The Irish Celts with their pagan roots and ancient history have long been regarded as the world’s greatest story tellers. For centuries they have spun us their own brand of Irish horror tales featuring eldritch creatures of giants, witches, goblins and of course, Leprechauns. Ireland really is a truly ancient country that has an ample source of inspiration from their folklore and superstitions, and that’s no surprise when you consider that Halloween is in fact a Celtic tradition where the dead come back to visit us.
But, they’re seemingly perfecting another way to tell us their wonderful tales — through film. Slowly, they have been building up a rising reputation for producing original films that are utterly unique to the spirit of Irish culture.
When did Irish Horror films really start to emerge?
Irish horror cinema can be traced back to 1963 with Dementia 13, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It tells the tale of a young widow who hatches a plan to inherit her mother in law’s fortune and is set, of course, in Ireland. The 1980’s marked the release of more Irish horror films with The Keep starring Gabriel Byrne, and has since been lauded as one of the most underrated films of all time.
Also released in that era was The Company of Wolves — a film about werewolves in which a grandmother warns her child to beware all men whose eyebrows meet. This is a film directed by Neil Jordan, who although relatively unknown, has done big things for Irish horror. It is Jordan who went on to give us such great films as Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, Queen of the Damned and more recently Byzantium.
However, it’s in the last twenty years that the genre of Irish horror has started to garner more international acclaim. Year upon year they are releasing great films such as Dorothy Mills (you can read my review of this here), Wake Wood, Shrooms, Isolation, The Canal and in 2015, The Hallow.
So what makes Irish horror films so great and unique? For me, their films have a certain charm that I mostly do not find in the big Hollywood blockbusters. I almost feel that these Irish horror films are made by people who only want to entertain us and aren’t in to just to make money. But I suppose you could say the same about other film makers in most countries!
The large majority of these films are independent, made with small budgets. They may star relatively unknown actors but they can really act. Also at their disposal is the wonderful scenery and landscape of Ireland, something which has recently been highlighted by the use of such settings in Game of Thrones.
Anne Marie Naughton, producer of The Canal, offered her opinion on the rise of the Irish Film Industry in a recent Irish Post article by Enda Brady. She said that that due to ever-worsening financial restrictions, Irish film makers are forced to become more creative so they can stand out in a crowded market. Could this finally be a positive coming as a result of belt-tightening? It certainly seems to be driving some excellent projects for now and into the future.
Some gems to get you started
If you haven’t seen any Irish horror films, here are a few more recent (and easy to get hold of) recommendations to get you started.
Dorothy Mills (2008) – A psychiatrist is called to a small rural island community in Ireland to investigate a young girl Dorothy Mills who reportedly tried to strangle a young baby in her care. However she soon gets the sense she is most unwelcome and that the community are hiding something from her.
Wake wood (2011) – The grieving parents of a young girl killed in a vicious dog attack are granted the opportunity to spend three days with their beloved daughter. What could possibly go wrong?
Shrooms (2007) – In this comedy horror a young group of American students go looking for adventure in the Irish woods on their search for magic mushrooms
Isolation (2005) – Set on a remote farm in the wilderness of Ireland. Five people find themselves the unwilling participants in a genetic experiment involving cows
Written by Sarah Budd (@sjbuddj)
Want to join one of the fastest-growing horror communities in the UK for FREE? Now you can. Click here to become a member of The London Horror Society