St Patrick’s Day: Irish horror films to watch

Posted by Glennis Byron on March 17, 2011 in Blog tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What to watch on St Patrick’s Day? Here’s a few suggestions for films with an Irish flavour (no Leprechauns). Interesting to assess how a bucolic pastoral Ireland produced for the tourist industry gets transformed into a world of monsters and menace.

The Ten Steps (2004) Brendan Muldowney, dir. with Jill Harding, William O’Sullivan and Paula Lee.

This is a horror short (10 mins) that won a number of awards. A family moves into a large old house with a past – the devil apparently once appeared in the cellar. The parents are out for dinner and the daughter, who has already had a panic attack down there, has to overcome her fear of the cellar when there is a power shortage and her father talks her down the steps to the fuse box. I’m a bit distracted in this very short film by my irritation at the parents who talk on mobiles at the restaurant table and force everyone to listen, but others seem to think it a great exercise in creating tension.

You can see the whole thing on youtube. Here’s part one:

Eternal (aka Trance or The Eternal Kiss of the Mummy). 1998. Michael Almereyda dir. With Alison Elliott, Jared Harris, and Christopher Walken.

American director Michael Almereyda’s (Nadja 1994) second horror film is loosely (very) connected to Bram Stoker’s Jewel of Seven Stars, with the Egyptology replaced by Irish Druidiry.  The film follows a New York couple, Nora (Alison Elliott) and Jim (Jared Harris) who return to Nora’s home in Ireland. They walk in on her blind academic husband (Christopher Walken) in the process of calling up a two thousand year old Druid priestess who corpse (preserved in the peat bogs) is now kept in the cellar. Double alert as the priestess alternately looks like Nora or Nora’s mother (Sinead Dolan).  Walken is quite good, although his Irish accent dodgy. Film looks good, and there’s a great soundtrack. Critics rather panned it but it has its chilling moment and is of some interest for what I think is a rather effective reworking of Stoker.


Isolation (2006). Billy O’Brien, dir. With John Lynch, Sean Harris, Ruth Negga.

A interesting film in the way it moves from a grim and realistic Irish rural mode into monster film. A farmer, Dan Reilly (John Lynch)   is propositioned by a bio-genetics firm to assist in experiments on cattle.  Calves are born pregant with awful little freakish foetuses which become awful big monsters. Decent special effects and quite a good build up of atmosphere. Difficult to find a decent trailer.


Dead Meat, 2004. Conor McMahon dir. With Marian Araujo and Eoin Whelan.

The film opens with a farmer on a run down farm being attacked by a zombie cow – a scene that actually doesn’t come across as ridiculous as you might expect. The disease (clearly playing with anxieties about foot and mouth outbreaks and mad cow disease) jumps from cattle to humans and the usual zombie mayhem begins.  Caught amongst the chaos is a Spanish tourist and the local gravedigger. Gore splattered, low budget and very referential – fun to catch the references.


Rawhead Rex 1986. George Pavlou, dir. With David Dukes, Kelly Piper and Hugh O’Conor.

If you fancy something really wonderfully dreadful but (unintentionally) hilarious, try this adaptation of a short story by Clive Barker.  A farmer digs up a prehistoric monster in his potato field (check the lightning) and said monster then proceeds to ransack the village. The Hallenbecks, an American family in Ireland to investigate their heritage, take on Rex. The special effects team… well, they must have had fun. A full dose of decapitations and eviscerations, full of exploitative moments and dreadful dialogue: “He was here before Christ, before civilisation. He was king here! Rawhead, that’s what they called him! RAWHEAD! Get upstairs, fuckface – I can’t keep god waiting!”


And one you won’t be able to watch: Wake Wood. David Keating’s film is about the parents of a girl killed by a savage dog who are granted the opportunity to spend three days with their deceased daughter. Features Eva Birthistle, Ella Connolly and Amelia Crowley. Filmed partly in Donegal, it would have been ideal for a St Patrick’s Day release, but won’t be out until March 25.


Check out Kim Newman’s 2006 article on Irish Horror Film in the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies.

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