Review: ‘The Piper’

Music And Horror Are A Not So Deadly Combination In A Modern Take On The Famous Folk Tale

The story of The Pied Piper is an intriguing one. After all, it’s lasted more than 700 years since it was a legend of the Middle Ages about a ratcatcher who used music to lure an infestation. But after he was denied payment by the town of Hamelin, his supervillain origin story began. While there have been numerous adaptations throughout the years, it’s still intriguing for a modern take on the old folk tale, and with a horror twist in writer/director Erlingur Thoroddsen’s latest film The Piper.

The Piper begins with Katharine (Louise Gold) a famous musician attempting to destroy a copy of the musical notes of her latest creation “Concerto for Children” (even though it’s technically not her creation) while here orchestra conductor Gustafson (the late-great Julian Sands) pleading with her not to destroy the musical notes. She exclaims that the music is evil, and she has to destroy it. Is she going crazy? Or is something sinister going on? Lucky for us, we don’t need to wait too long as some force is “preventing” her from burning the paper. A few moments later, she sees a pair of glowing eyes and then is set on fire.

While Katherine’s death is a tragedy, the show must go on. Melanie (Charlotte Hope) is a young flutist in the orchestra who is ambitious and wants to write her own music. After a brief chat with Gustafson, she wants to continue in her mentor’s stead and try and finish the composition for the music she was working on. She needs her profile to rise as she has her daughter Zoe (Aoibhe O’Flanagan) who is going deaf and will require additional (and more expensive) medical care. She first tries to get the music from Katherine’s sister Alice (Pippa Winslow), who knows the truth and doesn’t want the music to be shared. Ever ambitious, Melanie goes in and steals the musical composition when Alice leaves the house, and that’s when she starts to experience some of the same challenges that Katherine was facing.

As she starts to analyze the music, she starts to experience all sorts of terrifying images. Blink-and-you-miss moments hint at a dark demonic figure lurking in the shadows and she starts to experience visions alluding to the tale of The Pied Piper along with plenty of jump scares (earned and unearned). At first, she just brushes it off as nerves with her mentor’s death, but slowly but surely, she starts to see that something sinister is at play. In Pied Piper, members of the orchestra start to behave strangely. Everyone’s bleeding from their noses.

Oh, and remember, this is the story of The Pied Piper, some kids gotta get stalked by the monster. Using a ball that continues to come out of the shadows as well as music, The Pied Piper tries to lure kids so he can take them. Lucky for Zoe, she’s deaf. So when she starts to be lured by the monster, the battery in her cochlear implant fails and she snaps out of The Pied Piper’s trance. Of course, no one really believes the young girl as she’s a kid and kids are scared of things that go bump in the night. But Melanie who is having visions and getting nosebleeds when the orchestra practices starts to realize something’s off, and it occurs when she’s reading the folk tale of the Pied Piper.

While she backs out of the orchestra, it’s too late as now Gustafson is moving forward and has collected most of the music needed to put on a big concert… the concert that will unleash the monster to the world in an explosive and gory finale towards the end of Pied Piper. Melanie has to try and stop the horror from being unleashed and save her daughter, whom the monster has its sight on.

Pied Piper is an intriguing concept but unfortunately falls flat. While it has the gore factor, kid murdering, and a few legit jump scares, it needed a stronger script or at least a better execution. One thing that the film does well is follow the Jaws/Alien model of not really showing the monster until the audience has been teased enough and is ready to see it in its full glory. With this being one of Julian Sand’s last films before his untimely demise, it’s great to see him in yet another horror film, I just wish he could have been in a better film to remind us of his Warlock days.

The Pied Piper is an interesting tale to try and modernize and will probably be adapted yet again. Unfortunately, The Piper (while a valiant effort) might work better with a different writer/director to give the story the gravitas it needs…looking at you Jordan Peele!

The Piper is currently available On Demand.