Reel Horror Show: Episode 11

Our possessed podcast posse return after a hiatus in the netherworld. Summoned back to earth, Conor McMahon, Mark Sheridan, Ali Doyle and Conor Dowling cast a darkened eye over the likes of Suspiria, The Hole in the Ground, Halloween, The House that Jack Built, Anna and the Apocalypse, The Guilty, One Cut of the Dead, Overlord, Castle Rock, Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, He’s Out There and The Monster.

Caution. This podcast may contain thigh-slapping.

Oo welcome, ahhh oo magu welcome to the Reel Horror Show.

 

 

 

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From the Dark – Review of Irish Film at Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2015

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Richard Drumm entered the dark to check out new Irish horror film From the Dark, which screened at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

 

Horror, more than almost any other genre, can be the most infuriating one to be a fan of. Disappointment is constant, frustration is frequent and on those rare occasions when something does emerge that feels fresh and genre-altering, it will so quickly be imitated to death as to render its initial achievement more curse than blessing (a fate, I fear, that will befall The Babadook before long). From the Dark then, probably falls somewhere into the ‘frustrating’ category. That said, a frustrating horror is still infinitely better than a boring one.

Sarah (Niamh Algar) and Mark (Stephen Cromwell) are driving through rural Ireland en route to a country getaway. In the long-established traditions of the genre; at least one of them isn’t from the country and engages in some small transgression against the locals, their map/iPhone will eventually fail them and they’ll get lost, there will be bickering and in case you’re wondering, there is of course some almost laughable Chekhov’s Gun-ing involving the subject of engagement. Unknown to them, a local farmer has just unwittingly released a long-buried creature from a nearby bog. As night descends and their car gets stuck, the couple make their way towards an (altogether now) isolated, ramshackle farmhouse to seek help only to realise they’ve become the prey to some unknown, very literal hunter of the night.

The setup being as by-the-numbers as it is, isn’t necessarily an issue. In fact, one of the great strengths of the script is how genre-aware it is but more importantly how genre-aware it knows its audience is. At no point do either of the leads have a conversation about vampires. Nor at any point do we need some shoe-horned-in dialogue to explain that Sarah has had survival training in order to know how to tie a bandage or light a torch, etc. These are all just refreshingly taken as given. On top of this, the central gimmick of the two leads trying to cobble together any viable light source they can in order to keep Nos-faux-ratu at bay is both fun to watch and consistently inventive. And there is a genuine attempt to shake up the visuals a bit by occasionally showing events from the creature’s Buffalo-Bill-o-vision. Ultimately though, the greatest threat in the film is its running time.

After seeing this film, I couldn’t help shaking the feeling that there’s an extremely solid, tight, forty-five minute shorter film in here somewhere. And while that might sound a little harsh, there’s no denying that the film could definitely stand to lose about twenty minutes. The problem is that once Sarah has fulfilled her genre-destined fate and become the Final Girl, the momentum of the story should push things into a final battle and resolution. Unfortunately, events continue on past the point of being tense to where you just want it to end and don’t really care who wins. There’s really only so many times you can pull the trick of the heroine realising how to beat the creature, trying it, it failing and then another breathless chase scene starting up. This is to say nothing of the fun but practically farcical series of events in the house itself.

This running time issue might not have been so apparent if the film hadn’t chosen to go in a rather bold direction in its second half. You see, given that there are only four characters in the movie, from a certain point onwards we’re essentially watching Sarah on her own, which means there’s practically no dialogue past the midpoint. Now, while this doesn’t entirely work it is a very interesting gambit to pull and pays dividends in certain sequences, most notably in the payoff to the previously mentioned engagement set-up. This could have been reduced to trite, uninspired dialogue but instead plays out wordlessly through silhouettes (and in a further, more overtly symbolic scene involving a chisel), which is without doubt the strongest scene in the movie and one of those moments of pure cinema that are all too rare these days.

Additional praise has to go to Michael Lavelle’s cinematography which succeeds in finding the right balance between having dark be dark enough to remain threatening while being light enough that you can still see what’s going on. And it would be quite difficult to discuss this film without heaping praise on Niamh Algar’s central performance as Sarah. Entirely believable from start to finish, she manages to imbue Sarah with a real credibility and humanity without lapsing into over-dramatics (or turning her into some kind of stock, post-Buffy, impossible-badass cliché). A feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that she achieves most of this without dialogue. It’s an admirably judged and impressively under-stated performance which largely carries the film.

It’s not fair to claim that the film fails to reinvent the horror wheel because it’s not trying to. From the Dark is a perfectly solid little horror movie that will likely enjoy a decent life on the VOD circuit and, with any luck, a run at the Irish box-office. This is the exact kind of movie this country needs more of; well-crafted, simple, low-budget genre pieces that actually have a chance of making some money at the box-office. It might not carry too many surprises for anyone well-versed in the genre but the clear enthusiasm everyone involved had for the project is up there onscreen plus there are some fun ideas and scenes sprinkled throughout. And that’s definitely preferable to yet another sequel, prequel or reboot to a known horror brand.

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Podcast: Filmmakers Roundtable – Part II

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In Part II of this Film Ireland podcast Stephen Shields, Conor McMahon, Ciarán Foy, Conor Barry and Brendan Muldowney talk about the place of reviews, critics, bloggers and trolls in the age of social media. They also discuss how audiences consume film, pitching & marketing film, ‘Irish’ film and the Irish accent in film.

Stephen Shields is the screenwriter on RTE Storyland winner Zombie Bashers, Republic Of Telly, and Newsbag.

Conor McMahon is the director of Stitches, Dead Meat and The Braineater.

Ciarán Foy is the director and writer of Citadel.

Brendan Muldowney is the director of Savage and Love Eternal.

Conor Barry is the producer of Savage and Love Eternal and was selected as Ireland’s ‘Producer on the Move’ for this year’s Cannes International Film Festival.

 

You can listen to Part I of this podcast here, in which Stephen Shields, Conor McMahon, Ciarán Foy, Conor Barry and Brendan Muldowney talk about their paths into making films and discuss the crafts of writing, acting, editing, directing and producing.

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Podcast: Filmmakers Roundtable – Part I

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In Part I of this Film Ireland podcast Stephen Shields, Conor McMahon, Ciarán Foy, Conor Barry and Brendan Muldowney talk about their paths into making films and discuss the crafts of writing, acting, editing, directing and producing.

Stephen Shields is the screenwriter on RTE Storyland winner Zombie Bashers, Republic Of Telly, and Newsbag.

Conor McMahon is the director of Stitches, Dead Meat and The Braineater.

Ciarán Foy is the director and writer of Citadel.

Brendan Muldowney is the director of Savage and Love Eternal.

Conor Barry is the producer of Savage and Love Eternal and was selected as Ireland’s ‘Producer on the Move’ for this year’s Cannes International Film Festival.

 

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From the Archive: Breaking (Down) the Budget

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Low-budget can mean anything from a few hundred grand to small change and some pocket-lint. But no matter the size of your lump sum, what’s the smartest way to spend your money in low-budget filmmaking? Conor McMahon talks to directors Brian O’Toole, Paul Ward, Eoin Macken and himself…  

 

 

Budgets are strange things. From the few films I’ve produced, I’ve always found them difficult and frustrating to put together. It’s impossible to tell how much most things will cost. How do you know how much footage will be shot or how much food will be eaten? And without accurate figures, how can you ever make a definite budget? I’ve also found it odd that on bigger films a budget is put together when they don’t even know exactly how it’s going to be shot, or how the director plans on staging certain things. But in the end, a budget is something you need to get things moving, to convince people it’s possible so you can secure finance.

 

The other thing about budgets is that a lot of people won’t talk about them. They don’t want people to know how much their film cost. And it’s understandable. If you’ve made a film for 100,000 and you say it cost 500,000, chances are you’ll probably be able to sell it for more on the market. It’s often only at the very lower end of the spectrum that people will proudly declare that their film cost a week’s wages, and use that as a selling point. The zombie film Colin that was shot earlier in the year and was apparently made for £40. Another example would be of course El mariachi, which used the fact that it only cost $7000 as a selling point.

 

In the age of digital filmmaking it’s easier than ever to pick up a camera and go out a shoot a film. But how much money do you need to do it? The answer is often whatever you have and whatever you can get.

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Memoria

– Dir: Brian O’Toole

– Overall Budget: €25,000

– Filmed on 16 mm

 

Budget Breakdown

 

For stock we used 25 x 400ft cans at €130 a pop – €3,250. We shot on an Arriflex SR3, so equipment and lights, including a 21-day rental of an underwater camera casing – €15,000. Processing and Telecine to Digibeta (both in Lisbon, at a very, very accommodating place called Tobis) – €2,200. The remainder went on travel expenses, food and some beers. No one got paid a dime.

 

 

Do you think having more money would have helped?

 

I’m not sure it would have made much difference to the actual film. But it would have been great to be able to pay people for their hard work. I’d have taken more time over more money, though.

 

Were there any advantages to having less money?

 

You have to think very creatively to shoot effectively on a low budget, especially on film.

 

What kind of favours did you pull to get the film made?

 

The cast and crew worked for free. Various bands played a fundraiser for us. We got money from parents and friends and the use of some cool locations through friends of the family.

 

Where should your money go in a low-budget films?

 

For me, it’s visuals. There’s no reason low-budget films have to look ugly. And quality gear is key. After that, quality food. It keeps people happy.

 

 

Did you write the idea for a low-budget? If so, what did you take into account when writing the script?

 

Yes, the whole project was geared towards the budget from the get-go.

 

Would you make another film at this level, or do you think it served as a training ground for something bigger?

 

I learned a hell of a lot. Of course I’d like to make something bigger, but I’d do it again. I just love making films.

 

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Fur Coat and No Knickers

– Dir: Paul Ward

– Overall Budget: €22,000

– Shot on Z1

 

Budget Breakdown

 

Camera equipment for the 17-day shoot and pick-up days – €3,500. Sound equipment for the same length of time – €3,000. Lights rental for the same –  €2,800 We rented tracks for a few days of the shoot – €500.

Most of the locations were free but we paid for a few of the days – €500.

Costume and props for shoot – €1,400. Catering for the whole shoot and pick-up days – €3,000. Office and accountants – €2,000. Post-production, Digibeta, travel – €4,600.

 

What kind of favours did you pull to get the film made?

 

All the cast’s fees were deferred, and nearly all of the crew and most of the fees for the locations, editing and sound mixing were all deferred. The songs were a huge favour.

 

Where should your money go in a low-budget films?

 

Get a really good camera and DOP and as many lights as you can stretch your budget to. And also insurance as it makes everything so easy and it’s better to get the best.

 

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The Disturbed

– Dir: Conor McMahon

– Overall Budget: €1,530

– Shot on Sony Z1

 

 

Budget Breakdown

 

Location for the 6-day shoot – €550. Camera for the 6-day shoot – €150. Travel – €50. Food – €230. Post Sound – €200. Mini DV Tapes – €60. Effects – €90. Digibeta Tapes – €200.

 

Was the film written for a no-budget?

 

On this film I used the old rule of no-budget film – take your actors to one location and chop them up. I actually just booked a house down the country a month in advance so it gave me a deadline to come up with a story and get everything organised.

 

Did you have much cast or crew to deal with?

 

We had three actors in total and three people on the crew, including myself, so there was very little expenses for food or transport.

 

Having made a film already for €100,000, what was the purpose of going back to make a film for €1,500?

 

The film started out as an experiment in improvisation on film. I wanted to just focus on something simple that would allow me work with actors. I wanted to get away from the rigidity that often comes with having a large crew. So I didn’t have any intention at the beginning of how long the film would be or how it would turn out. I also wasn’t under any pressure to deliver a particular kind of film or make something that would sell. And it was quite liberating to make a film in that frame of mind, because the focus was just on the scenes and making them work and also having fun. So having no budget can be a big plus.

 

I think you can spend a lot of time worrying about what will sell and if the film will look crap if it’s made for no money. But I don’t think you should be asking these kinds of questions. If it turns out crap, just don’t show it to anyone.

 

Do you need a lot of money for post-production?

 

Some people decide not to shoot their film because they hear about the costs for the deliverables that are required by sales agents and distributors. This can include legal documents, publicity material, copies of the finished product and additional copies for subtitling and dubbing. But the truth is, if your film is good, someone will foot that bill. So I wouldn’t worry about it when you’re doing your budget. Just focus on getting the film made, and if it works, someone will pick it up.

 

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The Inside

– Dir: Eoin Macken

– Overall Budget €4,000

– Shot on Sony Z1

 

Budget Breakdown

 

The bulk of the money when on insurance, which was important considering the location we were shooting. The rest went on camera and lights, make-up effects, costume, and then food costs. But because the film was shot over only 5 days, we were able to keep the costs down.

 

Do you think having more money would have helped?

 

It would have in terms of allowing more time. When you’re making a film on a shoestring you can’t ask people to give up too much of their time if they are not been paid. More money also would have given us more time to experiment with lighting.

 

Were there any advantages to having less money?

 

There are, because you pull together people who believe in the idea of the project, the vision and they want to create something that they are proud of and can stand by instead of just working on a job.

 

What kind of favours did you pull to get the film made?

 

Most of the favours consisted of getting the location and cheaper equipment. Obviously crew and cast had to give their time. Making a film like this requires the coming together of many talented people. It won’t happen otherwise.

 

What do you think you should prioritise spending money on for low budget films?

 

The priority has to be the essentials. Getting the right camera and lighting and sound equipment is paramount. Without good sound and good compositions then what’s the point? You have to try and aspire to make the most of whatever you can afford or get your hands on but be smart about it. Food is a priority of course, you can’t expect people to work with you, no matter how much they are enjoying it both socially and creatively, if they’re not being kept warm, safe and well fed. Tea and biscuits will not suffice, it’s not fair to expect people to pay for their own food and petrol, or taxis, for example, if you’re shooting late or early.

 

Did you write the idea for a low budget? If so, what did you take into account when writing the script?

 

For The Inside, yes. I explained to Franco Noonan, my producer, that this was a film that could be done within a short time span, and with minimal cash. There is a looseness that comes with making a film this way that can really benefit it. Of course it can hinder the project but that’s why you should choose an idea or story that fits in with the resources that you have available. I find that this is a great spur because it forces you to create and think imaginatively, try different things and focuses your mind and energy on what you can do.

 

Would you make another film at this level, or do you think it served as a training ground for something bigger?

 

I see making films at this level as a training ground and useful platform to experiment with ideas. The Inside my fourth feature. The first, Christian Blake, was made for less than €8,000 over 18 months. (The budget went mainly on food!) It showed at the Galway Film Fleadh and then sold in the AFM and released across the US and Canada on DVD. The documentary The Fashion of Modelling was made for about €1,200 and was picked up for an hour slot by RTÉ 2 and the feature Dreaming For You was shot in New York for €700. That screened in Galway last year and is doing the festival circuit this year.

 

 This article first appeared in Film Ireland Magazine Issue 132 – Spring 2010

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Cinema Review: Stitches

 

DIR: Conor McMahon  WRI: Conor McMahon, David O’Brien • PRO: Julianne Forde, Brendan McCarthy,  John McDonnell, Ruth Treacy  DOP: Patrick Jordan • ED: Stuart Baird • DES: Ferdia Murphy • CAST:  Tommy Knight, Ross Noble, Gemma-Leah Devereux

Stitches (Ross Noble) is a bad clown. He’s dirty, unprofessional, swears at children and worst of all he’s just no good at clowning. He can’t really juggle, he can’t make balloon animals and he can’t make children laugh. So it is that at Tom’s 10th birthday the children have to make their own fun. Unfortunately for Stitches the children’s hijinks lead to an accident resulting in the unfortunate entertainer being stabbed through his left eye…. Twice.

Six years later, and having witnessed a secret clown ritual in the cemetery the night of Stitches’ untimely demise, Tom (Tommy Knight) is not quite a normal teenager. He needs medication to help with his anxiety. He also has a tendency to see clowns where there are none. On the plus side it’s his birthday on Saturday. Unfortunately, Stitches is coming back to finish the party he started.

Without any knowledge beyond the basic premise of this title it is immediately and firmly in the category of ‘Schlock Horror’. There is no other genre that can accommodate a zombie-clown revenge story. Thankfully there doesn’t appear to be any attempt to move out of that comfort zone. Within minutes of the film’s opening credits a ten year old child is being drenched in a shower of fake blood. The gore continues almost relentlessly throughout, with scenes of male genitalia being removed by hand or an umbrella piercing a girl’s head from behind and removing her eyeball in the process. All of it shown in gleeful, close-up, slow motion detail. Thankfully this is not a movie that takes itself too seriously. The story seems little more than a reason to have a house full of teenagers waiting to be massacred. The characters are largely one dimensional. The dialogue, in an attempt to seem natural, appears more forced. Sadly though, the script looks for laughs only in the absurdity of the violence and the eponymous psychopath’s pre and post murder one-liners.

For a film billed as a Horror/Comedy there is barely enough of either to appeal to all but the most die-hard ‘Slasher’ fans.

Paddy Delaney

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
86 mins

Stitches is released on 26th October 2012

Stitches – Official Website

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‘Stitches’ opens nationwide 26th October

STITCHES, the perfect Halloween movie opens at cinemas nationwide on Friday 26th October, with very special preview at 7.30pm on Thursday 25th October where Q&A with ROSS NOBLE and CONOR McMAHON will be broadcast live to cinemas across Ireland via satellite

Jaded Richard Grindle is the sleaziest clown working the children’s party circuit in Ireland. Arriving late to one birthday, his timing is off, the bratty kids a nightmare and a prank goes horribly wrong – he falls on a kitchen knife and goes to that Big Top in the sky. Years later the same nasty kids attend another more grown up bash. Little do they know, thanks to a black magic clown cult, Stitches will be the uninvited guest of honour seeking revenge on those responsible for his untimely death.

 

Laughs and gore combine in this twisted tale which also sees some fantastic performances from its young and upcoming cast that includes; TOMMY KNIGHT (Doctor Who) and GEMMA-LEAH DEVEREUX (The Tudors).

 

An Original Dark Sky Films Production in Partnership with Fantastic Films, Tailored Films and The Irish Film Board

 

DIRECTED BY CONOR MCMAHON (Dead Meat)

STARRING ROSS NOBLE, TOMMY KNIGHT, GEMMA LEAH-DEVEREUX

 

STITCHES opens in cinemas nationwide on 26th October 2012

Running Time: 86 mins

Cert: 16

https://www.facebook.com/stitchesthemovie

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