Ireland's independent horror film industry is but a small fledgling in the grand scheme of horror cinematic history, with the country's initial entry into indigenous-made horror being as late as 2004's zombie comedy Dead Meat, directed by Conor McMahon. Despite Irish directors like Neil Jordan gaining international success and recognition for horror movies like Interview With The Vampire (1994), it has only been within the last ten years Irish horror that anchors itself firmly within the physicality of Ireland and centers a narrative on Irish culture, its oftentimes dark and sordid history, and it's rich folklore, gained any international cinematic recognition.
Within the past five years, there has been a monumental shift in how Irish horror is being screened and recognized on a worldwide scale, proving that this tiny island has a thriving horror hive fit to rival Japan with its J-Horror or South Korea's K-Horror. A force of unique, not easily replicated, and quintessentially Irish horror tradition, make way for some Eire-Horror!
- The Devil's Doorway (2018) Directed by Aislinn Clarke
Set during one of Ireland's darkest and most atrocious time periods, The Devil's Doorway is one of the kickstarters for the Irish New Wave of Horror. Two Catholic priests (Lalor Roddy and Ciaran Flynn) are sent to a Magdalene Laundry to investigate a potential miracle. While there, they soon discover the nuns, particularly the sinister Mother Superior (Helena Bereen), are hiding all sorts of evil behind the laundry doors. This chilling found footage style horror aims to terrify audiences not just with its supernatural scares but also in its depiction of the real-life horrors of the Magdalene Laundries and the tyranny of the Catholic Church towards women and children. As with most horror traditions, The Devil's Doorway holds a mirror up to the society in which it was born and reflects the atrocities that still haunt modern-day Ireland, a country that still suffers from the intergenerational trauma of its recent history.
2. The Hole In The Ground (2019) Directed by Lee Cronin
Starring Seána Kerslake as a mother who, after relocating herself and her son to rural Ireland, begins to suspect her child has been swapped for a malevolent creature of supernatural origins. Based on the Irish folklore of a fairy child changeling, The Hole In The Ground is an uncanny exploration of parental mental illness and psychosis. As well as being rooted in the Irish lore of the mischievous faeries, the film is also influenced heavily by the traditional Irish children's folk song "Weile Waile" which narrates the story of a woman who takes her child down to the river and murders them with a penknife. Much like its grim and morbid influences, The Hole In The Ground is bleak and somber and was one of the initial Irish horrors to gain international recognition and acclaim, so much so that director Lee Cronin is at the helm for the upcoming Evil Dead Rise set for release later this year.
3. Boys From County Hell (2020) Directed by Chris Baugh
Putting an Irish spin on vampire lore, Boys From County Hell is a horror-comedy set in a fictional rural town where a local son and father must put aside their tumultuous relationship and save the inhabitants of Six Mile Hill from an ancient vampire who has recently risen, exceedingly hungry, from his prehistoric tomb. Based on the Irish legend of Abhartach, a neamh-mairbh, or walking dead, who rises from the grave to drink blood before being slain by the local chieftain Cathain with a sword made of the yew tree. Boys From County Hell is firmly rooted in Ireland, not only with its basis on Irish mythology but also the film's comedy aspect being charmingly and quintessentially Irish as well.
4. You Are Not My Mother (2021) Directed by Kate Dolan
In her feature-length debut, Kate Dolan's You Are Not My Mother is a tense folk horror set in inner-city urban Dublin. Char (Hazel Doupe) is struggling to come to terms with her mother's mental illness as well as balancing a fraught school life. When her mother (Carolyn Bracken) returns after having gone missing, Char begins to realize the person who reappeared may not be her mother at all. Steeped in Irish culture and the belief system of the Aos Sí (a supernatural race akin to faeries), You Are Not My Mother perfectly portrays the customs and traditions that the people of Ireland still implement in their everyday lives. Deeply terrifying and horrifically suffocating at times, You Are Not My Mother is a tour de force in the modern folk horror subgenre. (Check out our Convo X Fango with director Kate Dolan and star Hazel Doupe)
5. Bring Out The Fear (2021) Directed by Richard Waters
Primarily set in one location, Bring Out The Fear is continuing the trend of woodland horror that has seen a rise in popularity within the horror genre. As Rosie (Ciara Bailey) and Dan (Tad Morai) hike through the forest, they begin to realize they want very different outcomes to their current relationship. Dan wants to get married while Rosie wants to break up, and as their walk progresses, they soon come to the awareness that it's not just their relationship that is doomed. Dizzying and tinged with slight surrealism, Bring Out The Fear depicts the very real nightmare that can come from toxic relationships haunted by addiction and deception.
6. Changeling (2021) Directed by Marie Claire Cushinan and Ryan O'Neill
Short horror Changeling comes from the duo behind Je Suis Le Cat Productions and depicts a new family during the Great Irish Famine in the middle of the nineteenth century. It is a terrifying portrayal of how the beliefs in the supernatural were often a facade for serious postpartum depression and psychosis. Bleak and morbidly grim, Changeling is loosely influenced by the true story of Bridget Cleary, a woman who was murdered and set alight by her husband due to his insistence that a changeling had replaced her. Encompassing one of the darkest periods of Irish history with possibly the gravest act that could be committed on screen, Changeling is a small but effective dose of horror.
7. Let The Wrong One In (2021) Directed by Conor McMahon
Another entry into the Irish vampire comedy genre, Let The Wrong One In, situates itself in inner-city Dublin, depicting the strained relationship between brothers Matt (Karl Rice) and Deco (Eoin Duffy). Matt is the long-suffering younger brother of drug addict Deco, who appears at his house one morning, having been bitten by a vampire. Matt must prevent his brother from giving in to his vampire instincts as well as fighting against a hoard of vampires hellbent on turning the whole city into bloodsucking creatures. Also starring vampire stalwart Anthony Head (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) as a vampire hunter with a penchant for trains, Let The Wrong One In is an interesting combination of The Lost Boys (1987) and Irish buddy film Adam And Paul (2004). It is a humorous yet heartfelt reflection of the damage drug addiction can cause to families and society as a whole.
8. Mandrake (2022) Directed by Lynne Davison
Northern Irish horror Mandrake tells the story of empathetic probation officer Cathy (Deirdre Mullins) as she takes on the case of local murder legend 'Bloody' Mary Laidlaw (Derbhle Crotty) as she is released from her prison term for brutally murdering her abusive husband. With its brutal depiction of natural and raw maternal instincts, the film pits two mothers against each other, both hellbent on protecting their two vulnerable sons. Interlaced with witchcraft and occultism, the film is based on the lore of the mandrake root, with its fertility healing powers, it encompasses the tradition of the Irish healer woman and her place within society.
9. The Cellar (2022) Directed by Brendan Muldowney
Satanically sinister, The Cellar stars Elisha Cuthbert as Keira Woods, who, after moving her family into a rural estate house, begins to suspect the cellar hides some serious secrets after her daughter disappears. As she begins to unfold the mystery that envelopes the dwelling, Keira must face the darkness or risk the possibility of losing her family forever. Marrying the usually opposing forces of science and faith, The Cellar is part occultist terror and part Lovecraftian otherworldly horror. The Cellar plays on the fears of eternal damnation of souls and mind-boggling mathematical equations. (Check out our SXSW interview with Brendan Muldowney, Elisha Cuthbert and Eoin Macken.)