Review by Sean Boelman
The Sonata, co-written and directed by Andrew Desmond, is a new horror-thriller serving as one of the final appearances of the late actor Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner). Thanks to an intriguing and well-paced first hour, the film is mostly entertaining and suspenseful despite falling off significantly in the final act.
The movie follows a young violinist who begins to explore her long lost father’s past after his death, causing her to dive into a world of darkness unlike anything she has seen before. For much of the first two acts, the film plays out like a mystery with some intriguing supernatural elements. This part of the movie is refreshingly old-school, building tension gradually and naturally.
Part of what makes this portion of the film so effective is that the script builds the mythology of the movie’s world in a very compelling way. Much like the protagonist, the viewer is drawn into this dark and alluring world over the course of the film. Desmond is obviously very gifted at creating an atmosphere that drives a movie, so much so that it compensates for some of the film’s other narrative weaknesses.
That said, the final act of the movie does devolve into a much more by-the-book B-horror flick, and the result is particularly disappointing given the strength of what precedes it. The careful plotting and methodical building of suspense is abandoned in favor of basic jump scares and cheap-looking CGI. Even more frustrating, though, is the rushed nature of the final act and the jarringly sudden end to which the film comes.
The character development in the movie is mostly effective, as the protagonist has some interesting subplots. Although the character’s struggles with her identity and her father’s legacy take a back seat to some of the more horror-centric elements of the film, their inclusion is thought-provoking enough to set this movie apart from most films of the genre.
Much of the movie is carried on the shoulders of lead actress Freya Tingley, and she does a very good job of making her role feel naturalistic. Unlike many B-horror films which feature a helpless protagonist, the hero of this movie has much more strength. Rutger Hauer’s turn in the film is also very enjoyable to watch, although one almost wishes he had been in the movie more.
On a technical level, the film is actually quite strong. For the most part, the movie is heavily stylized visually, helping it stand out from many other low-budget horror flicks. The soundtrack is also quite good, though given the role which music plays in the narrative, nothing less would be expected. That said, this upscale elegance goes out the window by the end.
Though it starts off much stronger than it ends, The Sonata is a mostly compelling horror-thriller thanks to the ambition of director Andrew Desmond. It will be exciting to see what Desmond is able to do when he is given a larger budget with which to work.
The Sonata hits theaters and VOD on January 10.
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