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All You Need Is Death

“All You Need is Death” is a somewhat confusing but consistently compelling Irish folk horror film, both surreal and mesmerizing.

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All You Need is Death is a stripped-down Irish folktale.

The story follows a young couple named Anna (Simone Collins, The Last Duel) and Aleks (Charlie Maher, Conversations with Friends) who look for and collect rare folk ballads. When they find an old woman who knows songs no one has ever heard, their lives are changed forever.

Folk horror is an interesting subgenre. Characters and even plot (though lore is important) take a backseat to mood and atmosphere. This is the case with All You Need is Death, a consistently ominous watch that is impossible to turn away from.

Pacing is very important in this film. The minimalist story moves at an efficient pace that maximizes its well-planned scares and striking imagery.

Some graphic moments work especially well since they are woven naturally into the story but still come out of nowhere.

In this way, the film can be described as Lynchian.

Though there is no one to get behind, the sound and look of All You Need is Death is always compelling.

From strange black smudges to loud noises that drown out puppet shows, something is always going on.

The visuals range from outright gore to blue-lit flashbacks. Music plays an understandably big part and is used perfectly throughout All You Need is Death.

As great as everything looks and feels, the lack of a strong story is noticeable. Important plot points are quickly waved away, and no solid explanation for anything is given. Much of this seems to be intentional, but more depth would have made what is already a captivating watch even better.

The centuries-old folk song has the most backstory and is also the most confusing part of All You Need is Death. It clearly has a negative impact on everyone who hears it.

A legend is tied to it that goes back to before the Irish language even existed.

But though many characters say, “I understand now,” it is never made quite as clear in the movie itself.

Gender is clearly important, and love factors heavily, but how everything ties together is a little more murky. At times, it seems like writer-director Paul Duane is more concerned with providing an experience than telling a story.

However, it all comes together in a fascinating mix that is very confusing without ever being nonsensical.

Any quibbles aside, this is a fantastic modern example of folk horror and well worth a watch.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 4
ALL YOU NEED IS DEATH arrives on VOD and in select US cinemas on April 11, 2024.

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