22 May 2024
All You Need is Death starring Olwen Fouéré read Bradley Hadcroft's review

Film Review – All You Need Is Death (2024)

Spectral folk horror from Ireland that refines nightmare fuel from an ancient presence and pours it over the eternal flame of desire.

A pair of lovers, Anna and Alex, are contracted to uncover the weirdest and oldest folk songs no one has ever heard. However, their mysterious paymaster is not the only one interested in such oddities and they cross paths with the hard-nosed folk academic Agnes. The trio converges in the home of a wardrobe-dwelling drunkard who treats Anna and Agnes to a guttural rendition of a ballad older than the Irish language. One of the women breaks a solemn promise not to record the sinister lament and releases a dark entity. As they translate the song lyrics, and fall under its sinister spell, it becomes painfully apparent that the song is both a warning and containment system for a cosmic evil that yearns to demonstrate that ‘Love is a knife with a blade for a handle‘.

Director Paul Duane is fully aware of the paradox that making a film for 150 grand is easier than making a film for 1.5 million. Self-funding on such a meagre budget not only gave him complete artistic autonomy but also ensured everyone involved in All You Need Is Death was present because they were invested in and enthused by the project. As such, there’s a creative cohesion running through the film that elevates it far above most studio-backed cineplex fodder.

It helps that at the core of this virtually incomparable head fuck of a film is a succinct script of rare quality. The dialogue is as authentic as the folk songs themselves and there is an earthy poetry in the character’s exchanges and chilling monologues. In terms of dramatic expenditure, controlled humour, and naturalistic incisiveness, it is up there with Weatley’s Kill List and Egger’s The VVitch.

The cast hoovers up the rustic melodrama with exemplary gusto in performances that remain tonally aloof as the woozy insanity unfolds. Simone Collins plays Anna with controlled elegance as a wide-eyed manipulator willing to exploit her sweet Irish girl exterior and even wears a wire. Charlie Maher gives her lover Alex a complex blend of intellectual superiority and speech impediment paranoia that also hints at a Machiavellian disposition. Olwen Fouéré is nothing short of astonishing as Rita Concannon, the boozy songstress who guards the integrity of the most deadly folk ditty in the world. Also superb is Catherine Siggins as the arrogant and cynical Agnes and Nigel O’Neill as the mad murderous puppeteer Breezeblock Concannon, a man whose casual attitude to homicide would elicit a respectful nod from Patrick Bateman.

As the song reveals its truly nefarious roots, and everyone concerned spirals into a personal hell, the resulting psychological and physiological clusterfuck is pure Euro-horror heaven with a muddy rural twist. There is even a cheeky reference to an early Wes Craven exploitation classic that also channelled the same Eurocentric spirit. Mercury Music Prize nominee Ian Lynch scores the insidious cosmic bedlam with an eclectic soundscape of power and menace. It’s a remarkable opus that both works with and pulls away from the impenetrable folky-wailing and well-known compositions such as Whisky in The Jar and The Irish Rover.

Paul Duane is convinced that ‘the world needs more weird, fucked up movies’ and All You Need Is Death is a hypnotically gripping invitation to embrace this admirable ethos. A unique and nightmarish horror gem that subverts and perverts the foundations of erotic passion and human affection.

★★★★

Horror / Cinema /19th April 2024 (UK) /  Simone Collins, Olwen Fouéré, Gary Whelan / Dir: Paul Duane / Blue Finch Film Releasing / 18

This is a repost of our 2024 Pigeon Shrine Glasgow FrightFest review | original review link


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