'there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy...'
A DARK SONG will be available in select theaters, VOD, and via digital platforms in the U.S. on April 28, 2017 from IFC Midnight.