All Light Will End ★★½

When watching a lot of films in quick succession it's hard not to make comparisons, and after the previous film managed to effective chill me despite slightly bland visuals I was excited when this one absolutely oozed style in its opening minutes. And after the introduction of a bunch of interesting characters played by obviously talented actors and some excellently deployed musical cues I thought this would be the first true gem of the festival.

Sadly, it falls into that truly disappointing subset of horror films that uses up all of its good ideas in the setup and then falls back into wildly overused horror clichés as soon as the genre elements are fully revealed. The early scenes here follow a young horror writer, still struggling with bad dreams lingering from childhood trauma despite channeling those same fears into her first bestselling novel, and her estranged father, a small-town cop who starts finding dismembered body parts on an unusually stressful day in what is clearly usually a place where nothing much happens.

Both of the stories are beautifully filmed and full of interesting people - the small-town cops are particularly amusing, and one scene in which they interview a surprisingly chipper elderly woman after she finds a human head in particular had me thinking "oh god I love this and will be recommending this to everyone". Meanwhile, the daughter experiences a series of vivid, spooky dreams that effectively use lighting and music to showcase the director's obvious skill.

But when the stories eventually begin to weave together, everything just falls apart. Suddenly the spooky dream sequences are full of black-eyed children and musical cues that leap in volume to signify jump-scares, a twist that could have been clever ends up feeling cheap and messy, and the interesting characters are plunged into roles any horror fan has seen hundreds of times before. The first half of this film is so strong that I couldn't dislike it, but there's a distinct sense of disappointment when potential is squandered quite this badly. Still, it's entertaining on a style-over-substance level, at least, and that old-woman-finds-a-head scene will stick with me for a while.