By Joe Meyers
If you’re looking for some Irish horror films to watch as part of your St. Paddy’s Day celebration, I’ve got eight personal favorites to share as recommendations. While some have folklore, plot details, and/or monsters in common they’re all unique in their own way and showcase how great Irish horror is and can be.
Byzantium (2012) / Directed by Neil Jordan / Written by Moira Buffini
This vampire film drips with atmosphere and great cinematography. As the movie unfolds you get the tale of a mother, Clara Webb (Gemma Arterton), and daughter, Eleanor Webb (Saoirse Ronan), who are vampires hiding out from others of their kind. We get just enough lore in this exceptional tale that I’ve always wanted a sequel that further explores the world.
Citadel (2012) / Written and Directed by Ciaran Foy
Foy used his own real life trauma as inspiration for this physiological horror movie about a widower attempting to raise a child after the murder of his wife. When the same gang of teens that killed her kidnaps his daughter, Elsa, Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) battles grief, despair, and an extreme case of agoraphobia to get her back. Citadel is a tense character study, and exploration of trauma’s effect on the human psyche, with a stellar performance from Barnard.
From the Dark (2014) / Written and Directed by Conor McMahon
When Sarah (Niamh Algar) and Mark (Stephen Cromwell) get their car stuck in the mud while driving through the Irish countryside the couple finds getting their vehicle back on the road is the least of their worries. This is the second vampire movie on my list, but McMahon skips the “can pass for human” variety for a nocturnal beast, creature-feature version. This is a low-budget gem of a horror film that plays to its strengths, and manages to bring its own flair to vampire mythology.
Grabbers (2012) / Directed by Jon Wright / Written by Kevin Lehane
Part sci-fi/horror, part comedy/satire, part alien creature-feature, and ALL fun! Newly partnered Gardas Ciaran O’Shea (Richard Coyle), an alcoholic, and Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley), a workaholic ladder climber, have to put aside their “odd couple” differences when the Irish island they’re bound to protect falls under an alien invasion. Fans of Tremors should **LOVE** this movie.
The Hallow (2015) / Directed by Corin Hardy / Written by Corin Hardy and Felipe Marino
I’m a sucker for horror films dealing with deep, dark forests and The Hallow delivers in a big bad way, while showcasing Irish folklore at the same time. Adam (Joseph Mawle), Claire (Bojana Novakovic), and their baby Finn relocate to a remote Irish village on the outskirts of a massive forest due to Adam’s work as a plant and fungal life conservationist. The family quickly realizes they aren’t wanted by the locals (or the forest and the things that live there), but they aren’t prepared to battle the creatures of the forest that begin to attack them…and have an apparent fascination with baby Finn. This is a total love letter to Irish legend and folklore, and a fantastic horror film.
The Hole in the Ground (2019) / Directed by Lee Cronin / Written by Lee Cronin and Stephen Shields
Recently separated from her husband, Sarah O’Neill (Seana Kerslake) and her son, Chris (James Quinn Markey), have started a new life in the Irish countryside. After an altercation, Chris runs away from his mother and into the forest next to their home (like I said, I’m a sucker for horror films with forests). Sarah is unable to catch him and loses Chris from a time before discovering a large sinkhole. She panics, thinking Chris has fallen into it but is quickly relieved when Chris appears behind her…or is that Chris? Odd events begin to transpire, and Sarah becomes more and more convinced that what returned from the forest with her wasn’t her son. This is another great movie, and a love letter to Irish folklore, anchored by solid writing, sharp directing, and wonderful performances.
Sea Fever (2019) / Written and Directed by Neasa Hardiman
A marine-biology student, Siobhan (Hermione Corfield) books passage on a fishing trawler, owned and operated by Gerard (Dougray Scott), Freya (Connie Nielsen), and their crew, to conduct research into deep sea faunal behavioral patterns. The couple’s fishing business has been down on its luck, so it’s decided an off limits, exclusion zone just may have all the fish they need to make some money. The ship gets bogged down and stopped due to running into an unknown, aquatic organism. This newly discovered life form begins to infect them, and tension rises, tempers flare, and paranoia explodes as the group tries to figure out their next steps…quarantine before heading home so nobody else gets infected, or head back to shore right away to find help. A timely story, as many of us are still dealing with COVID-19, wrapped up in aquatic horror goodness.
Without Name (2016) / Directed by Lorcan Finnegan / Written by Garret Shanley
Eric (Alan McKenna) is dispatched by his boss to conduct a land survey of a forest. He jumps at the chance as an affair with his with his student-assistant, Olivia (Niamh Algar, making this her second film on this list), has caused strife in his family life. The more time Eric spends in the forest, the more and more his mind begins to unravel. Out of all of the movies I’ve listed this is by far the biggest slow-burn that won’t be for everyone. However, if it is in your wheelhouse you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous looking psychological horror.
I told you all that I was a sucker for horror films that have deep, dark forests. Thankfully I’ve found that’s a major, reoccurring setting in Irish horror. Please share your thoughts if you check any of these films out for the first time, your opinions on them if you’ve seen any already, and give me any of your favorites I’ve failed to mention here. Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day and, as always, don’t be afraid of the dark…be afraid of what’s in it.