From Dracula to Drugs: Horror in Irish Cinema.

In my quest to delve into the world of Irish horror (and doing everything in my power to avoid leprechauns) I found myself at a bit of a loss. Irish literature and theatre are full of myth, creepy ghost stories and legends: think Bram Stoker’s Dracula and The Weir by Conor MacPherson. But somehow, Irish horror cinema has never risen to fame. I examined horror films set in Ireland, made in Ireland and written/directed by Irish filmmakers to bring you some of the best, and indeed the worst, Irish horror films.

The Butcher Boy (1997)
The Butcher Boy is based on the novel by Patrick McCabe, and delves into the twisted mind of 12-year-old Francie Brady as he descends into madness. Director Neil Jordan, who specialises in Irish drama films but dipped into horror with Interview With The Vampire (1994), creates a bizarre black comedy that is more psychological than horrific. But throw in an alcoholic, violent father, a paedophile priest who makes Francie dress up in a bonnet and a climax that involves the butchering of an irritating neighbor and you’ve got yourself a truly Irish horror gem. Oh yeah, and Sinead O’Connor makes an appearance as the Virgin Mary. Blasphemy? Or just brilliance?

Forgive me Father?
The Butcher Boy/ Sinead O'Connor

Rawhead Rex (1986)
A Pagan god who unleashes his fury on a small Irish Catholic village could have been a recipe for a genuinely creepy horror flick. Instead, Rawhead Rex (don’t you just love those rustic Pagan names?) resembles the bulbous aliens from The Fifth Element, only with more shiny plastic and a fuzzy afro. Well, it was the eighties. When an American writer brings his family to the village in search of material for a new book, he ends up in the middle of the ‘Pagan’ god’s rampage. This film is bloody hilarious. There are stereotypical Oirish wisecracks, priests gone mad, cranky auld biddies and then there’s Rawhead Rex himself: the most ridiculous use of plastic that I have ever seen. A must-see. Seriously.

Rawhead Rex and friend
Rawhead Rex/ The Fifth Element

Shrooms (2007)
A bunch of half-wit American students arrive in Ireland for one purpose: to trip on magic mushrooms in a creepy forest. This is literally the only reason for their visit. So much for kissing the Blarney Stone. Oh, and did I mention that the creepy forest surrounds an equally creepy deserted children’s home? Obviously.
Apart from a few offhand mentions of Irish druids and banshees it’s easy to forget that the film is set in Ireland as the idiot Yanks roll around off their faces in the woods. They are introduced to mushrooms by Jake, a character whom I assume is supposed to be Irish but looks more like a sleazy Italian and speaks like he went to a British boarding school. The only Irish characters in the film are two intellectually challenged brothers who live in a shack in the middle of the woods and say amusing things such as: “Ma used ta have ta lock us up with the pigs!” Charming.
Shrooms is far from being frightening, but it does have its amusing moments. The ‘twist’ at the end isn’t exactly mind-blowing stuff either.

Silly tourists
Shrooms

The Ten Steps(2004)
By now you’re probably assuming that I went down the they’re-so-bad-they’re-good route with my investigation into Irish horror. But fear not fright fans; I’ve left the best ‘til last (apart from Rawhead Rex that is).
This ten minute film by Brendan Muldowney is a shining example of the fact that the best horror sequences rely on slow-paced suspense. This short film about a young Irish girl’s babysitting experience stayed with me much longer than any gore-fest I experienced during my blog-researching. The best news? It’s all on YouTube.

Here are a few more Irish horror flicks for further viewing:

Dead Meat – Zombies take over Leitrim.

Boy Eats Girl – Anyone remember Samantha Mumba? I assume her career ended here.

Red Mist – Another one from Shrooms director Paddy Breathnach. A coma victim causes havoc from his hospital bed.

Darby O’Gill and the Little People – Yes I’m aware this is a Disney. But a Disney with a particularly creepy banshee scene. Hell, this film is just creepy all over.

Any other Irish horror films that you think are worth mentioning?

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One Response to “From Dracula to Drugs: Horror in Irish Cinema.”

  1. Heledd Williams Says:

    Classic horror scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7i-te42Mow&NR=1

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