Producers: Les Weldon, Tanner Mobley Bernard Kira, Jeffrey Greenstein, Jonathan Yunger and Yariv Lerner   Director: Erlingur Thoroddsen   Screenplay: Erlingur Thoroddsen   Cast: Charlotte Hope, Julian Sands, Aoibhe O’Flanagan, Oliver Savell, Boian Anev, Philipp Christopher, Alexis Rodney, Kate Nichols, Pippa Winslow, Louise Gold and Salomé Chandler  Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films

Grade: D+

What is it with demonic forces and classical music?  According to the movies, they seem determined to use peculiar scores to enter into the human world and do it dastardly damage.  That was the case in Andrew Desmond’s “The Sonata” (2018), in which young violinist Rose Fisher (Freya Tingley) is induced into completing the titular piece, the last composition of her reclusive, estranged, recently deceased father Richard Marlowe (Rutger Hauer), and performing it—which will have dire consequences for humanity, unleashing the devil on the world. 

In many respects Erlingur Thoroddsen’s movie is like a transcription of Desmond’s for flute. Young flautist Melanie Walker (Charlotte Hope) is enlisted by her martinet of a conductor, Maestro Gustafson (Julian Sands), to locate—and then reconstruct the last movement of—a long-unperformed concerto by her late teacher Katharine Fleischer (Louise Gold), who was immolated trying to destroy it (Marlowe, it might be noted, committed suicide by dousing himself with gasoline and starting a blaze).  Fleischer’s piece turns out to have demonic elements, too. 

There’s a new wrinkle here, though: the entity the so-called “Concerto for Children” will release is none other than a ghastly version of the legendary Pied Piper of Hamelin, and the effect of the music will be on youngsters who have the misfortune to hear it.  (Or viewers of any age who chance to.)  As is usual in such nonsense, the actual music we hear (presumably the work of Christopher Young, credited with the score) is awfully banal stuff, but we’re told that its “discord” (by which, apparently, is meant “dissonance”) is supposed to have a dreadful impact.  And, in fact, when Colin (Oliver Savell), the young son of Melanie’s friend Nancy (Kate Nichols), listens to a tape of it, he mysteriously disappears.  Will the same fate befall Melanie’s daughter Zoe (Aoibhe O’Flanagan), who’s studying the flute and anxious to hear the concerto too?

En route to an extravagantly overwrought finale, in which the grotesque Piper (Boian Anev) appears, amid a welter of goofy special effects, leading a herd of hypnotized children to an unmentionable fate, others become involved in the weirdness: Katharine’s sister Alice (Pippa Winslow), who warns Melanie against trying to reconstruct the concerto; Melanie’s friend Philip (Alexis Rodney), who goes a bit nutty listening to the concerto’s theme himself but manages somehow to decrypt the Latin threat embedded in it (why Latin—usually it’s so Catholic prelates can get involved in the action, but none are around here); and Franklin (Philipp Christopher), the obnoxious player who insists on replacing Melanie in Gustafson’s orchestra and pays the price for his ambition.

The silliness of “The Piper” is exceeded only by its dullness.  Thoroddsen strives mightily to instill a mood of foreboding in the picture, and his crew—production designer Antonello Rubino, cinematographer Daniel Katz, editor Michael J. Duthie—try their best to help (as does everyone else contributing to the Bulgarian-based shoot). But the result emerges as listless and lethargic.  Most of the cast, including Hope, deliver performances that are virtually somnolent, as if awaiting thrills that never arrive.

The exception is Sands, whose turn as the megalomaniacal conductor is a study in egregious over-the-topness that’s at least fun to watch for its outrageousness, especially by comparison to the overall sleepiness.  The actor disappeared, you may recall, while hiking in the California mountains in January, 2023, his remains being found only six months later, and the film is dedicated to him as “Our Maestro.”  Curiously, “The Sonata” was also one of Hauer’s last films.  Maybe actors should avoid appearing in movies in which demonic classical music is a plot element.  Certainly viewers would be smart to skip them.