No bucolic fright fest can hope to avoid plundering the contents of horror tropes gone before and unfortunately, the devotion to formula soothes instead of shocks. When Mathilda fearfully blunders, hopelessly stylish bleached-out hair and pale blue trench coat starkly innocent against the sodden decay of a Northern forest, she is every heroine who ever took on more than she wanted to in every creaking old house. Stick-figure symbols which might look ho-hum on a cave painting take on earth-shattering significance when unearthed by our pallid unblinking Mathilda in places they certainly don’t belong. And when she arrives at the place of her destiny, she is informed that she has “come of your own free will” in a line filched directly from The Wicker Man. Even the end will make an intrepid viewer quirk her mouth with a sense of déjà vu. I don’t call Requiem particularly original; the cast and the mood rather than the plot, drew me in and held my attention.
Most thrilling of all is the soundtrack, which was crafted in a partnership between film composer Dominic Scherrer and Bat for Lashes prodigy Natasha Khan. The pair made a deep dive into the best of vintage creep, borrowing heavily from Goblin’s film score work, paring and icing down the mod-goth sensibilities of that baroque style to draw out the chill of emotional isolation, lashing it through with Khan’s disorienting murmurs in a nod to Nico’s The Marble Index.
The Chamber Orchestra of London crisply drives this composition of spiritual and existential dread through panicky organ arpeggios interspersed with the stark loneliness of a virtuosic cello performance, meant to highlight Mathilda’s own separation from both “reality” and the workaday world of her big-city peers.
Each track is a different mini masterwork, each given an inscrutable name in what must be Welsh but which, to my mind, conjures an Ikea catalog. Is “Naa” a three-legged stool available only in bright yellow, or is it a wavering lo-fi synth undercut by the medieval gallop of timpani drums while Khan’s breathy “da-da-da” floats over it all, wistful and vulnerable and utterly British? Is “Xai” a set of knives or a haunt of surf guitars attended by a rhythmic pounding of ceremonial chanting which counterpoints the fervid scurry of affrighted violins?