A century after Bram Stoker introduced Dracula to the world, Irish storytellers are once again conjuring up vampires – along with zombies, ghosts, changelings and macabre and mysterious diseases – and this time on the big screen.
Young directors are channeling Ireland’s dark folklore and contemporary social ills into a wave of horror films that are finding mainstream audiences overseas.
The country’s small film industry has made 20 horrors in the past six years, with two more slated for release in the fall. The output ranges from slashers to horror comedies to psychological thrillers with supernatural elements.
Four of the 11 films presented at the FrightFest festival in Glasgow earlier this year were made in Ireland and Northern Ireland. American network TBS, which is part of Warner Bros, is turning a 2019 film, Extra Ordinary, into a television series.
You Are Not My Mother, which was a finalist for an Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, recently landed on Netflix.
“Irish folklore is particularly dark and lends itself to horror,” said the film’s writer and director Kate Dolan, 31. “Not a lot of happy endings – a lot of people are dragged down to their loss.”
Her debut feature, which cost €400,000 (£340,000), tells the story of a bullied teenage girl in a Dublin suburb who grows alarmed at her mother’s transformation, hinting at causes supernatural, mental illness and social alienation. The New York Times called it awesome, creepydeeply metaphorical and genuinely harrowing.
Dolan grew up in Dublin listening to her grandmothers’ stories of changelings, diseases and curses, which led her to question the origin and power of such beliefs. “I grew up in a row of townhouses and the idea that anything could happen there, and you’d be as isolated as you would be in a cabin in the woods, with no one to help you – I think I’ve found that even scarier.”
Dolan is currently writing screenplays for two horror-tinged films with LGBTQ themes.
Hollywood noted emerging talent from Ireland. Lee Cronin, who made a name for himself with the 2019 chiller The Hole in the Ground, set in rural Ireland, has directed the upcoming Evil Dead Rise, the latest in the Evil Dead franchise.
The ability to make small budgets and tap into ancient and contemporary Irish anxieties has drawn filmmakers into horror, said Louise Ryan, spokeswoman for Screen Ireland, a state agency that has funded many films. “The flexibility of the genre has attracted a lot of directors.”
Vivarium, a 2019 sci-fi horror starring Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots that premiered in Cannes, was inspired by ghost housing estates in Ireland, which were abandoned during a financial crash. “It was a way of talking about the social contract and people being trapped by a system,” said director Lorcan Finnegan, 43.
His next film, Nocebo, is about a London fashion designer who seeks help from a Filipino nanny for a tick-related illness. Filmed in Dublin and Manila, and starring Eva Green and Mark Strong, it explores cultural exploitation.
It took a long time for Irish filmmakers to embrace the Irish heritage of storytelling and folklore, Finnegan said. “I grew up hearing stories from my parents about banshees and fairy curses, but it wasn’t really depicted in movies until 10 or 15 years ago.”
Let the Wrong One In, a Dublin vampire horror-comedy set to be released around Halloween, paid tribute to Dubliner Bram Stoker by filming a scene at Dracula’s Castle, a tourist attraction in Dublin that claims have the only Bram Stoker Dracula in the world. vampire museum.
“It always seemed strange to me growing up that there were no Irish horror films,” said Let the Wrong One In director Conor McMahon, 42. When he started making short films as a teenager, he noticed that horrors had the best response. .
“All of my feature films have been in the horror genre and I’ll probably stay there. That’s what I like to do. There are so many subgenres that it never feels like you’re doing the same thing.