All You Need Is Death Unleashes an Ancient Evil with a Song

Photo courtesy of XYZ Films

I’m a big fan of folk horror. Whether it’s classics like The Wicker Man and Witchfinder General or modern gems like Midsommar and A Field in England, I’m always down to watch a film that puts a folksy twist on the horror genre. So naturally, when I first heard about All You Need Is Death, I knew I had to check it out. It was described to me as a “nightmarish Irish folktale,” and that was all I needed to hear. I requested a screener as soon as I got the chance, and I couldn’t wait to find out what chills and thrills this movie had in store.

All You Need Is Death was written, directed, and produced by Paul Duane, and it stars Olwen Fouéré, Charlie Maher, Simone Collins, and Gary Whelan. In the film, Anna and Aleks are research assistants for Agnes, a woman who collects old, forgotten music. They record people singing unique songs and bring the recordings back to their boss, and one day, they hear about an elderly woman named Rita who can sing songs that nobody else knows.

When they arrive at her house, Agnes is already there, and the trio convinces Rita to sing something. However, the old woman insists on a few conditions. First, Aleks has to leave the room, and second, Anna can’t record it. They agree, but unbeknownst to anybody else, Agnes has a hidden tape recorder of her own. She secretly records Rita’s song and then tells her assistants about it, and immediately afterward, an ancient evil force is unleashed.

On paper, that sounds like a really intriguing premise for a horror movie. We don’t normally think of songs as keeping evil entities at bay, so I was interested to see how this story would play out. But unfortunately, the execution in All You Need Is Death leaves a lot to be desired.

A man with a woman tied up
Photo courtesy of XZ Films

For the first 20 minutes or so, I honestly had no idea what was going on. I knew from the plot synopsis that Anna and Aleks were collecting old songs, but the film does a terrible job of explaining their exact M.O. One minute, they’re recording a random person singing a seemingly random song, and then the next minute, they’re trying to sell it to a collector of unique musical recordings (although this person’s aims aren’t entirely clear either).

Then right after that, we see the duo at what appears to be a class or a seminar, but we have no idea what this gathering is about. We know it’s led by Agnes, and she gives some vague remarks about her audience wanting a quick path to success, but it’s never clear who the rest of these people are or why any of them are there.

There just doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to anything that happens in these first 20 minutes of All You Need Is Death, so it’s just about impossible to get into the story. To make matters worse, Anna and Aleks are super bland leads, so there’s not much to latch onto in this part of the movie. It makes for one of the most off-putting first acts I’ve seen in a while, and it sinks the entire film before it even has a chance to get going.

See, once the horror kicks into gear, All You Need Is Death shows exactly why horror movies need good (or at least passable) characters. If you’re not scared for the people you’re seeing on screen, you won’t be scared of anything you’re seeing either, and that’s exactly what happens here.

A man with his hands over his eyes
Photo courtesy of XYZ Films

To be fair, a few other characters besides Aleks and Anna start to play a bigger role in this part of the story, but they’re not much better. One of them, Rita’s son, is decently relatable as a side character, but he’s nowhere near interesting enough to save the entire film. On the whole, there was simply nothing about these people that made me care about them even a tiny bit, so when bad things started happening to them, it didn’t affect me in the slightest.

That being said, if you’re just looking at the horror in All You Need Is Death objectively, apart from its emotional impact, it’s not all that bad. In fact, some of it is quite good. For example, the movie features some body horror that borders on genuinely disturbing, and the gore effects, especially surrounding the first death, are pretty convincing. There’s also a moment near the end that involves a knife (if you’re a horror fan, I’m sure you can guess what I’m getting at), and I quite enjoyed it despite my lack of concern for the characters.

So despite all my issues with the film, I have to acknowledge that there is some good stuff in here. It’s just that on the whole, my lack of emotional connection to the characters or their story sapped the horror of all its effectiveness. Aside from that one moment with the knife, I simply couldn’t enjoy anything in this film, even when I knew it was objectively well-crafted, so if you’re looking for some good new horror to watch, I’m sad to report that I don’t think you’ll find it here. 

All You Need is Death is set to open in select U.S. cinemas and on VOD from XYZ Films on April 11th.

Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong movie fan, and his favorite genres are horror, superheroes, and giant monsters.

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