Movie Songs

Folk Horror Sings a Spooky Song

April 16, 20244 Mins Read

Ireland is a lush green country with at least one haunted house story for every village and hamlet, an ongoing contrast between timeless beauty and eldritch terror. Writer/director Paul Duane puts that dynamic at the center of All You Need Is Death, where a lost song is found, performed and translated, and every party involved in each step of the journey comes to the conclusion that some things are lost for good reason. 

Lovers Anna (Simone Collins) and Aleks (Charlie Maher) travel all over Ireland looking for folk ballads off the beaten path, attending pub sessions as a chief source of material, with a strategy that appears to involve grifting. Duane opens All You Need Is Death as Anna attempts to surreptitiously record an active session – a party foul, but a forgivable one. Aleks swoops in, playing a stranger and feigning outrage over Anna’s transgression. Once removed from the pub, they link back up, her ill-gotten recording overlooked in the commotion, and off they go to deal with a potential buyer. Aficionados and collectors pay top dollar for rare ballads, and the rarer the better.

All You Need Is Death sets them on the path toward a tune of utmost rarity, one passed down from generation to generation by mothers and daughters. As most Irish session music is an oral history learned by ear and archived in memory, this tune must be heard to be believed. When Anna and Aleks track down Rita Concannon (Olwen Fouéré), only Anna is given audience, along with their competitor Agnes (Catherine Siggins), a like-minded hunter of folk songs. Once the song is sung, eerie happenings occur, as if Rita has cast a macabre spell. The past is a dangerous place for us in the present day to dwell in. In Duane’s telling, antiquity isn’t a lure for wistful nostalgics. It’s a maw that consumes the unwary.

Two keys help unlock Duane’s work here. The first is the soundtrack, provided by Ian Lynch, the co-founder of the great contemporary Dublin folk group Lankum, most recently of the stunning 2023 album False Lankum. Duane likes to hold on moments for as long as possible, and in a dialogue scene between Breeze (Nigel O’Neill), Rita’s younger brother, and Ron (Barry McKiernan), a kind if hesitant helper to Anna and Aleks, O’Neill rasps and lilts at McKiernan, filling in details of Breeze and Rita’s childhood. As this scene unfolds, the score’s harsh, discordant notes hang over the conversation – reminiscences of bygone dread bleeding into the now with terrifying inevitability. We don’t quite know what conclusion Breeze is building toward before the petrified Ron. Frankly, it’s somewhat hazy what the conclusion is even when Breeze gets there; such is the film’s mild hallucinatory energy. What’s unmistakable is that nothing good will come from the song, because nothing good came from it before.

The second key is Fouéré, a “that person” actor, guaranteed to represent at least one good thing from whatever movie she shows up in. All You Need Is Death has many more good things, but Fouéré happens to be one of its very best, wringing the most gravelly, crotchety, rough-edged authority out of her time. She expresses Rita as a woman who’s lived long enough to have seen some shit in her day, and knows things, and yet simultaneously doesn’t know well enough to tell Anna to piss off the minute she darkens her door.

The power of Fouéré’s performance echoes across the film to its gruesome, tragic ending – further supporting evidence of the past’s grip strength on people of any generation. Anna, Agnes and Rita represent an arc of ages, each with their own investment in this song. It functions as an aural heirloom, with its mystery invoking a truly gnarly legend of yore, whose meaning becomes clearer as Duane deliberately, carefully rolls All You Need Is Death to its final images.

Director: Paul Duane
Writer: Paul Duane
Starring: Simone Collins, Charlie Maher, Catherine Siggins, Nigel O’Neill, Olwen Fouéré
Release Date: April 12, 2024

Bostonian culture journalist Andy Crump covers the movies, beer, music, and being a dad for way too many outlets, perhaps even yours. He has contributed to Paste since 2013. You can follow him on Twitter and find his collected work at his personal blog. He’s composed of roughly 65% craft beer.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts


Get our latest downloads and information first.
Complete the form below to subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

No, thank you. I do not want.
100% secure your website.