Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Ireland might not be a country traditionally associated with horror movies, but did you know that Halloween has Irish roots? The holiday was created by the Celts as the day of All Souls that ghosts walked and the undead spoke. The 2,000-year-old ancient Celtic festival is called Samhain and it was believed that on October 31, the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred, and ghosts walked the earth. During Samhain, the Celts wore costumes, usually consisting of animal heads and skins, and told each other’s fortunes. Since there’s strong links to the darker side of life, we’re going to take a look at some of the scary movies Ireland has to offer.
Ireland has been exporting tales of horror and gothic supernatural for over a hundred years. Irish writer Bram Stoker’s Dracula, was published in 1897, and has been a staple of the horror genre since. It’s therefore fitting that 1994’s Interview with the Vampire was directed by Irish director Neil Jordan. Adapted from Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles” novel, the movie features Brad Pitt as Louis, a 200-year-old vampire who tells his epic story to a journalist. Jordan also directed the more recent Byzantium, which premiered at the Irish Film Institute.
The film is a gothic thriller adapted from Moira Buffini’s play A Vampire Story, starring Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton and Jonny Lee Miller. Arterton and Ronan play mother and daughter living in a crumbling seaside resort with a carefully guarded but deadly secret. Clara (Arterton) meets lonely Noel, who provides shelter in his deserted guesthouse, Byzantium. Schoolgirl Eleanor (Ronan) befriends Frank and tells him their lethal secret. They were born 200 years ago and survive on human blood. As knowledge of their secret spreads, their past catches up on them with deathly consequences.
Dementia 13 is considered to be one of the great Francis Ford Coppola’s lesser-known works. Fresh out of film school, Coppola spent nine days at the Ardmore studios in Ireland shooting a drama that was loosely inspired by there work of Alfred Hitchcock. The film focused on a eccentric family living in an old castle. On a romantic boat trip, a husband and wife argue resulting in the husband being thrown overboard. Suspicions about his death arise, but his wife Louise takes care of prying relatives and the police by slaughtering them with an axe.
One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the way it was promoted. In the vein of William Castle, a short intro was filmed in which a psychiatrist gave the audience a test to determine if they were mentally stable enough to handle the film. A ‘D-13- handout was then given to theatre patrons that was devised by a “medical expert” to weed out psychologically unfit people from viewing the film. The test consisted of such questions as “The most effective way of settling a dispute is with one quick stroke of an axe to your adversary’s head?” and “Have you ever been hospitalized in a locked mental ward, sanitarium, rest home or other facility for the treatment of mental illness?”, with Yes or No as the only possible answers.
Conor McMahon is carving out a name for himself as one of Ireland’s leading horror directors. His first film in this genre was Dead Meat; the story of a BSE-infected cow who escapes slaughter, and runs around Leitrim biting people and turning them into flesh-eating zombies. According to the “making of…” featurette included in the U. S. DVD release, the film was greenlighted under a new funding scheme from the Irish Film Board called “Microbudget Films”, targeted at frugal independent filmmakers. Dead Meat was the first microbudget film to receive a release. To cut costs, the crew used many donated sets, filmmakers’ personal vehicles and recruited volunteer extras at the local pub.
McMahonalso directed creepy slasher Stitches starring comedian Ross Noble, a film which was described as being a cross between Nightmare On Elm Street and The Inbetweeners.
Of course, we can’t have St. Patrick’s Day without mentioning Leprechaun.
The 1993 film, which starred a young Jennifer Aniston, is admittedly ridiculous, but it changed the way we look at the mythical creatures forever. Dan O’Grady steals a leprechaun’s pot of gold from Ireland and transports it to America. Little did O’Grady know the angry leprechaun would follow him back. Fast forward to 10 years later, when J.D. and his spoiled daughter Tory (Aniston) move into the house. The leprechaun is accidentally released, and wreaks havoc on the town, killing anyone who goes near his gold.
Quality Irish horror film? Definitely not. But it is a good Irish gore fest to watch for a laugh.
You might also want to add some of the horror movies below to your St. Patrick’s Day viewing schedule.
Boy Eats Girl
The Moth Diaries