What better way to inaugurate a blog than to have a guest writer? Per his request, he shall remain anonymous.

Coming home from the office after a hard day’s work presents several possible scenarios for the today’s modern exorcist (henceforth known as TME):

Tune up the cello and saw off an homage to Johann Sebastian B.;

Uncase the ukulele and sing a verse of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” as his faithful hound humors him with an adoring gaze. By the way, TME and FH have an understanding: TME knows that his dog knows the playing is quite pedestrian and both know that the adoring gazes last as long as the food and water bowls are replenished;

Or watch a movie. But what to watch? Netflix, that Walmart of cinema, requires a bit of forward recon work so as to avoid spending more time searching than viewing. TME has noticed, as have many of you, no doubt, that this latest glut of movies about possession and exorcism lack technical and theological accuracy. In sum, they focus on several symptomatic elements, exaggerate some, exclude others, and never get to the core of the matter. What some viewers gasp at in such movies, what brings many adolescent girls to cover their eyes in fear while their male counterparts mask their horror with nervous laughter, often brings TME to elicit a sardonic chuckle. Not because he’s impervious to fear, but because so often it just simply isn’t that way.

So, tonight a movie it is.

But only after downing a post-exorcism burrito: carne asada, no lettuce (needless filler) and generous splashes of howling hot salsa. After interrogating demons for hours on end, one really works up an appetite. Not all burritos are up to the task, but TME discovered a place a while back in his old parish ‘hood where they know what they’re doing when building one of these rugby ball sized delights. After a blessing – Deus qui fecit totum, benedicat cibum et potum – washed down with an amber – TME is ready.

But what to watch, what to watch?

How about a little something from benighted Ireland? The land of saints and scholars could sure use a renewal in those departments – and this movie is proof of it. “A Dark Song”: it tries a bit too hard to be dark and the song it emits has all the depth of a forgettable Vaudeville ditty. When ultracrepidarians take themselves and their attempts at art so seriously, one is not sure if it should be compared to a symphony orchestra playing commercial jingles or an mediocre ukulele player’s first attempts at playing Ludwig’s 5th. Probably the latter in this case. Rather than dark, we get hilarity.

As far as the eponymous song goes, the writers managed to intone off key and remain so throughout. At least they’re consistent. As St. Thomas remarks, “a little error in the beginning leads to a greater one in the end.” Nonetheless, that same peerless intellectual giant also says, “no one can be wrong about everything.” In other words, the false premises redound on the final product, yet there is something salvageable here as they manage to bump into the Truth on several occasions.

The premise: Sophia, played by Catherine Walker, is embittered and lost. Ostensibly, she desperately wants to communicate with her deceased seven year old son, a victim of some occult ritual. Later, it’s revealed that she also wants vengeance on her son’s killers, seeking to ensure their damnation.

To begin the story, she locates a manor in the Welsh countryside that suits her purposes. She rents it for a tidy sum, with a little extra something for the realtor as hush money.

She claims to be Catholic, yet for reasons not mentioned early on, clearly has abandoned the Faith that was the refuge and salvation of her ancestors. One clue is a line early on: “I don’t do forgiveness.”

Some worldlings whine that going to Mass every Sunday, confessing once in a while (Eastertide or thereabouts), and fasting two days a year is too demanding. Sophia, on the other hand has none of that. She’s willing to put herself through some grueling occultist exercises that try her body and psychology (not to mention the endangerment of her soul) in order to force her guardian angel to make an appearance and grant a wish. Clearly, her problem does not seem to be spiritual sloth – a spiritual malady residing in the weakened will – as her hew-found Messalian proclivities demonstrate.

At the root, her problem is the almost universal Modernist error: immanentism. Such an impoverished understanding of God and His ways is the reductionist denial of God’s transcendence, making oneself the final arbiter and, indeed, the very source of the principles by which God is considered.

TME’s professor of happy memory, Fr. John Hardon, defines immanentism for us: “A method of establishing the credibility of the Christian faith by appealing to the subjective satisfaction that the faith gives to the believer.”

Sophia is manifestly dissatisfied with God since Satanists killed her boy, so, she employs a Satanist to get even. Her less than logical response to the mystery of iniquity seems to be a common one of our age: “The world is fallen. Fallen creatures do horrible things. Dismiss the only One who can save us.” Not a recipe for peace and happiness.

Our Lord redeemed human suffering, yet instead of finding meaning in the Cross of Christ, God’s own suffering and participation in our suffering, she rejects Him and gets on board with the Satanists. All sin has a sort of inherent self-imposed schizophrenia about it. This movie unwittingly grasps that and puts it on fudisplay.

It may very well be the case that the occultist, Joseph Solomon, convincingly played by Steve Oram, signed up for a Dale Carnegie correspondence course at some point earlier in his career, but his tuition must have run out after a few units. Like many a person involved in satanic practices, he’s grumpy and narcissistic. He charges an exorbitant amount of money for the rituals he’ll perform and treats the grieving mother with less compassion than the damned souls she’ll later encounter. In fairness, he’s quite honest with Sophia, revealing that the rituals will be costly and involve “sex-magic.” TME has the remote at the ready to FF should said scene appear to be in the offing. She remains firm in her resolve to commit sins against the 1st and 6th commandments if it will attain her goal.

The entire itinerary or self-purging and occult hoops to be jumped through are, as has been mentioned, supposed to end up conjuring up a pow-wow with her guardian angel; something that eventually happens. But the results are far different than Sophia originally intended.

So much for the premise.

So as not to sound like more of a curmudgeon than he really is, TME thinks it best to start with something positive (pars construens) before engaging in the pars destruens.

Pars construens:

Reality of angels: yes, they exist. But they live to carry out God’s mandates, not ours, like some performing flea of above average intelligence.

The occultist she employs, when referring to the practitioners of the occult responsible for the death of Sophia’s son, glibly says: “They’re already damned,” adding, “Most of us are damned.” Later in the movie we’re treated to a scene of him being claimed by his new roommates – you know the kind: the immortal infernal type. Those involved in the occult have placed numerous obstacles between themselves and heaven – but nothing that can’t be overcome by imploring Divine Mercy. How many of them trust in Him, though?

Her younger sister warns her that what she’s up to is ungodly – Hurrah! spot on! But Sophia dismisses her and her counsel, claiming to have been abandoned by God and is resolute to persevere in her purpose “whether it’s right or wrong.” It’s wrong, Sophia.

Sophia finds herself in a hell of her own making, experiencing the fruits of her own rancor. We were pleasantly surprised that the writers would lay such importance on the consequences of the lack of forgiveness, the cause of so much temporal and eternal suffering. Sophia’s sister is the only real glimmer of hope in this movie. Yes, there are still practicing Catholics in Ireland.

Pars destruens:

Angels: outside of the context of authentic revelation, they are here reduced to a sort of new age pet who does our bidding from time to time. In “A Dark Song’s” world, they form a sort of background music for our own innate spiritual longings, in a world without a God who will hold us to account for our every thought, word, action, and omission. When we finally see one, he’s 4 times her size and finds it hard to fit in the living room. If a pet were forced into a space like he was, no doubt the Anti-Cruelty Society would have to hire a new squad for the Hollywood complaint dept. His Athenian soldier get up is a bit offset by the shade of lipstick he inexplicably chose. Understandably nervous, (TME would be nervous, too, in the presence of a guy 4 times his size wearing lipstick) Sophia approaches him with her wish; because that’s why angels appear to us every time we commit sin against the 1st and 6th commandments through performing occult rituals, right?

Another aspect that seems out of place is Sophia’s first reaction upon seeing the angel. In Scripture, first encounters with angels engender fear and trembling; not observations such as Sophia’s about how fetching he is.

Occult practices only deliver short term “benefits”, but those benefits usually are masquerades for further curses the Evil One heaps on his stooges. It never goes well for you in the long run and – quite often – rarely does it go well in the short run. How many times has TME dealt with people suffering demonic afflictions who seek further occult remedies resulting in compounding the problem!? Too many to count.

The occultist, Mr. Solomon, claims the angels and demons slowly discover our presence and attempts to communicate and, little by little, figure out what’s going on. Nothing could be further from the truth. The moment you direct a thought to your guardian angel or a demon he’s aware of it. Although angels and demons cannot read your thoughts, your communication with them is in the will. The moment you willingly direct a thought to them, they grasp it in its entirety. Further, they know you better than you know yourself. The moment you engage in occult practices, demons know and have license to mess with you in ways they didn’t possess earlier. You send vibrations throughout the satanic web and he goes to work on you – often unbeknownst to you. Regardless of the results, in every case of occult practice, God’s 1st commandment is offended and one’s relationship with Him is compromised. The sin is much worse than the symptom – possible possession or demonic oppression.

The occultist claims that “science tells us the least of everything; religion and magic bow to the endless in everything – the mystery.” Not so, not so. Religion and magic are far from equal approaches. Man is religious by nature – capax Dei – made for a relationship with God. Entering into an objective and salvific relationship with Him that begins with baptism. The rest of the path to heaven requires prayer, virtue, and perseverance in God’s grace through the sacraments. This configuration with Christ is a life-long process of conversion, culminating in perfect union of will with God. Magic, on the other hand, is an attempt to manipulate superhuman forces, often masqueraded as divine, but always demonic and always for one’s own purposes. The former is liberating; the latter results in enslavement.

When Sophia finally asks forgiveness, she apologizes to her angel. Angels (unlike priests) lack power to forgive sins, so that goes nowhere. In spite of that, her angel appears to offer her a whispered absolution. It seems that in “Dark Song” world, there is no God, only angels and demons who are like us, only better or worse, respectively.

There is a completely superfluous scene that offends purity, (TME immediately pressed the FF button on the remote, but took note that this disqualifies the movie completely as watchable) serving no purpose except, perhaps, to reveal, unsurprisingly, what kind of a perverted jerk her overpaid rent-a-Satanist is.

Summing up: on a scale of sprinkles of holy water, this movie would have gotten three shakes of the aspergellum given new age approach and dangerous legitimization of the occult. The offensive scene demands an entire bucket of holy water and makes the movie objectionable.