With the release of The Hallow in cinemas, we take a look at 6 horror films shot in Ireland.
Ireland has been exporting tales of horror and gothic supernatural for more than a century. Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, was published in 1897, and has been a staple of the horror genre since. Ireland’s pagan history and love of telling ghost stories makes it an intriguing location for any filmmaker; throw in an abundance of deserted castles and lots of isolated forests and you’ve got the perfect setting for horror! It’s no wonder that so many great horror movies have been shot in Ireland. Inspired by the release of The Hallow, in cinemas from Friday 13th November, here are just a few of the most iconic ones…
The Hallow (2015)
This November 13th, The Hallow, opens in cinemas across Ireland. The Hallow tells the story of a London-based conservationist sent to Ireland with his wife and infant child to survey an area of forest believed to be hallowed ground by superstitious locals, his actions unwittingly disturb a horde of demonic creatures who prey upon the lost. Alone and deep within the darkness of the remote wilderness, he must now fight back to protect his family against the ancient forces’ relentless attacks. Starring Joseph Mawle (The Awakening, Game of Thrones) and Bojana Novakovic (Devil, Burning Man), The Hallow marks acclaimed visual stylist Corin Hardy’s feature directorial debut.
Dementia 13 (1963)
One of Francis Ford Coppola’s lesser-known works, this thriller tells the story of a woman named Louise whose Irish-American husband dies. Louise wants in on her wealthy Irish mother-in-law’s will, so comes up with a scheme to get the cash. Her plan involves travelling to Ireland to visit her late husband’s family castle. Her scheming ways are interrupted, however, when a maniac begins murdering members of the family. Fresh out of film school, Coppola spent nine days at Ardmore studios shooting this drama that was loosely inspired by the work of Alfred Hitchcock. Howth Castle depicted the fictitious “Castle Haloran” in the film.
Paddy Breathneach’s Shrooms follows a group of American thrill-seeking students who arrive in Ireland, having been promised the ‘trip’ of a lifetime by their old college friend and mushroom expert, Jake. Despite Jake’s warnings about the mushrooms they shouldn’t eat, things start to go horribly wrong as the group begins suffering horrific visions. They realise something in the woods is after them, and the lines between fantasy and reality become increasingly blurred. The film was shot over a period of seven weeks – largely in Rossmore Park in Co. Monaghan.
The Eclipse (2010)
Directed by Conor MacPherson, this beautifully shot supernatural drama was filmed in Cobh Co. Cork. Set in a seaside Irish town, the film tells the story of depressed widower Michael (Ciaran Hinds), who begins to experience strange and supernatural occurrences connected to his elderly father-in-law, who is close to death in a local nursing home. As he falls for visiting horror novelist, Lena, Michael’s supernatural visions grow more vivid and disturbing.
In this comedy-horror, a small island off the west coast is invaded by bloodsucking aliens. It should be a cause for concern but the quick-witted inhabitants soon discover that getting drunk is the only way to survive. Not one for those with a weak stomach but hilarious nonetheless. The movie, starring Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley, was filmed on the peninsula of Inishowen in Donegal
Byzantium is an Irish horror fantasy film directed by Neil Jordan and starring Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan and Jonny Lee Miller. The story follows a mother and daughter vampire duo who move into a rundown hotel while hiding out from other vampires. The local residents soon learn, with deathly consequences, the secret shared by the two mysterious women. The film was shot in various locations including Bray and the Beara peninsula in West Cork as well as the coastal town of Hastings in the UK.
DIR: Corin Hardy • WRI: Corin Hardy, Felipe Marino • PRO: Danny Boyle, Guymon Casady, Christian Colson, Mark Gordon, Lauren Lohman, Scott Rudin • ED: Nick Emerson • DOP: Martijn van Broekhuizen • DES: Alex Cameron, Mags Linnane • MUS: James Gosling • CAST: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton
Me folking nerves! The woods are lovely, dark and deep in Corin Hardy’s multi sub-genre horror The Hallow. The film tries to be so many things and even though it doesn’t transcend the genre on a universal level, it highlights the sheer excitement and vibrancy of a director about to transcend from the independents unto the big leagues. Hardy shows an uncensored and unabashed love for the horror genre and it shows in his work. The Hallow begins as a traditional British folk-horror that relies on atmosphere – rising mist, full moons, thunder and strange neighbours, evolves into a monster movie in the second act, and by the time we reach the third it has become somewhat of a hippy horror, an allegory for environmental issues.
Our protagonists are tree doctor, Adam, and his wife Claire, who, with their infant son Finn, have migrated from the streets of London to the mosses of rural Ireland. The big lumber corporations are back at it again and have their minds set on tearing down these Irish evergreen woods. Adam and his family have been located to the outskirts of the woods so he can survey the forest. Naturally, like there always is in these types of movies, there’s a unwelcoming tension between the young new family and the dreary locals, who warn Adam and Claire about the hallowed grounds and to steer clear. Right on cue, these sophisticated, pot-smoking, city shhlickers laugh off these dreaded warnings as backwards thinking.
Something a wry comes along their way when Adam finds a gruesome corpse of a deer in the forest. A treacle, tar-black goo oozes from the animal’s rotting carcass, which Adam snatches and takes back to the house to examine. He discovers the goo is ophiocordyceps unilateralis, also known as ‘zombie fungus’, which infects the brains of ants, controls them, morphing them abnormally before death. In other words, one helluva Friday night. So Hardy lays down the science for the audience, foreshadowing Jack Torrance behavior, while simultaneously conveying for us, through the town’s people’s superstitions, a sense of supernatural horror that haunts the woods.
We don’t know whether to turn to the science or the mythical folklore. Luckily, we don’t have to choose, because Hardy, so hopped up on excitement, blends the two together, raising the stakes and conflict for the family. We are introduced to the monster so soon and as soon as we do The Hallow departs the slow rising tension of folk horror and goes head first into a relentless siege from the second act on. Along the way, those bastard forest creatures have shot Adam in the eye with the “zombie fungus”. Shit! The energy of terror doesn’t run out of steam as Adam and Claire try everything in their power to defend themselves and protect baby Finn.
A mother’s primal instinct comes into play in the best sequence of the film, when Adam goes to fix the generator and Claire is left in the attic with Finn. A creature’s pointy hand smashes through the attic door and Claire puts all her strength into holding back the beast. The suspense rises as the sharp slimy finger gets closer and closer to Claire’s eyeball as the camera gets closer and closer, giving us an extreme close-up before the attic lights up to save the day. (nice homage to Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2). As Adam’s infection gets worse throughout the gruelling siege, our alliance turns to Claire, who must fight the monster on the outside and the inside in order to protect Finn.
The Hallow is full to the brim with sub-genre tropes and cult horror throwbacks, so much so that it’s a miracle that it actually works. Hardy might be indulgent in his fanboyism, but he has the technical and visual skill to back it up. He also backed himself up with a great team – co-screenwriter Felipe Marino, John Nolan on animatronics and strong performances by Joseph Mawle and Bojana Novakovik. But it’s Martijn Van Broekhuizen’s rich cinematography that helps make the woods a character, balancing foreboding with natural beauty. The picture of nature is so clear you can almost smell the grass, crack the bark and feel the dew.
It’s an impressive debut feature and will be interesting to see Corin Hardy’s elevation from the indie to the mainstream. The closing shot begs for a sequel, where nature reaps havoc on mankind in the an urban environment. (Suggested title: Night of the Living Christmas Trees). But before Hardy steals my title, he’ll be directing Relativity Media’s remake of The Crow, transcending to franchise territory. Let’s hope he makes sure the actors use blanks this time round. With the right people behind him, Hardy’s career in the horror could be an evergreen.
Cormac O’Meara talks to director Corin Hardy about his horror feature The Hallow, which opens in cinemas this weekend. A family move into a remote millhouse in Ireland and find themselves in a fight for survival with demonic creatures living in the woods.
Your film is very multi-layered with a mix of sub-genre tropes. One minute it’s folklore that transcends into a monster movie and then body horror. I was wondering, while you were making it, were you ever worried that you were trying to do too much?
It certainly wasn’t my intention to do too much! I wasn’t trying to cover all those sub-genres so much as keep the story evolving and keep people on their toes. When you do a movie like this, without giving too much away, when it gets to the point when the humans encounter the creatures you can’t just stop there and just have them battle it out. It would have been quite repetitive. So I wanted to take the story forward in ways that were driven by ideas in folklore and mythology and blend them into reality. That sort of dictated how the story progressed.
You are from Sussex in England yourself – what attracted you to Irish folklore?
I grew up reading fairytales and looking at picture books. When I had this idea of doing a fairytale grounded in in reality I researched folklore from all around the world to begin with. But I gravitated towards Ireland as a potent hub for mythology. Also it was close to me in the UK. I think it worked for this idea of a couple from London needing to travel somewhere in order to feel like they were foreigners to some extent, so I didn’t want to go up to Scotland or go down to Cornwall, which are theother two main areas where this type of mythology exists.
For me, there is an environmentalist subtext in the film – the fact that they are evil creatures is a kind of metaphor for nature’s revenge upon society.
I didn’t want to make a movie with a message rammed in your face, but yes that’s true. If you look right back to the origin of fairy myth it seems to come down to a race that existed in Ireland and was driven away. I like this idea that the creatures were driven into the forests and became kind of nature itself and that this is some sort of reaction to what man did. It ties in, in a contemporary way, with what we have done to our planet. What our human decisions have resulted in.
The film conveys a great sense of atmosphere captured by Martijn Van Broekhuizen’scinematography.
He is a fantastic Dutch DoP that I’d heard great stuff about from everyone who had worked with him. I felt his Dutch movies, in particular, were very painterly and the incredible way he works with light. It was important for me to create the most beautiful atmospheric horror movie we could, so we worked closely together trying to create something fairytale-like but real, something cinematic, ultimately, that had a rich and colourful quality to it.
It was great to see practical effects being used for the creatures without an over reliance on CGI. Do you think that is becoming a problem in cinema, and not just horror and cinema as a whole.
I certainly think you can have too much CGI and you don’t feel anything necessarily. You can have incredible action sequences and incredible effects but they don’t connect to your soul because you can’t feel that they are real. I like to mix techniques. It’s not a case of everything practical. We try to do as much in camera as we could with make-up effects, animatronics, puppetry and real locations but there is a number of visual effects and CGI. I think the best way of executing this kind of illusion is to mix techniques together. It’s not a case of doing it all practically or all CGI, it’s a mixture.
Am I right in saying that originally you wanted to shoot on film but because of the budget it just wasn’t an option.
When you have a budget – and I think no matter what the budget is it’s probably never enough – you have to do the breakdowns, scheduling, timing, etc., It’s not really a case of it’s just too expensive to shoot on film. It’s more that when you look at the whole budget and you break it down into all these areas, particularly if I needed to make sure that we could pull of these effects – we had to make sure that we had enough to do the practical and visual effects. When it came down to it, I really wanted to shoot on film. I’m a massive devotee and fan of celluloid but it was a matter of you can shoot on film but then you’ll have to lose five days shooting. Well I needed those five days! You have to weigh it up.
The Hallow opens in cinemas Friday, 13th November 2015
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.
Set in the early 1950s, Brooklyn is the story of a young woman, Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) who moves from small town Ireland to Brooklyn, NY where, unlike home, she has the opportunity for work and for a future – and love, in the shape of Italian-American Tony (Emory Cohen). When a family tragedy brings her back to Ireland, she finds herself absorbed into her old community, but now with eligible Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) courting her. As she repeatedly postpones her return to America, Eilis finds herself confronting a terrible dilemma – a heart-breaking choice between two men and two countries.
Brooklyn is adapted from Colm Tóibín’s New York Times Bestseller by Nick Hornby and directed by John Crowley.
When 12-year-old Mickey Miller moves with her family from New York to Ireland, she soon discovers a mysterious link between herself and the 300-year-old legend of the mysterious Black Knight, who regularly haunts the sleepy Irish village of Longwood. With her new best friend in tow, Mickey sets out to redeem the knight while saving a precious herd of white horses and thwarting the evil plans of a greedy, ambitious woman – a mighty handful even for the bravest girl.
Conor Horgan’s documentary follows Rory O’Neill’s journey from the small Mayo town of Ballinrobe to striding the world stage. The film takes us behind the scenes with his alter ego Panti in the year she became the symbol of Ireland’s march towards marriage equality.
A struggling movie producer in search of an investor reluctantly follows the promise of money into Dublin’s drug underworld where she witnesses a botched murder attempt.
The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos)
The Lobsteris a love story set in the near future where single people, according to the rules of The City, are arrested and transferred to The Hotel. There they are obliged to find a matching mate in 45 days. If they fail, they are transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into The Woods. A desperate Man escapes from The Hotel to The Woods where The Loners live and falls in love, although it is against their rules.
Talking to my Father features two voices from two eras each concerned with how we as a nation understand the architecture that surrounds our lives. Modern architecture in Ireland reached a high point in the early sixties and one of its most celebrated and influential figures was Robin Walker.
Based on the bestselling novel “Ghosthunters and the Incredibly Revolting Ghost” by Cornelia Funke, Ghosthunters – On Icy Trails, which features Amy Huberman, follows a young boy Tom who discovers an ASG, an Averagely Spooky Ghost called Hugo in his cellar. He soon realizes that Hugo is not only completely harmless, but also desperately needs his help. Hugo cannot go back to his haunted house, because a dangerous AIG, an Ancient Ice Ghost, has moved in and is spreading an arctic cold over the entire town in the middle of summer. Tom and Hugo go to professional ghost-hunter Hetty Cuminseed, who doesn’t like children or ghosts very much, and who just lost her job at the CGI, the Central Ghosthunting Institute. Hetty teaches Tom and Hugo the basics of ghost-hunting and the three become an unusual team: only with friendship, courage and self-confidence can they overcome their adversary and save the town from the AIG.
Older Than Ireland features thirty men and women aged 100 years and over. Often funny and at times poignant, the film explores each centenarian’s journey, from their birth at the dawn of Irish independence to their life as a centenarian in modern day Ireland. Older Than Ireland ‘s observational style offers a rare insight into the personal lives of these remarkable individuals.
In the cut-throat London film industry a vivacious actress chasing her big break struggles to maintain her integrity in the face of the director’s advances
The GreatWall( Tadhg O’Sullivan)
This bold new documentary, an adaptation of a Kafka story, looks at the enclosure of Europe by a complex system of walls and fences. Mysterious and visually dazzling, the film journeys across a range of European landscapes, and encounters those whose lives are defined by these walls – detainees within European migrant camps. [IFI Programme Notes]
Tells the incredible story of Aidan MacCarthy, a young doctor from West Cork who survived some of the most harrowing episodes of World War II (including the atomic bombing of Nagasaki) and his family’s search to uncover the origin of the Japanese Samurai sword, which now resides in MacCarthy’s Bar in Castletownbere.
You’re Ugly Too (Mark Noonan)
Will (Aidan Gillen) is released from prison on compassionate leave to care for his niece Stacey after the death of her mother. As they both head into the sleepy Irish midlands and attempt to be a family, they suffer a series of setbacks; Stacey is refused admission to the local school because of her recently developed narcolepsy; Will repeatedly comes close to breaking his prison-ordered curfew; and his attempts at being a father figure to her prove disastrous…As their future hangs in the balance they must search for a new way forward together.
Tomm Moore’s Oscar-nominated animated feature tells the story of the last Seal Child’s journey home. After their mother’s disappearance, Ben and Saoirse are sent to live with Granny in the city. When they resolve to return to their home by the sea, their journey becomes a race against time as they are drawn into a world Ben knows only from his mother’s folktales. But this is no bedtime story; these fairy folk have been in our world far too long. It soon becomes clear to Ben that Saoirse is the key to their survival.
Rachel, a rookie cop, is about to begin her first nightshift in a neglected police station in a Scottish, backwater town. The kind of place where the tide has gone out and stranded a motley bunch of the aimless, the forgotten, the bitter-and-twisted who all think that, really, they deserve to be somewhere else. They all think they’re there by accident and that, with a little luck, life is going to get better. Wrong, on both counts. Six is about to arrive – and All Hell Will Break Loose!
The sequel to Boorman’s 1987 Academy Award®-nominated picture, Queen and Country takes place in 1952. Bill Rohan is eighteen years old, dreaming his life away at the family’s riverside home, waiting to be called up for two years’ conscription in the British Army. His idyll is shattered by the harsh realities of boot camp. He meets Percy, an amoral prankster; they are rivals and antagonists, but they gradually forge a deep friendship in the claustrophobic environment of a closed, prison-like training camp. The pressure is briefly relieved by excursions into the outside world, where they both fall in love. Finally, Bill is confronted with the shattered lives of wounded boys returning from Korea.
Fortune’s Wheel is a documentary feature film about Bill Stephens, an ordinary young man in 1950s Ireland with an extraordinary ambition: to become an international circus star. It is also a love story about Bill and his young and beautiful wife May, from East Wall. Their double act, Jungle Capers, Bill Stephens and Lovely Partner, was a series of death-defying feats with a troupe of lions and dogs designed to thrill audiences in the circus tent and on the stage. With this act they hoped to break free from the suffocating reality of Irish life, but things went terribly wrong when, in November 1951, one of their animals escaped.
The story gained national and international attention at the time, but it is only now – after 60 years of silence – that two families and a community have come together to tell the story in full.
Set in rural Ireland, The Canal stars Rupert Evans as David, a film archivist with a morbid fascination for old films in which the subjects have since died. Right after learning that his wife may be cheating on him, she mysteriously disappears at the same time that his assistant Claire finds an old reel of film that points to a murder that took place in his house a hundred years ago. David starts to suspect her disappearance may involve some form of the supernatural but he also quickly becomes the prime suspect.
A slacker comedy which chronicles a hectic 24 hours in the life of would-be comedian Coilin (Killian Scott) and frustrated musician Alex (Peter Coonan). When Alex’s girlfriend tells him she’s pregnant, he refuses to allow her to derail his long-held plan to escape to London. Meanwhile the hapless Coilin is striking out on stage and off, as he attempts to get his faltering comedy career off the ground and win the heart of his dream girl. With time ticking down to Alex’s departure, the mismatched pair will be forced to confront the reality of their childhood dreams of artistic greatness while their lifelong friendship is tested to the limit.
It’s the end of the world. A flood is coming. Luckily for Finny and his dad Dave, a couple of clumsy Nestrians, an Ark has been built and all animals are welcome… well almost all. Unfortunately for them, Nestrians are not on the list! But Dave has a plan, and Finny and he manage to sneak onto the Ark disguised as Grymps – much to the horror of real Grymps, Hazel and her daughter Leah.
However their troubles are just beginning as the two curious youngsters end up falling over board. Now Finny and Leah have to brave the elements in their quest to find higher ground while fighting off hungry predators and making unlikely friends. Meanwhile on board the Ark the parents must set aside their differences and hatch a plan to turn the boat around and make it back in time to rescue their kids.
In in a desperate bid to save his mother from addiction and unite his broken family, a young taxi driver on the fringes of the criminal underworld is forced to take a job which will see him pushed further into its underbelly. But will John be prepared to act when the time comes knowing that whatever he decides to do, his and his family’s lives will be changed forever.
I Used To Live Here follows Amy Keane, a 13-year-old trying to cope with the death of her mother and the reappearance of her father’s ex-girlfriend, who experiences the temptation of suicide after witnessing the outpouring of love for a local suicide victim. The film takes a fictional look at how the idea of suicide can spread in communities, particularly among young people.
A documentary that focuses on Irish humanitarian and children’s rights activist Christina Noble, whose unwavering commitment and selfless efforts have seen her change the lives of countless children and families for the better since 1989. Her drive stems from a childhood in Ireland fraught with poverty, loss and institutional abuse. However, despite achieving so much in the face of adversity and the success of her global children’s foundation, Christina remains scarred by the memory of the three children she was unable to save, namely her own brother and two sisters, from whom she was separated at a very young age. Hundreds of thousands have benefitted as a result of her courage, daring and steadfast dedication to protecting the vulnerable from the evils of the world, but is it possible for Christina to put her own family back together after being separated for fifty-three years?
Patrick’s Day (Terry McMahon)
A young man with mental health issues becomes intimate with a suicidal air hostess, but his obsessive mother enlists a dysfunctional cop to separate them.
Apples of the Golan (Keith Walsh & Jill Beardsworth)
The epic story of one village in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights. Before the Six Day War, Majdal Shams was one of 139 villages in the Golan Heights region. Only five remain. Over 130,000 Syrian Arabs were forced from their homes never to return. Amongst those who remain a stoic pragmatism prevails, Israel their home, Syria their homeland. Neither is paradise. They are too few to fight. The apples are the people’s bombs.