Dale Kearney takes a look at indie horror Am Fear Liath / The Grey Man.

There’s something about the Irish forest that makes it perfect setting for a horror; vast and seemingly never-ending. Considering it’s a possble dwelling place for Cocaine Bear, and now, Am Fear Liath, I know I’d rather take my chances with an aloof Sasquatch. Pauric Brennan directs this Irish creature feature, Am Fear Liath, or The Grey Man for anyone like myself who struggled with Irish in school. Yet unlike Netflix’s high-octane 2022 movie of the same name, Brennan takes the opposite approach with this film, one that is far more reserved.

Fred (Mark Agar) and Paddy (Gary Swayne) are two wannabe scam artists. Taking naive punters on staged tours around the forest to fool them into thinking that Sasquatch could be around the next tree. However, they struggle with their business, and are now under threat by a debt collector. The pair – through the help of their last two customers – embark on a journey into the woods to find the real Sasquatch in a last ditch effort to preserve their livelihoods.

The action opens with Rheinhold (Andy Yule), a cryptozoology expert, as he walks around the forest – a solid expositional introduction into the world Brennan has created. Composer Phil McClean constructs an atmospheric score through the use of a sliding technique on his guitar. Meanwhile, the camerawork by Shea Kelly peers around trees and branches; almost as if Rheinhold is being watched by something… or someone. In fact, two of the strongest atmospheric scenes in the whole film involve Rheinhold, this opening moment, and a later intense hunting set piece with a ghillie suit. Throughout the whole film,  the score plays consistently in the background but over time, the music loses its punch.

There are two standouts within the cast, the aforementioned characters of Rheinhold and Paddy. The former is embodied with a true sense of roundedness to him, Yule convincingly plays a relentless hunter who will stop at nothing to get his catch. While the later is embodied with great comedic timing, Swayne delivers the lethargic energy of a guy who’s just come home from work, arousing a decent amount of chuckle-inducing moments with his performance. His common, everyman approach to the situation elevates the material.

Saying this, the first half of this film feels more like a comedy than a horror; not quite capturing the sense that there’s a threat.  The film maintains a meandering pace as the group walks around the woods  and picks up speed in the last half hour, delivering on the hunting of Sasquatch – a character that has been purposefully absent from being shown throughout the whole film. The practical effect are done extremely well; the blood, guts, and vomit – the staples of all good creature features – are viscerally realistic. When Sasquatch finally appears, we’re greeted with a stunning shot being backlit personally from the sun, giving off a heavenly aura. Not long after this, the film wraps up quite abruptly. While the filmmaking elements demonstrates a good understanding of the craft, the ending leaves a sour taste in the mouth, like we’ve just fallen for one of Fred’s scams.

Am Fear Liath / The Grey Man has just won Best Feature Film at the Hollywood Blood Horror Festival.


Gemma Creagh is a writer, filmmaker and journalist. In 2014 she graduated with a First from NUIG’s MA Writing programme. Gemma’s play Spoiling Sunset was staged in Galway as part of the Jerome Hynes One Act Play series in 2014. Gemma was one of eight playwrights selected for AboutFACE’s 2021 Transatlantic Tales and is presently developing a play with the Axis Theatre and with the support of the Arts Council. She has been commissioned to submit a play by Voyeur Theatre to potentially be performed in Summer 2023 as part of the local arts festival. Gemma was the writer and co-producer of the five-part comedy Rental Boys for RTÉ’s Storyland. She has gone on to write, direct and produce shorts which screened at festivals around the world. She was commissioned to direct the short film, After You, by Filmbase and TBCT. Gemma has penned articles for magazines, industry websites and national newspapers, she’s the assistant editor for Film Ireland and she contributes reviews to RTE Radio One’s Arena on occasion.

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