As a Prelude to Fear
Dir. Steph du Melo (2022)
A young girl is kidnapped and held in a basement by a notorious killer called the Pied Piper.
WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, it doesn’t take a lot to get me to check out an indie horror film, especially one as bleak as this one. Centering around the abduction of young celloist Eve (Lara Lemon) by a sadistic serial killer, As a Prelude to Fear is an interesting and beautifully shot representative of the growing UK indie film scene. It’s also pretty well acted and with a wonderfully grayscale cinematography that fits right into the British filmography, making me feel like I’m not missing a whole lot by not visiting the country. It also seems like playing the cello really sucks, with the music teacher from hell at the center of the mystery behind the disappearances. When the police begin to suspect that her disappearance may be linked to a serial abductor/killer called the Pied Piper, they begin a cat-and-mouse chase in an attempt to rescue the girl before it’s too late.
The acting in this one is fairly strong, though a few of the characters are overacted at times. Lemon does a great job of playing the unwilling victim, and Francis Magee and Lucy Drive are believable as the local police with an axe to grind against their perp. A lot of the film focuses around Lemon’s character, who finds herself in a holding cell with other women who have fallen prey to the same man. She must adapt to her new life, trying desperately to find a way to escape before it’s too late. As with most movies like this one, it’s up to her to find a way to escape as much as it is the people who are looking for her, and she is as much a part of the game as anybody.
The killer is creepy enough to carry the film, with a disturbing deep voice that makes him sound as inhuman as his intentions. He’s also a huge fucking dick, and he forces Eve to practice her cello and beats her when she makes a mistake. He also, oddly enough, takes out some of his frustration on a watermelon, going all Gallagher with his cudgel to threaten her with a repeat on her skull. The killer taunts his victims with the best of them, eventually leading to a twist that you won’t see coming. It’s a competently made thriller, one that clearly takes a lot of inspiration from the better-made films of the genre. The film is almost bloodless, with very little gore to highlight the more gruesome nature of the plot, giving it a “if-Hitchcock-made-Saw” feel. While that doesn’t always work, it definitely is an intriguing premise and works well for what it is.
The film suffers a bit from the awkward title, which sounds more at home in a Hitchcock film or something out of 50’s Hollywood than a modern horror. It’s a musical reference, which makes sense given the plot, but it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue when talking to your friends either. It also moves at a snail’s pace at times and looks more like a BBC melodrama or a Lifetime weekly-woman-in-trouble than a standard horror movie. But maybe that’s not so bad. There are some great horror elements in the film, and it hits way more of those notes than one might expect. In a world in which we are consistently force-fed “more of the same,” sometimes it can be refreshing to see a horror-fied film that feels different. While I would certainly classify this one as more of a suspense thriller than straight horror, that’s not a bad thing either, and this one fits snugly enough into that category that serious fans of the genre will enjoy it.
Who this movie is for: Suspense/thriller fans, Hitchcock devotees, Music teachers
Bottom line: Not a bad film, but more along the line of a thriller than a straight horror. It’s a slow film, one that won’t hold everyone’s interest throughout, but the acting is competent and the direction is better than most indies. It’s worth a watch for thriller fans, but it does often come across more Lifetime than Shudder. It’s got one of the better endings that I’ve seen recently, though, and that alone may make it a hit for a lot of folks. Give it a watch if you’re a fan of the older Hollywood suspense films, you might find a film that surprises you in more ways than one.