The Promising Future of Irish Horror, Beauty and the Beast, Coffin Pies, and More!
In this Issue:
- Horror History: The Promising Future of Irish Horror
- Image of the Week: Beauty and the Beast
- Tiny Bites – This Week’s Best Horror Headlines
- Things We Love: Pies to Die For
- Hey, That’s Us! – Shudder in the News
The Promising Future of Irish Horror
By Robert Mackenzie
When Mike Flanagan was looking for up-and-coming filmmakers to direct episodes of The Haunting of Bly Manor, he turned his sights to Ireland. Ciaran Foy, known for his 2012 feature debut Citadel, directed the series’ second and third episodes. While Irish/Welsh director Liam Gavin, who’s 2016 film A Dark Song was named Vulture’s 46th best movie of the 2010s, manned the helm for Bly Manor’s fourth and fifth episodes.
Outside of the U.S., countries like Japan, France, and Korea are often recognized for their contributions to horror. But over the past decade, Ireland has slowly begun to make a name for itself in the genre with a wave of films that have drawn critical acclaim and international recognition. Along with Citadel and A Dark Song, films like The Canal, The Hallow, The Hole in the Ground, and, most recently, Neasa Hardiman’s creature feature Sea Fever, are all standout works that have come from the Emerald Isle.
As an old country steeped in folklore and paganism, Ireland is a ripe market for horror stories. It’s the home of fairies, banshees, changelings, and Samhain — the origins of Halloween. “In U.S. horror, old can mean 19th century,” Foy tells me in an email. “But we have Neolithic tombs in Ireland. There are ghosts all around. There’s a melancholy about the landscape, too. It’s evident in Irish literature and poetry, a beauty and a sadness.”
Gavin, who shot A Dark Song just outside of Dublin, describes Ireland as a “thin place,” a mystical area where our world connects with others, making it an ideal setting for the supernatural. “It’s out there on the far edge of the world, Ireland. Especially when you get out to Limerick and places. It feels like the edge of the world, sort of miles from anywhere. It’s full of mist and history,” he says.
But while there may be subject matter and settings perfectly suited to horror, according to project manager Lesley McKimm, prior to 2010 Screen Ireland (the country’s film development agency) was only developing about one horror film per year. This changed in 2012 when Screen Ireland hired one of McKimm’s predecessors, Rory Gilmartin, a producer with a background in horror. Along with this, McKimm believes that a global shift in the horror market over the past 10 years, along with Screen Ireland becoming more open to a wider range of genre films, laid the groundwork for the current Irish horror movement.
Though there’s a growing library to study, it’s tough to pinpoint common traits or themes unique to Irish horror. In an article for Polygon, Andy Crump notes that, along with The Hallow and The Hole in the Ground, The Canal, 2018’s Don’t Leave Home, and the 2009 Aidan Gillen-led Wake Wood all feature parents attempting to protect or find their children. This theme certainly extends to Citadel and, to some extent, A Dark Song, which focuses on a mother’s grief after failing to protect her child.
“I wouldn’t say there’s one thing that unifies [Irish horror],” says Foy. “Many involve children, or parents [and their] kids, but then so does a lot of horror from elsewhere in the world.
“I guess maybe you could say the majority are dark and brooding … which is interesting given that Irish people in general are very jovial and sardonic.”
While Foy may be right at the moment about the brooding nature of Irish horror, McKimm says that is changing, as Screen Ireland is developing several horror-comedy projects. Some of these have already borne fruit — the Will Forte-led Extra Ordinary may have been the funniest film of 2019. Along with this, vampire-comedy Boys From County Hell will be coming to Shudder in 2021.
If you’re not familiar yet with Irish horror, just wait — there’s much more to come.
This piece has been abridged to fit the format of The Bite. Visit our blog for the full version.
Robert Mackenzie is a Canadian journalist, Irish horror enthusiast and Lola Stone stan who’s written for the Toronto Star, Maclean’s, and Motherboard, among other publications. Check out his work on his website and feel free to get in touch.
IMAGE OF THE WEEK
Beauty and the Beast
James Wan recently shared the initial concept art and the final design for Valak before the Nun came into play. Sadly, the gorgeous animatronic demon didn’t make the final cut of The Conjuring 2. Not so sadly, we now have these amazing images.
CARRIE, GALE WEATHERS AND MORE
Vogue spoke to Elvira about her iconic dress, Halloween, and what the Mistress of the Dark thinks of the horror that is 2020.
If you’re looking for a quick fright, give these horror TikToks a watch — just brace yourself for some great jump-scares.
The New York Times discussed how The Purge franchise fearlessly calls out the ugly truth about American society.
The Ringer explores the history of fake blood in horror films and why it looked so unrealistic in the 1970s.
This beautiful and deeply personal piece about Brian De Palma’s Carrie taps into the horrors of high school and the pain of adolescence.
This New York Times piece looks at the power of satire in horror and its manifestation of toxic ideologies.
Scream fans rejoice in this first look at Courteney Cox as the legendary Gale Weathers back in action on the set of the franchise’s fifth installment.
Check out this wicked mini-documentary on The Conjuring universe complete with behind-the-scenes looks at the upcoming third film in the original series, The Devil Made Me Do It.
Halloween Kills director David Gordon Green turned the legend of the original film into a children’s book and we desperately need a copy.
Speaking of Halloween Kills, the highly-anticipated sequel got a teaser this week which definitely made patiently waiting for its release infinitely more difficult.
Pajiba raised some interesting questions about the state of female- and POC-helmed horror at Blumhouse and how the production company chooses to market those titles.
See if you can come up with the answers to these 25 Jeopardy questions on horror.
The Boston Globe put together an impressive list of 60 of the best horror movies from the past 60 years, one for each year since 1960.
If you’re looking for new reading material, give this list of eight horror novels from diverse authors a gander.
Get into Aussie horror cinema with Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the best genre films from Oz you definitely need to check out.
National Geographic writes about how horror can help people overcome their real-world traumas.
Heidi Klum always goes all-out for Halloween and this year was no different as she made a horror short with her family in quarantine.
THINGS WE LOVE
Pies to Die For
Halloween may be over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy some spooky deserts. YouTuber Townsends’ channel focuses on exploring the 18th-century lifestyle, including historically accurate cooking and baking. Case in point, coffin pies! Yes, these really existed, and they’re fascinating.