Paul Bushe & Brian O’Neill, Directors of ‘Killers Within’

Horror fans might be forgiven for thinking they are at the wrong screening when they settle in to watch Killers Within at this year’s IFI annual film celebration of all things horror. Brian O’Neill and Paul Bushe’s feature bursts onto the screen with a gritty opening that seemingly provides the set-up for a crime thriller. A mother is violently attacked and her son taken away from her by a criminal gang. From here the films takes another turn into home invasion territory, as getting him back involves a group of friends and family plotting a tiger kidnapping. Their plan is to get their hands on enough cash to pay for the son’s release. Just when the audience settle in, there’s a seismic shift; things go somewhat haywire as we enter a world of mythological monsters and here is where the horror really kicks in, applied liberally with a double dose of action. It’s not your typical horror and to say much more would take away from the delirious fun that ensues.

Paul explains to Film Ireland that Killers Within is a genre-bashing film. “We initially set out to make a pure horror and it evolved and evolved again as we wrote and rewrote it. It became more thriller and then more action, with touches of sci-fi in there. Then we introduce a different type of villain that is not as prevalent in horror films.”

The bulk of the film takes place in Springfield Castle, Limerick, the home of a wealthy banker and his la-di-da family, who are set upon by Amanda Doyle, together with her ex-husband and three unlikely allies. The cast and crew lived in the Castle for the 10 days of the initial shoot. Brian says, “It was like Evil Dead stuff – where we live; where we shoot. We had a very bizarre existence there. There was no phone signal in the castle and you had to walk around 500 metres down the driveway to get a phone signal. In a way, it was like we were in an alternative reality living in this castle.” In this particular alternative reality, the band of ragtag amateur kidnappers and uppercrust elite family come together with catastrophic results as opposites clash, worlds collide and divides are crossed.

Leading the way is Sue Walsh, who plays Amanda, the Mother of the captive son. Her journey as a character is the stand-out role in the film, from victim to empowerment; she certainly is no damsel in distress, blazing her way through the film with a nutribullet blend of maternal love, unyielding determination and a ready-for-battle steely grit. “She was someone we hadn’t worked with before,” Paul says. “We didn’t know her at all. We did a big casting job and met some really extraordinary actors. It was such a hard thing to cast that lead female role because there’s so many things she has to embody more than anybody else in the film.” Brian explains how “as the protagonist, there was a lot of elements we wanted to hit. And Sue totally pulls that off.”

That’s the good, but what about the bad and the ugly? The monsters that comes to life are certainly impressive creatures but this element wasn’t all plain sailing according to Brian. “Creating the monsters for the film provided one of the biggest challenges. We ended up re-shooting a lot of scenes. We hadn’t anticipated how long it would take. By the time we got actors on set and even though the make-up was great, everyone was just fatigued and they were shot really badly. That’s on us.” Paul adds,”It’s that logistical thing. First time doing a feature like that. Brian had done How to be Happy and myself and Brian had made loads of shorts together and proofs of concept  – but just this kind of animal of a film, with prosthetics, stunts, then it’s raining and finally we had trouble with lighting and logistics on the night. So when we got to the edit, we knew we needed to go back and redo scenes. Thankfully the producer said yes, which was great. We had the opportunity to really rethink how we did it. Really liaise better with our stunt team. Think about make-up more. Just pure logistics really. Like how can we get a stunt actor into the scene? How can we get this done in 20 minutes rather than 8 hours.”

Talking to Paul and Brian it’s obvious they are passionate about film and how horror affords them to a chance to mix it up. Paul speaks about it as being a genre “with the most subgenres… Everything mixes with it and people accept that. They’ll take comedy in their horror, romance, action, whatever it is people will take it with horror.  That’s why Horror is such a broad topic. A lot of the films we like, like Dog Soldiers, From Dusk till Dawn,  they’re all genre-blending horror films. I love my pure horror as well but I love those blending of things. That’s what this film is – taking all these things we love, or are interested in, or find curious and sticking them all in one film together. And horror lets you do that.”

For an Irish horror, Killers Within could be a story told anywhere. “We didn’t want the film to be typical Irish film but there is some Irish in there, particularly in the dialogue,” Brian says. “But yes, the film could be set anywhere in the world. That was important for us making a genre film, not to be too colloquial. Paul goes on, “that’s part of how we write in general. Our influences are international and we write the story we want to see. It’s not specific to a location. This could be in the London, the Hamptons. It could be anywhere. It just happens just happens to be set in Ireland. If you look at English break-out films like Shaun of the Dead, yes they’re set in London or where ever but again that story is universal. The themes are universal.The characters are universal. The monsters are universal. That’s what we wanted to do here.”

If there was ever a PSA against tiger kidnappings, this would be it. Avoid those monsters, buy a lottery ticket, and join us in the IFI for a horrorful bank holiday screaming… I mean screening.

 

Killers Within screens Sunday, 28th October 2018 at 23.10 at the IFI as part of Horrorthon 2018 (25-29 October)

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Aislinn Clarke, Director of ‘The Devil’s Doorway’

 

In the autumn of 1960, Father Thomas Riley and Father John Thornton were sent by the Vatican to investigate a miraculous event in an Irish home for “fallen women”, They uncovered something much more horrific however, as their attention turned to a 16-year-old pregnant girl exhibiting signs of demonic possession.

Ahead of its screening at this year’s IFI Horrorthon, David Prendeville spoke to director Aislinn Clarke about her debut feature, The Devil’s Doorway.

 

How did the idea come about to make a film set in the Magdalene laundries and then how did it come about that it would be a found footage film?

In the initial stage the producer came to me. There was no script or anything at that point. He had an idea and he gave me a page-long pitch which was to do a modern-day horror partly set in an abandoned Magdalene laundry and shot on mostly GoPro so it would have been more like something like Grave Encounters. My feeling was that I didn’t think that was the film that I wanted to make but I felt there was something interesting to be done with the Magdalene laundries. I thought if you’re going to do a film about the Magdalene laundries you should go back to the ’60s, when there was the most people there and get into the heart of the human drama of those places rather than having the girls as spectres now as a kind of afterthought. I think all good horror has in its heart real human drama. I think it shouldn’t come afterwards, it should be the primary concern. If you look at something like Hereditary, it started out like a family drama and then came in the horror elements, not the other way around so I felt that would be the strongest way to do it. I’m a big horror fan, I watch everything. I know how much found footage there is out there and I know how much of it is really bad. Some of it is really good but even the really good stuff gets lost because there’s so much of it and so much of it so similar. I felt if you’re going to do one it needs to feel totally different. It needs to be bringing something new to that subgenre. So I thought you do something that found footage films don’t normally do, which is make it about something. It’s not just about how scary it is. I enjoy films like those too, I enjoyed Grave Encounters, Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity. I enjoyed those films but I felt this needed to be about something and I felt it was very obvious what it needs to be about. Then if we set it in the 1960s then we have to shoot on 16mm film because that’s how they would’ve done it.

 

How difficult was it to convince people that it needed to be shot on 16mm?

Really hard. Myself and the DoP Ryan Kernaghan had both shot on film previously together and separately so we’re both pretty used to that process. We shot some test stuff on different formats to illustrate how aesthetically different they were. To illustrate how much a film filter doesn’t trick you into feeling like its real film and if you’re selling something as found footage it needs to feel like an authentic document. You can’t just put a filter on top because they’re repetitive. They’re not organic. Subconsciously you can tell it doesn’t feel right. It will have repetitive flaws that would never happen on real film so we were able to convince them that this has such a nice aesthetic that was separate to everything else that we should do that. The concession we had in the end was that we would shoot anything that needed VFX digitally and match it up in the grade. That was in case there might be flaws on the film that would prevent us doing the VFX or that certainly would’ve made it harder and much more expensive to do. So that’s what we did. Ryan also got a good deal. He got a bunch of stock somewhere, really cheap. Some of the stock we used was expired. We used that for stuff we knew we didn’t need for the story but that was nice scene setting stuff. Some of it made into the finished film and it actually looks really good.

 

Did you feel as director that working within the found footage genre allowed in some ways for more creativity in how you approached certain scenes? I’m thinking of the birthing scene in particular here. It really stands out as being very powerful in the way that it utilises the found footage element to render the scene differently to the way it would be in other films.

It’s funny because it’s simultaneously limiting and freeing to have the constraints of found footage. You’ve only got a single camera so you can’t do things like get coverage for a scene. For the birthing scene in particular that suited me because I always knew how I wanted to do that scene. I always wanted it to be just her face. I was thinking of Dreyer’s Joan of Arc or Godard’s Vivre sa Vie. I was thinking also that there’s a tendency in modern films to show too much and there’s a weirdly prosaic effect. People are so used to being shown everything when it comes to gore and violence and all the rest that it has no effect. It just kind of washes over. But there’s something very uncomfortable about just watching a human face for an extended period of time. Also, what you do in your mind is going to be a lot more powerful than what you are seeing. There were conversations about coverage but I was adamant that that was how I wanted to shoot it. It also wouldn’t make sense within the story for it to be shot as if the priests were shooting it, as neither of them would do that. Neither of them could be in this room while that’s happening. This was the best way to do it. It’s my favourite scene in the film and I had to fight for it. I think it works. So yes, in a way found footage does have that thing that there are constraints but that the constraints are weirdly freeing. We also have conversations that are like monologues to camera with Father Thomas in particular. If that was shot in a more conventional way you would have reverses and show the other character and that takes a lot longer to film so that helped us film more quickly, as well as having done a lot of rehearsals before stepping on set. I think there’s a lot to be said for just a still camera. People move around a lot these days and there’s a lot of frenetic editing that’s fashionable. I like to just let a performance happen.

 

I understand you had three locations for the film? I also heard that the roof fell down in one of them the day after filming?

(Laughs) Yeah, that’s right. So the location we used for the church was actually the dining hall in a lovely mansion house in Belfast, formerly belonging to Lord Craigavon. Nobody had lived in it since the ’30s though it had been used as a hospital during the war. The day after we left the roof fell in. The house was kind of falling apart anyway. But it was kind of strange, if you wanted to read into things. People ask me about ghosts but I don’t really believe in ghosts. I wish I did, I think it’s a lot fun but I don’t. I think there was something else about one of the insurance documents had 666 engraved in it or something like that. There were theories flying around about a curse but, touch wood, I don’t think so.

 

The film has excellent performances in it as well. Could you tell me a bit about the casting process?

We auditioned everybody, particularly because the two executive producers were in LA. They wanted to see tapes. Helena, who plays the Mother Superior, I already knew and had my eye on. My husband and I both work in the theatre and he had worked with Helena there. I’d seen her in a few things. I had my eye on her but we did audition other people as well. Ciaran, who plays Father John, again I had my eye on him from theatre. We auditioned very widely. In the first round the producers were unsure about him but I knew he was right for the role. I think his first audition was a self-tape because he was in London or somewhere at the time. When I finally got him to come into the room with me, he nailed it. Then Lalor fell slightly outside of the age group that the casting director, Carla Strong, had for the role. Just you know you pick an age range and he happened to be slightly out of it. So he wasn’t in the first net we hauled in. But he heard about the project from a friend of his. He got in touch with me saying he’d really like to audition for this. It just struck something. So he came on down to my office. Again we had seen loads of people for that role and nobody was quite right. We had seen loads of people that were really good but not quite right. Lalor came down and just knocked it out of the park instantly. He was brilliant. Then in relation to Lauren who plays Kathleen, we had a different actor cast originally but due to scheduling problems she had to drop out during the shoot. We were literally already shooting when Lauren came down to audition. She auditioned on the set and that’s how she got the role. We shot the whole thing in 16 days and shot Lauren’s stuff in the second week.

Are there any films that particularly influenced you for the project?

Yeah that’s an interesting one. People assume that I’d be looking at stuff like The Blair Witch Project for something like this because it’s found footage but actually that’s not how I approach films anyway. Then you’re just repeating yourself or repeating somebody else. This is not really like that. It’s found footage but it’s no more like it than any other genre film. I was really thinking about the time, the mode of shooting, those sort of things so I was looking at a lot of documentaries from the early ’60s. In particular I was looking at The Maysles Brothers, cinema verite documentaries, stuff like Salesman because even the way you handle the camera, all of that, is going to effect the aesthetic of a film like this and it’s going to be totally different to how they handle the camera in Blair Witch. Its different equipment and of course they have the audio equipment too. Father John in the film doesn’t know he’s making a found-footage horror film, he thinks he’s making a documentary so that was the style I was trying to emulate.

 

What do you plan for your next film?

I have a couple of things in the works so, with different producers, so it’s just about seeing what comes together first in terms of financing. I’m working on a film with Fantastic Films so we’ll see where that goes. It’s in the horror genre again, I tend to gravitate toward horror or if it’s not horror, thriller or something dark. I’m attached also to direct a story that I haven’t written that’s a Bloody Mary origin story. I also have a folk-horror in development with a producer in London.

The Devils Doorway screens Friday, 26th October 2018 at 18.20 at the IFI as part of Horrorthon 2018 (25-29 October) 

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IFI Horrorthon Returns

             One of the most popular events in the Irish film calendar, the IFI Horrorthon, returns for its 19th season from 27th to 31st October. Showcasing the very best in Irish and international horror film, this year’s festival promises to be one of the bloodiest, most terrifying, and most enjoyable yet!

Highlights of this year’s slate include the opening film, Sang-ho Yeon’s Train to Busan, in which passengers on a journey from Seoul to Busan are terrorised by a zombie outbreak. This year’s closing film is the Indonesian thriller Headshot, directed by Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto, which centres on an amnesiac nursed back to health by a devoted doctor, until his violent past comes back to haunt him.

Commenting on the launch of the programme, Horrorthon spokesman Mick Fox said, ‘Programming this year proved to be the most rewarding to date. We kept discovering truly excellent genre films that made us programme more new films than ever before. 2016 is an excellent year for horror films, for horror fans, and it can be all enjoyed at IFI, over the Halloween weekend.

New horror sensation Raw, directed by Julia Ducournau, involves a vegetarian who develops a taste for all types of flesh following a hazing incident in her college. One of the most controversial releases of 2016, an ambulance had to be called to the film’s Toronto Film Festival screening, amid reports of audience members passing out during the film’s more graphic scenes.

Irish films showing at the festival this year include Jason Figgis’s Don’t You Recognise Me?, set in Dublin’s seedy gangland, Zoe Kavanagh’s Demon Hunter,and Mark Sheridan’s Crone Wood, a chiller set in Wicklow that centres on a couple in the first flushes of love who make a disastrous decision to camp out in the eponymous woods overnight. Each of the directors will introduce their respective screenings.

Three classic Peter Cushing films will screen this year as part of the Horrorthon Honours strand: 1971’s Twins of Evil, based on a Sheridan le Fanu story, 1968’sCorruption, and 1970’s The Vampire Lovers. More recent classics also feature as part of the programme with a Friday night double-bill of David Cronenberg’s Oscar-winner The Fly starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, and Stephen Herek’s 1986 comedy horror Critters.

Horror maestro Rob Zombie’s new thriller 31 will screen as an Irish exclusive on the festival’s opening evening. Starring Malcolm McDowell as Father Murder, the film follows five unfortunate carnival workers who end up trapped in a compound at the mercy of a group of sadistic clowns. It’s a film that’s sure to strike fear into the heart of any coulrophobe!

Festival favourite, the Surprise Film, will also return this year in its regular Sunday night slot; last year’s film was the critically acclaimed gothic chiller The Witch, directed by Robert Eggers. Previous Surprise Films have included The Others, The Machinist, andParanormal Activity. Also this year, IFI Horrorthon, in association with Universal Pictures, is pleased to announce a special preview screening of Ouija: Origin of Evil.This screening will take place outside the main festival on Tuesday October 18th.

Individual tickets for the IFI Horrorthon films are on sale now in person at the IFI Box Office, by phone on 01-6793477, or online at www.ifi.ie/horrorthon. Multiple film deals are available priced at €45 for 5 films, or €80 for 10 films, while a range of passes ranging from one to five days are also on sale either in person at the IFI Box Office or by phone.

As always, there will be range of special treats and offers available from the IFI Café Bar throughout the festival weekend.

Full festival schedule

TUESDAY 18th OCTOBER
20:30 SNEAK PREVIEW: OUIJA: ORIGINS OF EVIL

THURSDAY 27th OCTOBER
19:00 TRAIN TO BUSAN
21.25 FROM A HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET
23.10 31
23.10 DON’T YOU RECOGNISE ME?
The screening will be introduced by director Jason Figgis.
23.20 LOST SOLACE

FRIDAY 28th OCTOBER
13.20 IFI HORRORTHON HONOURS PETER CUSHING: TWINS OF EVIL
15.00 ATTACK OF THE LEDERHOSEN ZOMBIES
16.45 WHITE COFFIN
18.30 RAW
20.30 LAKE BODOM
22.20 DOUBLE BILL: THE DARK TAPES / THE RIFT
22.20 DOUBLE BILL: HIDDEN IN THE WOODS / SHE RISES
22.30 DOUBLE BILL: THE FLY / CRITTERS

SATURDAY 29th OCTOBER
13.00 IFI HORRORTHON HONOURS PETER CUSHING: CORRUPTION
14.50 MY FATHER DIE
17.00 THE CHAMBER
The screening will be introduced by director Ben Parker.
19.00 THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE
21.00 DON’T KILL IT
23.00 DEAD AND BURIED
23.10 IFI HORRORTHON HONOURS PETER CUSHING: THE VAMPIRE LOVERS
23.30 DEMON HUNTER
The screening will be introduced by director Zoe Kavanagh.

SUNDAY 30th OCTOBER
13.10 SHORT FILM SHOWCASE
15.15 EGOMANIAC
The screening will be introduced by director Kate Shenton.
17.15 JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD
19.10 SURPRISE FILM
21.10 PET
23.00 FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2
23.10 FOUND FOOTAGE 3D
23.20 CRONE WOOD
The screening will be introduced by director Mark Sheridan.

MONDAY 31st OCTOBER
13.00 DIRECTOR’S CUT
14.50 BEYOND THE GATES
16.40 LET HER OUT
18.30 PATCHWORK
20.30 CLOSING FILM: HEADSHOT

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Director Jason Figgis on ‘The Ecstasy of Isabel Mann’

Isabel+(Ellen+Mullen)+2

 

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.

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Competition: Win tickets to ‘The Battery’ at IFI Horrorthon

battery2

 

The Horrorthon returns to the IFI this week with a five-day feast of films that promises to send shivers down your spine.

Thanks to the ghouls and goblins at the IFI we have two pairs of tickets to give away to the late-night screening of The Battery on Sunday, October 27th at 23.00.

Shot on a micro-budget of $6,000, The Battery sees two former baseball players form an uneasy alliance as they make their way through a post-apocalyptic, zombie-filled New England.

To win yourself a pair of tickets, simply answer the following question:

Who directed The Battery?

Send your answer to filmireland@gmail.com before lunchtime on Friday, 25th October when the knife-weilding Film Ireland hat will select the winners.

The Battery screens as part of IFI Horrorthon (October 24th – 28th) www.ifi.ie/horrorthon

http://watch.thebatterymovie.com/

 

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IFI Horrorthon 2012: Thursday Preview

The IFI Horrorthon (25 – 29 October 2012, IFI, Dublin)

The IFI Horrorthon bites off on Thursday at 19:30 with an opening night screaming of Antiviral (pictured) – the film premiered at Cannes, and is the debut feature of Brandon Cronenberg (son of David), who follows in his father’s footsteps with the story  of a clinic selling injections of illnesses harvested from sick celebrities to obsessed fans.

 

Also screaming Thursday is Rodney Ascher Room 327 at 21:50. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining has been the subject of much debate and speculation, and various theories on its hidden meanings are explored by director Rodney Ascher in this fascinating documentary.

 

The first night of Horrorthon concludes with Detention of the Dead. The Breakfast Club meets Shaun of the Dead when a group of high school teens in detention find themselves surrounded by a zombie apocalypse. The balance of comedy and blood makes for a fun late-night film. Screaming at 23:50.

www.ifi.ie/horrorthon

Sweet dreams…

 

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Horrorthon returns to IFI

Danielle Harris

Five days of thrills, chills and spills in store as IFI Horrorthon returns from 25th-29th October, boasting the genre’s scariest, bloodiest, and best; including a special guest appearance from ‘scream queen’ star Danielle Harris, the Irish horror breakthrough Citadel, a long-awaited look at the extended Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut, amateur surgery antics in Excision, the story of The Shining in Room 237, and a first look at Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral.

IFI Horrorthon has spent the last year collecting some of the most twisted fantasies ever committed to celluloid from across the world and returns once again as easily the most frightful festival on Ireland’s cinema calendar. The packed programme of 32 spine-tingling features has more new horror films than ever before with 23 Irish Premieres. There are sneak previews of upcoming releases, the pick of the international horror scene, genre classics back on the big screen and special guests including Danielle Harris, a veteran ‘screen queen’ as IFI Horrorthon Guest of Honour.

This year’s Opening Film is the Irish premiere of Antiviral, the debut feature by Brandon Cronenberg (son of David) which premiered in Cannes earlier this year. In a dystopian future, the celebrity-obsessed populace clamour to be injected with the ailments of the stars. Be prepared for plenty of injections, bodily fluids, weird plotlines and a definite sense that young Brandon is infected with his father’s artistic impulses. Behold the birth of a body horror dynasty!

IFI Director Ross Keane said ‘This year’s IFI Horrorthon promises to be one of the best ever. The programming team has managed to pack in more premieres than ever before and we’re delighted to be joined by some really special guests. It’s great to see Ciarán Foy’s Irish horror Citadel making such an impact on the international festival circuit and we’re very pleased to be hosting the Dublin premiere. And of course we’re delighted that Danielle Harris will be presenting the Irish premiere of her directorial debut Among Friends in a programme that is really strong on female horror voices.’

Since she made her big screen debut in Halloween 4, Danielle Harris has become one of the most popular actresses in Horror starring in many of the Halloween and Hatchet franchises. The first ‘scream queen’ to visit IFI Horrorthon, Danielle Harris’ presence underlines the growing importance of female artists in horror, a trend evident throughout this year’s programme. In particular we’re pleased to present her directorial debut Among Friends that tells of a dinner party that goes wrong when the hostess decides it’s time to make her guests pay for their wrongdoings. Danielle will introduce the film and take part in a Q+A. She’ll also introduce screenings of genre classics Halloween 4 and Shiver and will add a touch of grisly glamour to the IFI Horrorthon long weekend.

Citadel is one of the best and most awarded of Irish horror films in some time; an urban horror story in which a grieving husband must protect his daughter from violent neighbourhood children. The film premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh, picking up the Best First Irish Feature Award and has since won a string of awards at film festivals around the world. Director Ciarán Foy will introduce the film and take part in a Q+A.

Film fans craving some amateur surgery and body modification won’t be disappointed; there are two excellent films with female protagonists supplying exactly that. Excision, undoubtedly one of the year’s best horrors, is a dark and disturbing tale of a social misfit with twisted dreams of a career as a surgeon which, needless to say, she starts to make a reality. American Mary by the Soska Sisters tells the story of someone who, in contrast to Excision, has the training (she’s a disillusioned medical student) but starts using her skills in the underground world of extreme body modification.

Other highlights of the IFI Horrorthon for this year include; a preview of Room 237, the widely admired documentary by Rodney Ascher about Kubrick’s The Shining (which will be re-released in a new version at the IFI from 2nd November); Sleep Tight, which sees the co-director of [Rec] pitch a misanthropic and increasingly obsessed concierge against a naturally positive tenant; andan extended and vastly improved ‘The Cabal Cut’ version of Clive Barker’s Nighbreed that will close the festival.

Finally of course there’s the Surprise Film; tickets don’t hang around long for those wanting to see Dublin’s best kept secret. This is always one of the most highly anticipated films and the rumours are flying but, as usual, the IFI Horrorthon team are saying nothing until the projector starts to roll.

Tickets for IFI Horrrorthon are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie. Individual tickets cost €9 (€10 for the Opening and Closing Films) range of special festival passes from 1-5 days are available on the phone or in person. IFI Daily Membership (€1) or IFI Annual Membership (€25) is required for all films.

For a full programme and more detailed information please visit www.ifi.ie/horrorthon

IFI Horrorthon Schedule

Thursday October 25th
19.30 Opening Film: Antiviral
21.50 Room 237
23.50 Detention of the Dead

Friday October 26th
13.00 Manborg
14.20 Midnight Son
16.30 Calibre 9
18.30 Citadel – + Q&A with director Ciarán Foy
20.30 Silent Hill: Revelation
22.30 Double Bill: Zombie Flesh Eaters/Deep Red
23.00 Slice and Dice: The Slasher Film Forever
23.15 Rites of Spring

Saturday October 27th
12.30 Eurocrime!
15.00 V/H/S
17.10 Dracula: Prince of Darkness
19.00 American Mary
21.00 Among Friends – Q&A with director Danielle Harris
23.15 Young Frankenstein
23.15 Tulpa
23.30 Bad Meat

Sunday October 28th
14.00 The Monster Squad – 25th Anniversary Screening
16.00 Shiver – Introduced by Danielle Harris
18.20 IFI Horrorthon Surprise Film
20.30 Excision
22.20 Halloween III: Season of the Witch – 30th Anniversary Screening
23.00 The Devil’s Business
23.00 After

Monday October 29th
11.00 Short Film Showcase
13.00 Nightmare Factory
14.40 The Burning Moon
16.20 Sleep Tight
18.15 Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers –Introduced by Danielle Harris

20.20 Closing Film – Nightbreed: The Cabal Cut
The IFI acknowledges the financial support of the Arts Council.

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Horrorthon: Biehn and nothingness

Michael Biehn

 

Usually the success of the IFI’s annual Horrorthon is dependant on the organisational skills of festival director Ed King. This year, however, that burden came to rest on guest of honour Michael Biehn who came to Dublin with three films on the bill: his directorial debut, a tense ensemble piece, and a sci-fi/horror classic – it should also be mentioned that he doesn’t particularly like horror movies. What could possibly go wrong?

 

As it turned out Horrorthon 2011 was arguably the most successful yet, thanks to a strong programme and one of the most enthusiastic audiences in film. As a snapshot of the horror genre, the programming reflected a field finally shaking off the yoke of torture porn and regaining its sense of fun. Up for viewer consideration this time out were 19 new films, 13 revivals, one documentary, a short film showcase and a collection of grindhouse trailers that made this writer reconsider everything he had ever thought about Sweden.

 

The choice of The Awakening as opening movie didn’t inspire at first, but was well worth the effort. Set in post-WWI England, the film pits hoax-busting proto-feminist Rebecca Hall against a ‘ghost’ at a remote boarding school. Hired by Dominic West, a schoolteacher, himself haunted in a very different way by his experiences in the trenches, Hall finds that it’s her own needs and fears that need dealing with, not those of the young charges at the school. The ‘dark night of the sceptic soul’ trope might be familiar to followers of ghost stories, but the glossy production design and precise set pieces elevate The Awakening above traditional haunted-house fare. In the same way that all good tales of the supernatural have a touch of a whodunnit structure, The Awakening’s reveal is meticulously constructed and, in the end, even playful. An effective chiller that manages to produce a few jumps without resorting to bloodshed. How British is that?

 

The first non-English language film of the festival, Kidnapped, was a brutal home invasion thriller where a gang of three hooded men take a family hostage. Giving the impression of being more or less in real time (there are only 12 shots in the film), Kidnapped is tightly paced and thoroughly mean-spirited. Though convention would demand that some kind of moral crisis interfere with the cirminals’ mission leading to a reprisal by the hostages, what hints of it there are, are mercilessly snuffed out. Think Funny Games without the social commentary. Only worthy of a side note, Sunday’s Surprise Film was the US remake Trespass, starring Nicholas Cage and Nicole Kidman. Now let us never speak of it again.

 

Australian films have become a popular addition to the programme in recent years. Both The Horseman and Red Hill were fan favourites, and these were joined by Snowtown, an account of how a suburb of Adelaide, and one family in particular, came under the thrall of serial killer John Bunting (Daniel Henshall). Obsessed with paedophilia and moral degeneracy Bunting set about killing men in his locale that he suspected of child molestation – often without evidence. The story is told through the eyes of vacant 16-year-old Jamie Vlassakis (Lucas Pittaway) as his mother begins a relationship with the killer.

 

Bunting becomes a big brother figure until things take a turn for the sinister when Vlassakis is forced to turn a gun on the killer’s pet Alsatian. Here begins a downward slide that covers the deaths of four people in meticulous detail. One sequence involving the eldest Vlassakis boy’s murder starts at vicious and ends on a level that had seasoned gorehounds squirming. A powerful film, Snowtown is one part Mike Leigh, one part Jack Ketchum and deserves to find an audience from both camps. The chilling denouement will have you scurrying to Wikipedia to find out more about Bunting and his damaged associates.

 

Victims

 

Given the plum Saturday night prime time slot, Michael Biehn’s directorial debut The Victim was a modest piece of exploitation filmmaking. Made on a shoestring ‘after the cheque cleared’, it’s the story of a woman who takes shelter with a loner in the woods after her friend is accidentally killed by crooked cops. The pulpy revenge story lacks gore and suspense but was clearly made with simple goals in mind. In a detailed Q&A session, Beihn and his wife and collaborator Jennifer Blanc explained how he pulled in favours from friends and family to get the movie made and how it was playing to generally good responses at festivals – true to form, the Horrorthon audience were the most receptive.

 

It was Biehn’s performance in the following night’s tent-pole feature, and festival fulcrum, The Divide, that proved the defining moment of the event. Following a nuclear attack on New York, a disparate band of survivors cower for shelter in the basement of their building while an unknown enemy sifts through the ruins of the city. The group: a 9/11 fireman, an intellectual, a wise-guy, a devoted mother, etc. try to deal with the inevitability of their situation with determination until resource-sharing becomes an issue.

 

As food, water and the chances of escape become diminished, factions emerge, relationships disintegrate and mores are transcended. Expertly directed by Xavier Gans (Frontiers) and played to the hilt by an ensemble cast at odds with each other and the script – much of the film was improvised – The Divide works as a thriller in the Hitchcock mould (think Lifeboat with nukes) spiced up a hint of French nihilism thrown in. Are any of these characters even worth surviving, having cheated and debased each other for their own ends? The question is largely left unanswered.

 

In the Q&A that followed, Biehn said the theatrical cut to be released in January would have an additional 15 minutes of footage. Given the cut shown here was such a tight package it’s hard to see what could be added with out stalling the momentum. Still, it’s fair to say the majority of the packed house would gladly pay the price of admission to see the extended cut.

 

Schlock

 

As always with Horrorthon, the late night screenings did not fail to deliver on the schlock front. A double bill of The Exterminator and Maniac Cop played to a largely full house. One of the worst films ever made, Troll 2 was simultaneously one of the highlights for its sheer ineptness and lowlights for the behaviour of the audience – seriously, movies this bad don’t need heckling. Quiet down the back lads, some of these demons are trying to emote.

 

Regular visitor Tim Sullivan discussed his contribution to Chillerama, an anthology film of varying degrees of wackiness. He was also at the opening film to introduce One for the Road, a short he produced for Paul M Ward based on Stephen King’s short prequel to Salem’s Lot.

 

A new slot this year was the children’s film for Saturday and Sunday mornings. Flash Gordon and The Dark Crystal (in a flakey ‘vintage’ print) went down well, but the number of actual kids in the audience barely approximated for a third of the audience.

 

J-horror also made a welcome return on Sunday with Tomie: Unlimited. The story of a young girl having trouble coming to terms with the sudden death of her older more beautiful sister takes a turn when said sibling returns from the dead in pristine condition to take over the lives of everyone she touched. What starts as an enjoyable, if eccentric, examination of the bonds of sisterhood and the nature of grief quickly becomes overshadowed by set pieces of increased weirdness leading up to a denouement that defies logic. A sad reflection on the current state of extreme cinema from the Far East. A revival screening of Akira was as good as it got.

 

Naturally there were some outright duds. The Wicker Tree, Rabies, Urban Explorer and The Theatre Bizarre failed to pass muster. A Horrible Way to Die was redeemed by a satisfying ending and The Dead retained the attention if only for its rolling African landscapes. Anniversary screenings of Play Misty for Me (40-years-old) and Blow Out (30-years-old) made for refreshing mid-afternoon fare.

 

On the subject of classics, proceedings were brought to a close with a showing of Aliens in a 70mm print to mark its 25th anniversary. Cometh the sequel, cometh the man as Biehn introduced the movie to a rapt audience. By then it was all over bar the chest-bursting.

 Niall Kitson

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