Exploring Movies – A Dark Song and The Void

This past weekend I had the opportunity to finally set some gaming projects aside and watch two highly recommended movies on Netflix (US). The first was A Dark Song and the other was The Void. I’m not attempting to critically review either film, but rather trying to convey my loose thoughts and how these movies could be used as inspiration for your next horror or Mythos infused game.

A Dark Song is a 2016 Irish independent horror film, written and directed by Liam Gavin and starring Steve Oram and Catherine Walker. The plot is about a bitter woman named Sophia who hires a local occultist to guide her through a month’s long ritual to contact her guardian angel under the premise of contacting her deceased son. The ritual process is laid out in detail, but being cooped up in a house together in the Welsh countryside takes its toll on the pair. Frustrations mount, emotions erupt, and the unthinkable occurs in the wake of tragedy.

The movie starts off slow, but does quickly increase the pace and plot development. I found the movie engrossing once it got going and it really captivated me. Is it an actual portrayal of a real ritual? I have no idea, but it did convey a realistic sense of what it might be like to prepare and perform such a ritual. We see rituals performed all around us in various places in modern society, but older mysticism and occult rituals have existed for thousands of years, but most know little about them. Many times in games like Call of Cthulhu, the process of completing a ritual (in game terms) tend to be glanced over to keep the story moving forward, namely from the perspective of the player characters. What if we take something like A Dark Song and using it as a basis for the real work involved in performing in-depth occult rituals (a regular theme in games like Call of Cthulhu), can we adapt our storylines to be more robust by making rituals (at least prep) take more time? I think so; some gamemasters do include these types of things in the background and strategically use a little foreshadowing to impart or at least imply these things into the story.

The Void is a 2016 supernatural horror film written and directed by Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie, and produced by Jonathan Bronfman and Casey Walker. The plot follows a small group of people who become trapped in a hospital by a gathering of hooded cultists and by grotesque creatures. While the plot line is simple, the producers have implemented it in a tense and engrossing way. Interestingly enough this movie was funded by a crowdsourcing campaign on Indiegogo several years ago.

As with A Dark Song the moving was engrossing, but in a much different way. This movie is purely a supernatural horror flick and doesn’t pretend to be anything more than that. The movie starts in media-res at the house owned by the cult and the movie then pans over to the hospital where the remainder of the movie is situated. As the movie progresses, the characters come to learn that the dead can rise and that death is not the end of life. The movie does, in my opinion, a decent job at portraying cult activities and how infectious ideologies can be. Don’t worry, the movie is not an exploration of cult behaviors; more that it conveys how a cult ideology can corrupt and how that corruption can lead to perverted practices, death, and much worse. The plot hits on many Mythos and horror tropes and constructs and is most definitely inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft.

In game terms, the movie gives us a twisted and intertwined story premise we can examine to see how seemingly unconnected plot elements are, in fact, connected as the plot develops. It helps that the movie is in the same genre as horror and mythos games. Thematically speaking, there are lots of little things gamemasters can pickup. For example, prolonged exposure to trauma can influence cult members in horrific ways. These character twists can then be woven into our non-player characters.  I also think all gamemasters, regardless of their prefered genre, can glean a little about plot development from this movie.

Bottom line, if you’re in the mood for some interesting movies with Mythos undertones, these are worth your time. Better yet, both are great inspirational films for the new or veteran gamemaster.

~ Modoc

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