All You Need is Death

Reviewer: Mark Clegg

Writer & Director: Paul Duane

The movie sub-genre of folk horror has been increasingly prolific over recent years. This may have something to do with modern audiences feeling more than ever removed from traditional ways of living, the spirit of community, and old wives’ tales and folklore. Or it might simply be because they are relatively cheap to make. No big sets, hardly any special effects (usually) needed, and the ability to cast colourful local non-actors in supporting roles all make setting your film in a spooky village or forest financially attractive. Paul Duane’s All You Need is Death follows these tropes closely, although it does manage to display some originality while utilising a familiar bag of tricks.

Young couple Anna (Simone Collins) and Aleks (Charlie Mahar) are travelling Ireland collecting rare folksongs. This involves visiting remote areas and meeting locals who know and can sing songs that have been passed on through the generations without them ever being recorded. As part of this mission, they get to know Agnes (Catherine Siggins), a scholar of such songs who seems to have a hidden agenda in discovering them. The three eventually meet Rita Concannon (Olwen Fouere) who shares a rare song with the two women. When Rita’s son Breezeblock (Nigel O’Niell) discovers his mother dead soon after this meeting, a chain of events is set in motion that will have a permanent effect on all of them.

All You Need is Death has an intriguing premise. However, it doesn’t establish its world or character motivations sufficiently. Starting with a police interview with a folksinger who performs in the local pub, we are introduced to Anna and Aleks who are initially presented as possibly having nefarious motivations. The police investigation aspect is immediately dropped and never returns, and the introduction we get to our antagonists does not allow for an understanding of their motives or intentions. Collecting folksongs isn’t relatable enough to anchor the audience to the central characters, particularly when presented in such an unclear way, and this leads to the first half of the film feeling unfocused and confusing. Having a mysterious plot is fine of course, but to use the folk horror classic The Wicker Man as an example, we don’t initially understand what is happening in Summerisle, but the audience is still totally invested in the central character, immediately relating to his simple motivation of being a policeman looking for a missing child. All You Need is Death alienates the audience from the outset, although it should be said that everything comes into focus by the third act, and at that point does it thankfully deliver some unsettling narrative twists.

Although clearly low budget, Duane does manage to make the film look pretty decent, and while a traditional spooky gothic atmosphere is frequently attempted but rarely achieved, the imageryand atmosphere do still manage to generate disquiet. The cast are all good although the script doesn’t give them much dramatic heavy-lifting. The standout is Siggins whose Agnes has the biggest character arc, even if her motivations are never really made clear.

All You Need is Death is a modern day horror where powers from the past violently demonstrate the dangers of an all-consuming love, and while the film’s title incongruously evokes the jaunty Beatles song, this is a dark journey that is just about justified by the destination.

AllYouNeedIsDeath is in cinemas 19 April.

The Reviews Hub Score:

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The Reviews Hub Film Team is under the editorship of Maryam Philpott.

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