Frightfest: All You Need Is Death (2024)

Director: Paul Duane

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Starring: Simone Collins, Charlie Maher, Catherine Siggins, Nigel O'Neill, Olwen Fouéré, Barry McKiernan, David McDermott

For his latest feature, writer/director Paul Duane opens his cautionary tale in a pub where Anna (Simone Collins) records a man who is singing. The situation grows heated when Aleks (Charlie Maher) rudely intervenes, taking the recording equipment before exiting the pub. It turns out that this was a ploy between Anna and Aleks, who are music archivists that are in a relationship. Their time is spent recording rare folk songs, performed by rural Irish singers, in order to sell them to collectors.

Their desire to become successful in this field leads the pair to Agnes (Catherine Siggins), a music professor who can help them find the singer of an ancient song. Forming an uneasy alliance, the trio locate the singer, Rita Concannon (Olwen Fouéré), who warns that the taboo ballad is not for public consumption. That does not stop a hidden recording capturing the song, resulting in a dark truth being unlocked which alters the trio's isolated lives.

While the couple see a potential career unfolding from uniquely supplying rare folk songs, Agnes points out that they may not know what direction will best benefit their future. The desire to invest in the future leads the group down a dangerous path, where grisly glimpses of past events and a creeping atmosphere surrounds the mystery. While Duane offers an interesting set-up for this tale, the slow-burn nature can test viewers' patience as the narrative feels stuck amidst teases of what is actually happening.

Considering how integral the music is to this tale, Ian Lynch exceptionally brings alive the intense song at the heart of this story. It is a hypnotizing work that claws its way further into the souls of people the more they listen to it, and the impact is effectively captured by the performers. Despite being sung in a language that they do not recognize, Anna is fearful over what she heard while Aleks is drawn to it regardless of how it affects him.

While the song is nameless, Rita believes that an appropriate title would be "Love is a knife with a blade for a handle." That title is reflected in the film, as it depicts relationships with a double-edged nature that are as likely to hurt and also heal. Amidst this all-consuming depiction of love, All You Need Is Death is a cautionary folk horror tale whose more effective moments will linger in the memory.

All You Need Is Death made its UK Premiere at Frightfest Glasgow