The Ecstasy of Isabel Mann is the story of a troubled teenager Isabel Mann (Ellen Mullen), who is seduced into an incredibly violent sect of day-walking vampires. Her classmates start to go missing and on the trail of the gruesome murders are two detectives – Witham (Neill Fleming), who believes her to be the prime suspect, and Barrett (Matthew Toman), who has his doubts.
Ahead of the film’s premiere at the IFI Horrorthon, director Jason Figgis tells Film Ireland about putting the film together.
After the DVD and VOD release of my horror feature Children of a Darker Dawn (2013) in the US and Canada in December of last year, I was already deep into post-production on my new feature film, The Ecstasy of Isabel Mann. Because we received some fantastic responses to the film based on its naturalistic and almost prosaic approach to Dystopian life after the Apocalypse, it made me realise that the journey to making the latter film was naturally following the same process arc.
I wanted to try and realise a horror film that was more about the relationships between the characters and the journey they were on – more than any horror that might emerge from the more genre specific aspects of the story. Yes, it is a film about vampires but the word ”vampire” is never uttered in the film itself. Perhaps it is about mental illness too? Some of these elements are more about what the individual takes away from the experience of watching the film than the film itself.
Ellen Mullen, who portrayed Cassandrain in Children of a Darker Dawn, was the natural choice to play the lead role of the troubled Isabel. She has a maturity as an actress that is uncommon in a girl of her age (16 at the time of shooting) and brought a melancholic beauty to the performance. We also brought back Adam Tyrrell from Children, this time as Isabel’s estranged boyfriend, Aaron. We needed a young actor with sensitivity to portray the vulnerability of a teenager who is unable to cope with the ultimate reality of what Isabel is going through. Several other actors returned from the previous film in supporting roles; actors I knew I could rely on. The other central roles were filled by predominately new actors, with Saorla Wright being a stand out as Isabel’s best friend Jacinta ‘Jay” Rossi.
We didn’t have any traditional funding from funding bodies so the process of realising the film was a slow one, with a lot of the post-production handled by myself. I ended up editing, grading and doing the full sound mix too. My producing partner Matthew Toman gave great support, as did Jason Shalloe as Line-Producer in the earlier stages of the production. Alan Rogers was my Director of Photography and he has subsequently gone on to shoot my latest two features – Family and Don’t You Recognise Me?, both of which are now in post-production. Michael Richard Plowman (Children of a Darker Dawn, A Lonely Place to Die, Age of Heroes) is another regular collaborator and he supplied a beautiful score that is complimented by tunes from three excellent bands – Irish chart-toppers Youth Mass (who supplied the closing song and theme), London outfit Moho Mynoki and US/Italy combo Soft Pill. We filmed the entire production in North and South county Dublin in several key locations around the city and suburbs.
The Ecstasy of Isabel Mann screens on Sunday, 26th October 2014 at 23.10 as part of IFI Horrorthon 2014 (23rd – 27th October). The film will be introduced by director Jason Figgis.