Atmospheric Gothic Horror ‘The Sonata’ is Low on Scares

This handsomely shot gothic horror doesn’t just dance with the devil, it composes hauntingly beautiful violin arrangements too. The Sonata, co-written by Andrew Desmond and Arthur Morin, and directed by Desmond, follows young violinist, Rose Fisher (Freya Tingley), who inherits something sinister from her mysterious father, Richard Marlowe (Rutger Hauer) following his gruesome death.

On the verge of great fame, she is informed of her estranged father’s passing. Seemingly unmoved by the situation, Rose agrees to take a break from her busy life and go to France to settle his affairs, to quickly return to her blossoming career. In the creepy mansion she has inherited, she finds his last unfinished masterpiece: a violin sonata. Unable to decipher it, she enlists the help of her agent Charles (Simon Abkarian) who unwittingly steps into a rather dangerous situation.

The film has several things that make for an engaging horror. It’s under 90 minutes long, has beautiful cinematography, a captivating lead actress, and brief appearances of the late great Hauer. However, this film never really exceeds past mildly scary, with an over-reliance on jump scares. While the payoff adds much-needed energy to the film, the journey getting there is somewhat tedious — especially in the scenes dedicated to solving the mystery behind the titular sonata. There is a deliberate attempt at creating the mood, sense of suspense, and capturing every moment with as much beauty and elegance as possible. However, little effort is made to really push the envelope.

All involved in the making of the film are certainly gifted and talented people. Desmond’s directing shows us that he has a real talent for setting the stage for horror. The Sonata is well-crafted and beautifully shot, with Desmond’s aesthetic elevating a script that needs work. Alexis Maingaud’s musical composition is the most crucial element of the whole feature, as it is a film about music, and it is done wonderfully. The sonata itself is both an alluring and frightening piece.

Perhaps if the film upped the ante just a little with the scares, this would have been a great horror to kick-start the year. Although it leaves a lot to be desired, it is not an entirely wasted viewing experience. 

The Sonata opened in limited release across the U.S. and is available on-demand now.

by Ferdosa Abdi

Ferdosa Abdi (she/her) is a lifelong film student and aspiring film festival programmer. Her favourite genres are science-fiction, fantasy, and horror and her favourite director is Guillermo del Toro. She is madly in love with Eva Green and believes she should be cast in everything. You can follow Ferdosa on Twitter @atomicwick

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