THE SONATA: A Sharp Concept Played Flat

When given the chance to review one of Rutger Hauer’s final films, it seemed to be an interesting undertaking. Mind you, in his long career, the quality of work varies wildly from brilliance the likes of Roy Batty in Blade Runner to low budget ventures which see an occasional run on late-night cable. Either way, Rutger Hauer, with his gravelly vocals and powerful blue eyes, always delivered as a presence to be watched. Unfortunately, The Sonata, one of his posthumous films, doesn’t bring the same powerful performance one would have hoped.

The Sonata, directed/written by Andrew Desmond and co-written by Authur Morin, tells the story of Rose Fisher, played by Freya Tingley, a promising young classical violinist who inherits the estate of her estranged genius composer father Richard Marlowe played by Hauer. Having kept her father at a distance her entire life, Rose takes a trip out to his secluded palatial mansion in France to learn more about the man she never knew. While exploring the desolate chateau she discovers a violin sonata consisting of strange symbols not used in musical composition. With the help of her long time agent Charles, played virtuosically by Simon Abkarian, Rose heads down a rabbit hole into what dark secrets led to her father’s brutal suicide and the evil held in the notes of his final work.

A Strange Introduction

Having what seemed like limited time with Rutger Hauer, his scenes are kept short though creatively shot. An extreme example of this would be in the opening where the director decided to use a lengthy POV of Marlowe’s horrifyingly depicted suicide. Only seen in reflections from far off, Hauer is edited into the sequence and played by a stand-in. Innovative though ill-fitting to the overall directing style, the introduction to the character has one of the more effective moments in this drab horror outing.

THE SONATA: A Sharp Concept Played Flat
source: Screen Media Productions

This leads to the most glaring issues of the film, a lack of suspense after an intensely graphic opening sequence. I expected to be gut-punched by escalating frights and instead was guided through a plodding, sleepy mystery peppered with a couple of forgettably weak jump scares, tonally ineffective CGI, and unremarkable character development around every corner. There is little surprise or tension except for the bookending start and the film’s overly rushed finale which feverishly races towards a truly lazy conclusion. Nothing is a surprise. Moreover, you spend the runtime searching for the corner piece of a puzzle you didn’t have fun putting together in the first place.

The Tempo Seems Off

Pace and tone are two of the bigger issues plaguing the film. The thankfully short 90-minute length does little to stave away any effort put into watching the long-enduring narrative, beating around the bush to a conclusion one could easily see coming if not for how disengaged the audience might have become by the midway point. There are times when the leads seem so disinterested in what would normally have a person screaming in terror and calling the cops. Here, we are forced to sit in wait for the next bad decision to be made, ultimately leading to our weak third act.

THE SONATA: A Sharp Concept Played Flat
source: Screen Media Productions

Not to say the stars of this film aren’t good at the craft. They’re merely not given anything interesting to do until literally the last ten minutes when tense emotions are required to sell the obviously telegraphed ending. This is truly one of the dullest screenplays I have had the misfortune of sitting through in quite a while, leaving me to wonder if the filmmakers had ever seen a horror film and even how could they get a story so wrong?

It’s Not A Spoiler If They Say It In The Trailer

So, yeah, it turns out Rose’s crazy composer dad was trying to summon the anti-Christ with a violin sonata. I spoiled the end game, and so what? If you hadn’t read the header, they say it in the trailer. They tell everything in the trailer. Christ, one of the posters for this film literally has the final scene depicted in its cover art. I will not feel remorse for giving this plot point away when the distribution company decided to ruin the experience so haphazardly. In retrospect, the whole thing seems like a highfalutin take on the Charlie Daniels song The Devil Went Down To Georgia with none of the crazy fiddlin’ solos and I can only hope my last sentiment becomes a blurb for this lazily made, yet high potential excuse for a horror film. Instead, we are forced to sit through a pompous jaunt with little to no scares and a promise of something so much more. The cast, admittedly, deserves a fair amount of credit for toughing through this slog all the while keeping a straight face through an exacerbating experience. The Sonata attempts to be moody, brooding, and dark, only to come off as predictable, cliched, and silly.

The Sonata, albeit visually interesting, mostly due to its shooting location, does little to keep the audiences’ attention. Even the last-minute CGI monster reveal is so weak and shoehorned, to call this a horror film is a misnomer. Thriller perhaps and that is pushing it. I will say it was nice to have just a touch more Rutger Hauer in the world, but even his imposing presence is not near elating enough to keep a viewer engaged. If you’re looking for a slow burn with a powerful payoff, might I suggest Rosemary’s Baby or The Omen (the original, not the remake) as an alternative anti-Christ horror tale? If anything, you can at least admit to watching a classic.

The Film Inquiry Community is always looking for something we might have missed in the dense library of film history. What are some of your favorite supernatural horrors you would like us to cover? Let us know in the comments section and keep the conversation going.

The Sonata is currently streaming. 

 

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