Zoe Kavanagh, Writer/Director of ‘Inexorable’


Filmmaker Zoe Kavanagh takes us into the shadows of her short film Inexorable.

How would you describe the film?
Inexorable is a psychological horror film that focuses on the fears we have at night. ‘Is that baby-cries out in the back garden or is that a cat? It could be a baby in peril, may need to check it out!’

It’s me experimenting with atmosphere and tension whilst being heavily inspired by classic horror films.


How did it come about?

It’s basically a sequence from a feature script that I have written called ‘Inexorable’, which means unrelentless, unstoppable and that’s basically what the feature is in the way that from start to finish every single scene is filled with something scary in different shapes and escalates until it ends.

I directed this short film to showcase that I can do horror, I can do atmosphere as I hadn’t made that type of horror film before but I’m a huge fan of.


Any specific influences?
A lot of influences from things that really got me or unnerved me. Horror films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser and Poltergeist to video-games such as the ‘Silent Hill’ series. There’s an atmosphere and character moralistic drama I like in these franchises that not only creep me out but engage me with their protagonists and their antagonists.


Any on-set stories you can share?

In the short film, the villain wears a Plague Doctor mask and after we wrapped filming in the alleyway where he preys in the corner, none of us wanted to stand anywhere in that spot alone as we were getting paranoid that someone was there! It was all fine in the end and was a fairly smooth shoot!


What particular skills do you need to make a short horror film?

You need to know what scares you and find a way to conjure that idea into a story. Directing a short film isnt always about giving people a full three-act structure but more so in a horror short it’s actually about giving the audience a scary sequence and dropping them into a scenario that they can connect to. It’s really about understanding the pace of horror. A lot of modern horror films don’t slow down when they need to, they have loud noises and fast cutting but that should be used for action not horror. Once you have them engaged, you can manipulate their emotions with your atmosphere, your shocks and terrify them.


How do you feel about screening at Horrorthon?
It’s great! Second year in a row a film by me has screened. Last year Demon Hunter played to a packed audience and now Horrorthon get the exclusive Irish premiere as I haven’t pushed this short yet. It also plays in Germany this week at the Obscura Film Fest before I start submitting it to lots of festivals. Excited about its prospects on the horror festival circuit.


Inexorable screens as part of the IFI Horrorthon: Short Film Showcase on Sunday,  29th October 2017  at 15.10.




You might like

Irish Film Review: Torment

Stephen Porzio unearths Jason Figgis’ latest slice of horror, Torment, in which a man is buried alive in punishment for a heinous crime while a couple struggle to come to terms with a dreadful loss.

Jason Figgis has become a staple of the Irish independent film festival circuit. I admire his prolific nature (he makes about two or three movies as year, as well as contributing to various anthology films) and his passion for cinema. However, sometimes in the past I’ve found that his creativity has occasionally been stymied by the low-budget parameters in which he works. His output, like Urban Traffik and Don’t You Recognise Me?, is often ingeniously plotted and his themes regarding familial dysfunction, revenge and violence are consistently interesting. Yet sometimes a dodgy special effect or an amateurish performance from a supporting actor can take the viewer out of the fictional world Figgis otherwise creates very well.

In this respect Torment – his latest playing at IFI’s Horrorthon on October 29th – is a step-up from his previous work. The film focuses on two interlocking stories. Bill Fellows (Lady Macbeth) plays a man who is buried alive and taunted by a sinister disembodied voice over an intercom. Meanwhile, a married couple (played by Cora Fenton and Bryan Murray) attempt to cope with grief and loss. Over the course of the film, we come to realise how these three characters are connected.

Torment is a film which narratively plays to Figgis’ strength. It combines the high-concept plot of Don’t You Recognise Me? (a film about a documentarian who gets more than he bargained for when hired to film a young wannabe gangster’s daily activity) with the character-driven intense family drama of Urban Traffik. The result: a blend of the claustrophobia of Ryan Reynolds’ vehicle Buried with the bleak horror of Lars von Trier’s Antichrist.

The low-budget nature of the film (it’s almost all gloomy interiors and shots from inside the coffin) feels like a benefit to Figgis this time around. Not only does the plot not demand the type of special effects used in his other output but the less polished style adds a real rawness to Torment. This sensation is vital since it’s a film, without getting into spoiler territory, about the horrors of grief and violence.

The performances here are the most consistently good of Figgis’ filmography with Fenton (The Young Offenders) delivering a tour de force as a mother who has lost everything and is failing to cope with the situation. She is so good that at times it’s almost a difficult to watch because her wails of sadness feel very authentic.

This brings me to my warnings about the film. As its title suggests, it’s an incredibly bleak, often uncomfortable movie to sit through. It tackles dark, transgressive issues and their effects on people in a very serious manner – more seriously than the typical campy or genre-based Horrorthon entry. If one is looking for something light and enjoyable, I’d suggest giving Torment a miss. However, those looking for something that will stay with them and if a haunting evocation of emotional suffering sounds compelling to you, Figgis’ latest is a must.


Torment screens on Sunday,  29th October 2017 at 23.00 as part of IFI Horrorthon, October 26th to 30th 2017. 

Tickets here


You may like:

Horrorthon Podcast with Directors Jason Figgis & Mark Sheridan


Horrorthon Podcast with Directors Jason Figgis & Mark Sheridan


In this podcast, Paul Farren talks to directors Jason Figgis and Mark Sheridan about their films, Don’t You Recognise Me? and Crone Wood, which are screening as part of the IFI Horrorthon.


Subscribe on iTunes

Subscribe on Soundcloud

Subscribe on Stitcher

Subscribe to the Film Ireland RSS feed

Don’t You Recognise Me?


Events spiral dangerously out of control when a documentary maker takes a self-styled Dublin gangster as the subject of his latest film.

Don’t You Recognise Me? screens at the IFI on Thursday, 27th October 2016 @ 23.10

The screening will be introduced by director Jason Figgis.

Book Tickets

Screening as part of IFI Horrorthon 2016.


Crone Wood


A young couple in the early stages of their romance find themselves in potentially lethal danger when they decide to camp in a remote area.

Crone Wood screens at the IFI on Sunday, 30th October 2016 @ 23.20

The screening will be introduced by director Mark Sheridan.

Book Tickets

Screening as part of IFI Horrorthon 2016.





Film Ireland Podcast: Episode 14 – The Horror… The Horror


In this bloodied episode Richard and Jonathan take a look at The Visit, Irish horror The Hallow and Crimson Peak.

Among the carnage, the pod people chat to director Anthony White and actor Caoimhe Cassidy, about their film The Devil’s Woods, which screens at the IFI Horrorthon this weekend. The gathered ghouls go on to spill their guts about all things horror.

Will Anthony and Caoimhe ever get out of the basement alive or are they destined to be devoured by the starving mutants Richard and Jonathan have become…


Subscribe on iTunes

Subscribe on Soundcloud

Subscribe on Stitcher

Subscribe to the Film Ireland RSS feed





Interview: Gerard Lough, director of ‘Night People’

 NIGHT PEOPLE - Parle in bedroom
In Gerard Lough’s Night People, a pair of professional but badly mismatched criminals break into a vacant house to carry out an insurance scam. Awkwardly thrown together with an hour to kill, they reluctantly start telling each other tall tales. One concerns two friends who discover a mysterious device that may be of alien origin. The more they learn about it, the closer to breaking point their friendship is pushed. The other is about an ambitious business woman who provides a dating agency for wealthy   fetishists. She attempts to escape this shady line of work by taking on a new client who’s  habits may be of the vampiric variety. As the night progresses the line between fiction and reality starts to blur and the hidden agendas of both thieves become apparent.

David O’Donoghue broke into director Gerard Lough’s house, to carry out an interview ahead of Night People‘s world premiere at the IFI Horrorthon Film Festival.


What particular sci-fi or horror films, styles and directors influenced Night People?

The film has a lot of influences. It’s kind of a strange mix really! Anthology series like The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents were definitely a big part of it. For anyone like me who grew up in the ’70s or ’80s they definitely had a big impact. Also, the New Romantic music scene was a big influence. If anyone one film influenced Night People though it has to be Tony Scott’s The Hunger (1983).


What was it that prompted your use of the anthology-like story-within-a-story style?

Definitely those anthology series. But also I was interested in the idea of tall tales and urban legends. We’ve all known urban myths we associate with out towns and with our people. I even remember on the playground when I would hear urban myths about films- like everyone involved in The Exorcist died or maybe it was Poltergeist or The Omen, they could never quite get it right. But I think urban legends are very interesting and so I tried to use these hyperlinked stories in the film


The film has a number of topics that are very important in public debate at the moment: the economy, property and sexuality. Do you intentionally draw on these themes to create powerful cinema?

The recession is all around us; we’re particularly badly affected here in the northwest. In some ways you can’t avoid it. But also there was an element of convenience to it. A lot of the story is set in a vacant house and there are plenty of those around here in Donegal. I’m not a political filmmaker but I do think I was saying something about my country in my own way. Still ambiguity is useful and more interesting to me, even if it can be tricky.


Do you feel making sci-fi or horror films makes it more difficult to produce a film due to prejudices against genre films?

Initially, I didn’t think so. But as I’ve gotten more involved in filmmaking I definitely have noticed something I might call ‘genre snobbery’. You’ll go to a production company and as soon as you say your film is a sci-fi/ horror they say “no, it’s not for us”. There is definitely a certain snobbery because Irish films can be so focused on social realism and historical films. In my case though, I just don’t care about genre, I want to make a good film. I’ve heard some people talk about an ‘Irish New Wave’ shedding new light on genre films – I don’t know about that but wouldn’t it be great!


A large portion of the film was filmed around your native Donegal. Did you enjoy capturing your own area on film?

I think there are definitely a lot of places in Donegal that are really unusual and isolated and that there are places so great you could shoot a Michael Mann film or even Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. For example, the beach that is used in one of the stories in the film. We only discovered the place, just a while up the road, shortly before filming and we found all these wonderful caves which ended up in the film. I love to shoot the real thing. It’s sitting there on your doorstep so why not shoot it right there. I really enjoyed giving the area a sense of perpetual twilight, misty and dark almost like a noir film.


What’s next for Gerard Lough?

Really I’m just focusing on this film now, taking care of it. I’m anticipating the premiere and how the audience will react. They say a premiere is almost like giving birth in public. In the future though, I would love to do something based around the New Romantic music scene. It was such a brief thing, it really only lasted from 1980 to ’81, but it was so interesting. I love the style and the sound of it.


Night People screens on Sunday, 25th October 2015 @ 23.00 as part of the IFI Horrorthon (22 – 26 October)

Book tickets here



IFI Horrorthon 2015


The IFI Horrorthon (22 – 26 October) returns to celebrate its 18th birthday with five days of horror in the run-up to Halloween. The full schedule is below. This year’s IFI Horrorthon guests include: director Richard Stanley, who will present his two features and some of his rarely shown shorts; scream queen, Bond girl and Hammer regular, Caroline Munro; and producer Sean Hogan and legendary illustrator Kevin O’Neill, who will attend Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD. This year’s IFI Horrorthon Honours will be bestowed on one of cinema’s most iconic figures: Christopher Lee. Tribute will be paid also to the memory of horror maestro Wes Craven with a late-night double bill and a screening of one of his best-known classics. This year’s festival includes 33 features (23 of them Irish premieres) and two shorts programmes.

Individual tickets for the IFI Horrorthon films are on sale now at the IFI Box Office in person, on the phone on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie. A new special ticket deal is available this year: 5 films for €40, 10 films for €75. A range of passes ranging from one to five days is also available. Throughout the Festival there will also be a range of special offers for blood-thirsty IFI Horrorthon fans in the IFI Café Bar.


21.00 HOWL
23.00 MANIA

Director Richard Stanley will introduce the film and take part in a post-screening Q&A

16.45 EMELIE
Producer Sean Hogan and artist Kevin O’Neill will introduce the film and take part in a post-screening Q&A

Director Richard Stanley will introduce this event

Director Richard Stanley will introduce the film and take part in a post-screening Q&A
Actress Caroline Munro will introduce the film and take part in a post-screening Q&A

Individual tickets available now for the IFI Horrorthon on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie/horrorthon


Interview: Conor Dowling, Co-Director of ‘The Light of Day’


This week Dublin’s premier filmic fright fest, the Horrorthon, returns blood-stained and shambling to the IFI. Demonic possession and dismemberment are to be expected, but between the shocks and screams there are laughs to be had at the screening of the comedy mockumentary, The Light of Day.

Film Ireland picked at the brains of co-director Conor Dowling ahead of the screening this Friday. 

Set and shot in Dublin, The Light of Day follows a group of amateur filmmakers as they struggle with the horrors of low-budget filmmaking on the set of a vampire horror flick. The mockumentary follows Michael, the DOP trying to salvage the production against a horde of incompetence from the egocentric director, a desperate producer and non-existent budget.

The film was made as part of the MSc in Digital Filmmaking at Filmbase, written by Christopher Brennan and directed by students Amy Carroll, Conor Dowling and Eoin O’ Neill.

After it premiered to rave reviews at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh, Conor Dowling, who describes the team as “horror fanatics”, told us what it means to have it shown at the IFI Horrorthon. “We’re over the moon to be screening at the IFI. I’ve been going to the Horrorthon for years and it’s a genuine honour to have our film screen at it.”

The feature was the culmination of a course focused on practically preparing filmmakers for all areas of film production. Conor went on describe how this benefited the making of the film. “The course allowed the class to work together on several projects throughout the year before The Light of Day, giving us the opportunity to see what it was like to work together along with giving us top quality experience and guidance.”

This was particularly relevant for the three directors. “Before we got onto set we were all on the same page in terms of the script, the cast, the shooting style, and how all the scenes would be staged. Having three directors on a film is not very common and people often wonder how it can possibly work, but for us it was a particularly smooth process, and working with two other directors was actually a huge benefit.”

Conor explains that working collaboratively they were able to “work on our shotlists together and give feedback on the other director’s interpretations of how scenes should play out, while each bringing our own unique take and sense of humour to certain scenes. By the time it came to shoot, we were happy to divide the three shooting weeks up evenly with a week each. Having three directors also allowed us to cover more ground and sometimes even shoot simultaneously. For example, one director could be setting up for a scene in the warehouse and the other director could grab some crew, and an actor to film some additional scenes outside.”

Another topic discussed before the shoot was their influences. “When it comes to mockumentary style you have to look at the likes of The Office, both the US and UK versions, and the films of Christopher Guest. These would have been the main influences but we also looked elsewhere to get an idea of how it has been done differently. For example, I was a big fan of Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, which was a great comedy horror mockumentary in 2006 and we were all a fan of the Belgian film Man Bites Dog, which was not tonally what we were looking for but in terms of camera movement and naturalistic staging of scenes it was a great example.

“So for the mockumentary style we intended to make it look as close to real life as we could using natural light where possible, using a lot of camera movement and working with our cinematographer to obtain the fly on the wall documentary style we wanted.”

The Light of Day is told through behind-the-scenes styled footage documenting the production of the vampire horror flick, ‘The First Bite is the Deepest’. The story of the shoot develops alongside footage of the film, creating a film-within-a-film that presented both challenges and opportunities for the filmmakers. “To establish a different look and feel for the film within the film, we used a different camera and shooting style. Stepping away from the handheld mockumentary style for these scenes, we were able to use a more traditional cinematic shooting style with more complex lighting setups. The aim was to have a short cinemtic horror film split up and placed throughout the overall film, and this film was a great opportunity for us to try out different cinematic techniques and styles from some of our favourite horror and action films.”


The Light of Day screens on Friday, 24th October 2014 at 19.10 as part of the IFI Horrorthon 2014 (23rd – 27th October). The directors will attend the screening.

Tickets for The Light of Day are available here


‘The Light of Day’ Screams at Horrorthon


The Light of Day, the mockumentary about the making of a low-budget vampire horror flick, will emerge from the dead of night to sink its teeth into the IFI Horrorthon next week. The film screens on Friday, 24th October 2014 at 19.10

The Light of Day follows the doomed crew of First Bite is The Deepest, a cheap vampire flick, as they struggle to make their film. With a hapless director, inexperienced crew, world-weary producer, star with a peanut allergy and the worst product placement deals in history there’s more horror behind the scenes than in the film. Things get truly perilous when the film’s private investors pull out halfway through shooting. Now it’s up to the only two sane people on the production to salvage the shoot.

The film was made by students on the Filmbase/Staffordshire University MSc Digital Feature Film Production Course. For further details on the course, click here.

Blood-stained tickets for The Light of Day are available here



Interview: Jeremy Lovering, director of ‘In Fear’


David Prendeville discovers what exactly is In Fear as he chats to Jeremy Lovering about his new film set in rural Ireland, which recently opened the IFI Hororthon and goes on general release on Friday.

Jeremy Lovering is in buoyant form and so he should be. His terrific, intensely claustrophobic new horror In Fear has just opened this year’s IFI Horrorthon to a rapturous response, an experience which Lovering says he ‘loved’. The film follows a young British couple, Tom and Lucy, who travel to an unspecified area in rural Ireland for a music festival. However, Tom’s decision to bring Lucy for a romantic night in a hotel before the festival, leads to strange, sinister events. Despite following the road signs correctly the couple find themselves lost and unable to find the hotel. As night and darkness hits, the couple encounter even stranger things- visions of a man in a mask, giant trees falling, their possessions disappearing and then reappearing in strange places. Just who or what is the cause of these things? And what is the purpose of this strange game?


Despite the film being set in rural Ireland, it was shot in England. Lovering cites a ‘benign version’ of the story that he experienced while visiting Sligo to research a documentary on the famine some years back as the reason for the film’s setting. In the real life incident Lovering ended up driving around in a circle for twenty minutes as the result of a practical joke played on people in search of house with a history of extreme violence. While Lovering laughs at that incident now, he notes the ‘primal fear’ it instilled in him at the time and how that juxtaposition of practical joke and violent threat inspired him with the story for this film. He also acknowledges that he initially wanted the film to be set in a completely nameless area so as to emphasise the universal nature of the film’s themes but ultimately decided that the audience ‘needed context’.


Context is something that Lovering deprived his actors of while shooting, in the sense that he refused to tell them the story and instead shot chronologically, feeding them pieces of information bit by bit, or not at all. There are moments in which you can see real fear in the eyes of the actors because they were genuinely afraid and found the events unfolding in front of them every bit as unexpected and shocking as the audience do. How did Lovering come to the decision to shoot the film in this way? ‘I always wanted to do it like that. I wanted to shoot a horror film like a drama. There are certain expectations and provisions in shooting a horror film but I’m scared when I’ve forgotten that something is a film, when it feels real I’m scared.’ The improvisatory nature of the film coupled with the fact that its action is confined largely to a car and a forest at night time would strike one that it must have been a difficult film to shoot. Lovering had no such concerns however: ‘I absolutely loved the shoot. I love being in the forest. It was tough, we had a minimal crew and I had to think constantly, but I loved it. The producers were amazing. There was a lot of trust and faith. Various executives came down and had fun. If an actor improvises, the crew improvises. We have to jump to the next moment and I loved that’.


The realistic nature of the film’s aesthetic and approach to performance is not the only subversion of the horror genre that one encounters in In Fear. In contrast to a lot of other recent horror films there is a distinct lack of gore and the film is instead focused on a build up of threat and tension rather than the release of extreme violence or torture. Was this a deliberate tactic deployed by Lovering or was it something that came about organically from the nature of the story? ‘ It was absolutely my intention’ says Lovering; ‘ I told my cast and crew that if at one end you have Saw and at the other end Knife in the Water then we are somewhere in the middle.’ When violence does occur in the film it’s messy and unpleasant – ‘ I wanted to portray violence as pathetic. We can really do without it. That is terribly important to me. I’m interested in the consequences of violence’.


In Fear joins a list of edgy, interesting horror films to emerge from Britain in recent years, such as Kill List and Berberian Sound Studio. Does Lovering feel there is something of a renaissance happening in terms of low-budget horror films in the UK? ‘In England audiences look for films with a psychology. They don’t do straight genre in England, they do elevated genre. That’s why there is probably an opportunity for films like Kill List and Berberian Sound Studio, which are elevated horror, to get made there. The same films probably wouldn’t get made in America, for instance.’ Lovering ponders the question once more before chuckling: ‘So yes, I suppose you could say there is a renaissance.’


You get the impression that Lovering is a man who really cares about the medium he is working in. He is interested in genre and in subverting it. You also got a strong impression he is a man who is deeply interested in the human condition and likes to work a strong human element into his work. When I ask him what his plans for the future are and whether he plans to remain in the horror genre for his next film he responds by saying, ‘At some point I’d like to do something lighter. I suppose it depends on your personal sense of mortality. Something with more of a happy ending perhaps. At the moment I am writing a psychological thriller. I like the dark side, the human ache. I will always be drawn to that’.


Whatever it is that Lovering tackles next, it is something which horror fans and cinema fans alike, would be advised to keep a keen eye on.

David Prendeville


In Fear opens in cinemas on Friday, 15th November 2013.



IFI Horrorthon: The Final Day of Reckoning


This year’s Horrorthon draws its dying breath with Monday’s menu of mania. The day kicks off with a selection of short stabs of horror, including The Gloaming set in Ireland, 1849 during The Great Famine. As a church bell tolls and the gloaming descends, a father and son working the land are forced to confront an ancient evil.

The festival closes with Big, Bad Wolves (pictured), a stylish and complex revenge thriller about a grieving father and a rogue cop who team up to ‘interrogate’ the man they believe responsible for a series of murders.

Don’t look behind you…

Monday’s Menu of Mania:

Monday 28th October 2013

Monday 28th October 2013

Monday 28th October 2013

Monday 28th October 2013

Monday 28th October 2013

Monday 28th October 2013


View the fill programme here (PDF)

Tickets for Horrorthon are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie


IFI Horrorthon: Fight the Fear


IFI Horrorthon 2013 (24 – 28 October)

Shock, after shock, after shock. The Horrorthon bleeds its way into the weekend with a Saturday of shock and suspense.


Giallo stalks the IFI today with Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s follow up to Amer. The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears will thrill all those that like their sensory violence served up in style.


Plus there’s Irish director Rob Kennedy’s debut feature Midnight Man, which reminds us not to mess with the bogey man. [You can read our Spotlight feature on the film here.]


And there’s Army of Darkness – enough said.


Embrace the fear…


Saturday’s Shocking Schedule:


Saturday 26th October 2013

Saturday 26th October 2013

Saturday 26th October 2013
Saturday 26th October 2013

Saturday 26th October 2013

Saturday 26th October 2013

Saturday 26th October 2013

Saturday 26th October 2013


View the fill programme here (PDF)

Tickets for Horrorthon are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie


IFI Horrorthon: The Nightmares Continue


IFI Horrorthon 2013 (24 – 28 October)

The nightmares continue at the IFI as they celebrate all things horror with a fearsome Friday feast of films. Among the highlights are Éric Falardeau’s Thanatomorphose (pictured) that’s guaranteed to have you in bits and Chastity Bites, John V Knowles’ horror comedy that brings the infamous “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory up to date.

For fans of classic horror there’s F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent classic Nosferatu to look forward to plus a double bill of George A. Romero’s landmark Night of the Living Dead and his 1982 horror anthology film, Creepshow.

Sleep well…


Friday’s Knife Weilding Programme:


Friday 25th October 2013


Friday 25th October 2013


Friday 25th October 2013


Friday 25th October 2013


Friday 25th October 2013


Friday 25th October 2013


Friday 25th October 2013


Friday 25th October 2013


Friday 25th October 2013


View the fill programme here (PDF)

Tickets for Horrorthon are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie

Win tickets to Sunday’s screening of The Battery here


Spotlight: Midnight Man


When a young girl innocently and playfully attempts to summon the mythical Midnight Man, events backfire as she discovers he is instead a terrifying figure bent on tormenting her. Paul O’Sullivan watches Midnight Man alone in the dark and chats to Irish director Rob Kennedy about his horror debut feature, which screens as part of this years IFI Horrorthon.


“Why do you like to be scared?” In the opening scene of Rob Kennedy’s Midnight Man, Alex explains to her friend Lauren the pleasures of a good scare: “Your heart races; your hair stands on end; your palms get sweaty. Like a rollercoaster. Or a bungee jump: the chord is there to protect you while you taste the fear, and when you bounce back to safety you get this tingly rush of relief.” Alex is obviously talking about the pleasure of a good scary movie, and I find the metaphor apt, because ten minutes in and my legs are tied, the rope is fastened, and I feel confident that my guide is in control. I dive in.

The plot of Midnight Man, like any good horror film, remains simple throughout, and never interrupts the carefully crafted tension and suspense. Alex (played by Philippa Carson) is a college graduate who at the bequest of her mother must spend Halloween night taking care of her feeble granny (Dorothy Clements) who suffers from Alzheimer’s. However, Alex has a penchant for giving herself a scare, and when she discovers a mysterious old box in a hidden corner of the house, her excitement clouds her sense of caution and she unleashes something that is more than she bargained for.

The film is based on an urban legend – not unlike the Bogeyman – that involves a game whereby the participant must spend the hours after midnight alone in the dark, armed with nothing more than a candle and some salt. The object of the game is to avoid the Midnight Man – only after you yourself invite him into the house.

One of the pleasures of Midnight Man is that it provides one with the opportunity to re-embrace the childhood fears that have long since been replaced by the banal, real-world fears of adulthood. I was reminded of my very own childhood torment, an invention of my grandmother’s, the ominously named ‘funny man.’ This malevolent figure with a disturbing double entendre in his name, kept me from straying upstairs while I was in my granny’s care. But every once in a while curiosity got the better of me and I would climb a step or two only to cautiously retreat again before the funny man sensed my presence. In Midnight Man, Alex not only climbs the stairs, but does so backwards and with the lights out.  However, and to my glee, her grown-up confidence and boldness are soon shattered when all manners of hallucinatory horrors befall her.

This return to childhood fears corresponds with the film’s more prevalent theme: the fear of growing old. As director Rob Kennedy explains, “one of the reasons I always felt that the old crone or witch in fairy-tales and horror movies was so scary was because she was a reminder of the decay of old age – particularly from the point of view of a child – and we’re afraid we’re going to turn into that monster. I also thought The Midnight Game was, in many ways, a good metaphor for dementia or Alzheimer’s. It traps you in a fixed period of time where the people you love and trust the most become strangers and your mind conjures your deepest, darkest fears, and Alex actually says something along those lines in the film.”

The action of Midnight Man takes place in a single location. It’s a set-up that works well in the horror genre, and in this case it gave Kennedy the chance to add more body to the fear and isolation of the old age trappings. “I think the single location is a double bonus for horror films. On one hand, it’s just a lot easier from a low budget, restricted schedule perspective, and on the other hand, it works in the film’s favour because it traps the characters and, hopefully, the viewers. And the best horror films make you feel trapped.”

With influences such as William Castle, Wes Craven, and John Carpenter, Kennedy aligns himself with the old-school horror directors, and was vehement in his disapproval of CGI. “I don’t think I’m alone in saying I absolutely hate CGI in horror films  – unless it’s absolutely necessary for something fantastic and far removed from our everyday experience, like a spaceship. When I see CGI for a monster, or blood, or fire, or even weather EFX in movies it pulls me right out of the experience and I think, “Oh, CGI.” Obviously CGI has its uses, but for me, when watching horror films, the only CGI I want to see is CGI titles; preferably at the end.”

“I think Midnight Man is a true audience movie and I want fans to be able to sit back and enjoy an old school horror film that doesn’t lean on gore for scares and has some humour too.”

I asked the director if he had any more projects in the works. “I like to keep moving so I have written another feature since Midnight Man wrapped, and I’m in the fortunate position of trying to choose between moving forward on that or going back to a screenplay from 2011, which was a quarterfinalist in the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.”

“Also, I’m excited to announce we’re actually developing a US remake with Cassian [Elwes] and our American executive producers now.” But in the meantime, Rob will be heading out to Los Angeles to oversee the printing of Midnight Man in preparation for its premiere at IFI’s Hororthon on the 26th of October.


Midnight Man screens at the IFI on Saturday, 26th October 2013 at 23.00 as as part of IFI Horrorthon 2013 (24 – 28 October).





Let Me In

Well that was… nice. Something of a strange reaction to have at the end of a festival that delights in inflicting gross acts of inhumanity within and without the fourth wall, but such was the creature that was Horrorthon 2010. Was it a lucky 13th year for the festival that dripped blood? In retrospect, the answer would be in the affirmative.

Having shrugged off a case of mid-decade malaise, Horrorthon 2010 stuck to its formula of new releases + revival screenings + offbeat gems + b-movies = win. This year, festival organiser Ed King built on the success of last year’s varied bill, but you might be forgiven for thinking the genre as a whole was losing its lust for undeath. For the first time it seemed as if ghosts, vampires, ghouls and other familiar creatures of the night making only the most cursory of appearances. For the second year running you might be forgiven for thinking that Asian horror was a passing fad as France continues its domination of nihilistic extreme cinema.

Also conspicuous by their absence were revival screenings celebrating the likes of Tobe Hooper, George A. Romero, John Carpenter (whose new movie The Ward was hotly tipped to be the surprise film) and Wes Craven – although Dario Argento’s Phenomena, Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space and Tim Burton’s biopic of same covered that territory nicely. Then again there may have been external factors at play, with the Screen putting together its own, somewhat more predictable, programme running concurrently. Oh and the IFI were good enough to let people in with their drinks through the miracle of plastic cups.

So what of this year’s movies themselves? Maybe it’s the desensitisation writing but there wasn’t an awful lot you could actually consider scary. Such are the tropes of the horror genre that it’s the way they are played with, rather than originated, that is the hallmark of the picaresque. Bearing this in mind, it could be said there was very little one could consider very ‘new’ and hence genuinely ’scary’. If one film was conspicuous for its absence, perhaps for reasons not unrelated, was Srdjan Spasojevic’s A Serbian Film – perhaps the only title this year guaranteed to shock, enrage and push IFCO to draw a further line in the sand following its decision to uphold the ban on the original I Spit on Your Grave.

Of the opening double-bill on the Thursday night, Paranormal Activity 2 proved ample, but it was French zombie flick The Pack that proved a more interesting, if hardly shocking, alternative. Featuring a cast of regulars including Emilie Dequenne (Brotherhood of the Wolf), Philippe Nahon (Seul Contre Tout) and Benjamin Biolay (more known for his Hollywood soundtrack work than his acting) – this pseudo-gothic Western has undead miners, deviant bikers and a one-horse town setting that thinks it’s more Deep South than Loire Valley. For the latter element alone it’s worth a look.

While the Friday delivered sureshot revivals of Carrie and Night of the Hunter, an unlikely highlight was Nico Mastorakis’ infamous Island of Death. A victim of the video nasty scare, that the action elicited more chuckles than screams says a lot about how effects work and social mores have moved on. Working to some kind of gameplan to cleanse the Mikanos of perverts, English crazies Christopher and Celia go on a kind of serial killer busman’s holiday, making the most of local hospitality (and livestock) before tearing into a local cast of seedy painters, unashamedly camp shop keepers, hippies and a policeman sent to track them down. The mini-twist at the end falls just on the right side of ridiculous to engender it with some amount of charm amidst the grisly shenanigans.

On hand for a brief post-screening Q&A, Mastorakis described his writing process: trying to come up with the worst kind of violence and sexual perversion, then making a script out of them in a weekend. An unashamed piece of schlock made for money over any interest in genre, Mastorakis struggled to explain to the audience that he saw no redeeming worth in the movie and was influenced by Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre only as a benchmark for how far he could go. There were a few serious questions but they fell flat with Mastorakis, clearly taken aback by how seriously some elements in the audience took his film. One audience member asked which character he should be identifying with. On such moments are great anecdotes made.
Aside a short film competition, there were few features of Irish interest this year. The ever-enigmatic October Eleven Productions’ Blood got a late screening on Sunday night, but it was a UK/Ireland co-production that attracted an almost full house on Saturday.

Made for a paltry €300,000, Spiderhole was the first feature shot in Ireland to use the RED camera (beating Savage by a full three months). As torture porn goes it’s not a terrible film, either. Shot between London and South Kerry, the production values are good and the plot zips along. The kills (or rather the order they happen in) may be telegraphed, and their manner a little contrived, but it’s an efficient little number.

The primetime 9pm Saturday night slot was reserved for the ‘brutal in a good way’ remake of I Spit on your Grave – widely regarded as being an effective remake with extra gloss. The more adventurous did well, however, to give German survival horror Siege of the Dead (aka Rambock) a go. Without giving too much away, it’s about how to handle the end of a relationship and the end of the world at the same time.
Sunday’s main talking points were surprise movie, Let Me In (in a good way) and the Giallo homage Amer (in a really, really bad way) – the latter scoring a record number of walkouts.

The Monday represented probably the strongest day of the event, yielding four must-see movies in the shape of documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Video Nasties, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Red Hill and grand finale, Monsters.

One of the better documentaries about that period in the 1980s when video libraries were controlled by wide boy traders, Video Nasties… examined the culture of the time and the hysterical reaction of evangelical groups in their attempts to control the kinds of material on the market based on their own personal tastes and mores. Director Jake West balances interviews with academics, filmmakers and the political players to paint a portrait of a time when an unregulated market led reactionary moralists and print media on a crusade against material they found distasteful, and therefore evil. West’s achievement is to nail down exactly what made the nasties so compelling, but best of all, he gets interviews with the establishment players responsible for passing legislation banning the ‘nasties’. What’s most interesting is the degree to which those involved consider their stance to have been vindicated over the course of time. As an objective examination of a revolutionary time in the history of home entertainment it makes for fascinating viewing. One wonders if we’ll be seeing similar material about the spectre of piracy apparently threatening to eradicate the entertainment industry as a whole.

Back to narrative cinema and Australian revenge thriller Red Hill merged the traditional High Noon-esque idea of the killer coming to town, with the relentless brutality of Dead Man’s Shoes. Ryan Kwanten plays the part of a new cop in a small town with a secret. It’s hardly new but a series of set pieces and a villain who’s a lot more complicated than initially given credit for give the film more than passable.

The final film of the weekend was, arguably, it’s strongest. Not due to hit Irish cinema until December, Monsters is a genre film unlikely any other of recent years. Taking its cue from District 9, Monsters is another take on intolerance, where aliens are ghetto-ised and ‘civilised’ society shuts up shop lest it get tainted by forces beyond its control. Where D9 went for documentary realism, however, Monsters takes its cue from National Geographic, with some truly stunning photography of its Mexican settings. Genre fans will likely be blindsided by the narrative arc, whose walking and talking approach owes more to indie romances like Before Sunrise than Independence Day. The characters may have been slightly stock and the ending a little too neat, but it’s definitely a film to put a smile on your face on a rainy evening.

So what can we learn from Horrorthon 2010 about the state of the genre? Horror may not have completely shrugged off the burden of stolid torture porn, but there are signs that the mainstream is getting back into story – or at least set pieces that move story forward instead of coming up with new and exciting ways to perform surgery on conscious patients – by the way, there are none.

It’s also worth noting the films that scored highest in the jumps-per-minute ratio were the token Hollywood entries in Paranormal Activity 2, I Spit on Your Grave and Let Me In – a sequel and two remakes respectively. That all three were well received gives lie to this writer’s criticism that remakes reflected nothing more than a narrative dead end, doing the genre a disservice in the long run. It’s good to see that Hollywood can still manufacture a good set piece when it has to. What with the Saw franchise coming to an end in ignominious 3D, the mainstream will need a cadre of new monsters to populate the multiplexes, and hopefully some new ideas to go with them. Fingers, toes and tentacles crossed.


IFI Horrorthon

The IFI Horrorthon is upon us once more…

The Horrorthon (21–25 October) is upon us once again as the IFI prepares to host its annual four-day festival glorifying all things that go bump in the night. Among its highlights this year is the opening film Paranormal 2, the much-anticipated sequel to last year’s reality-style take on the haunted house genre.

Friday provides a frightening mix of high-school teens, psychotic preachers, sick butchers and disco-dancing maniacs – and that’s just the Horrorthon audience…Saturday continues the screams with a batch of brutal films

This year’s surprise film is on Sunday at 7.15pm. Of course if we revealed what that film is we’d have to kill, kill, kill you! And Bank Holiday Monday brings the terror to a close with a selection of shocking shorts, diabolical documentaries, killer klowns and gruesome gremlins.

There’s a strong Irish content this year. In the short film showcase 4 Irish shorts
In the Night,In The Dark, At Night, Fallback and Wheels Of Death compete for shrieks alongside Gerard Lough’s 30-minute adaptation of the Stephen King short story The Boogeyman.

Meanwhile, the debut feature by writer-director Bernadette Manton, screens on Saturday night at 11.30pm and promises to unveil some dark secrets and put the sin back in sinister.

Children of the night – the IFI awaits…

Please click here for gorier information.

Film Ireland will bring you an exclusive blood-stained report from the IFI Horrorthon 2010.