With St. Patrick’s Day upon us, with promises of pints of beer and a plethora of green, it seems like a good time to recognize the horror films Ireland has given us, especially in just the last few years. The Emerald Isle isn’t just about sheep, shamrocks, and beer. Ireland is a country with a complicated political history, a rich folkloric tradition, and a lot of filmmakers who find horrifyingly creative ways to unite those two things. Sure, we have the Leprechaun films, but there are far scarier things than bearded men in green suits.
We’re lucky enough to have films like the seven listed below. From angry fae folk to oppressive Catholic organizations, they run the gamut of horror subgenres. So raise your glasses, put on one of these films, and drink to many more years of Irish horror filmmaking.
7. Grabbers (2013)
An Irish horror-comedy involving aliens and excessive drinking sounds like the perfect way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Jon Wright’s Grabbers (2013) is all about a seaside town trying to survive an alien invasion by poisoning their bodies with alcohol because if their bodies are poisoned, they won’t be safe for the aliens to eat. This is surprisingly sound, yet extremely messy, logic. They throw a massive party at the local pub to stay safe, while a select few townspeople try to devise a plan to fight off these tentacled beast. Drunkenly fighting aliens could only go well!
6. Without Name (2016)
Without Name (2016) is not the only eco-horror film you’ll find on this list. Much of Irish folklore is tied to nature, so it makes sense that many of their horror films deal with what happens when nature is disturbed or destroyed in the name of progress—ancient beings don’t care about new housing developments. In Lorcan Finnegan’s directorial debut, Eric (Alan McKenna) is a land surveyor who is sent to a mysterious forest with not much explanation as to why he’s there. The longer he’s in this forest, the more his mind seems to unravel as he starts seeing a strange figure in the woods. Then, he starts trying to communicate with this being. Is it real? Is it just in his mind? You’ll have to watch Without Name to find out.
5. The Devil’s Doorway (2018)
With her film The Devil’s Doorway (2018), Aislinn Clarke is the first woman from Northern Ireland to make a horror movie. She made a fresh take on the found-footage subgenre, one that can sometimes feel overdone, utilizing issues in Ireland to make a terrifying film. The film takes place in a Magdalene Laundry, a house for “fallen women,” where several miracles have happened, such as spontaneous bleeding from the eyes of Virgin Mary statues. The Vatican sends two priests to investigate these alleged miracles, one who is much older and disillusioned by the Church (Lalor Roddy) and the other is young, naive of the demonic ways of the world (Ciaran Flynn). Throughout their investigation, they discover the terrifying truth of what the nuns are hiding. Her sound design, film format, and setting all give The Devil’s Doorway a unique feel that gets under your skin.
4. A Hole in the Ground (2018)
Lee Cronin’s A Hole in the Ground (2018) is the most recent Irish horror film, right after The Devil’s Doorway, to make a splash in the horror community. Similar to Jennifer Kent’s 2015 film, The Babadook, it addresses the fear and anxiety of single motherhood, though each examine this from very different lenses. The Hole in the Ground follows Sarah (Seana Kerslake) and her son, Chris, (James Quinn Markey) as they move to a rural town after some bad life experiences (which are never full explained). Life gets even more complicated after Chris ventures near a massive sinkhole in the middle of the woods. What ensues is a paranoia-filled narrative where Sarah tries to figure out if this boy is really her son or if he is something else. It is a dread-filled film that relishes in the beauty of the Irish countryside.
3. A Dark Song (2016)
Perhaps one of my favorite movies of the last decade, A Dark Song (2016) is a meditation on grief and human endurance. It is an intimate film, with only two characters, Sophia (Catherine Walker) and Joseph (Steve Oram) who become linked through a grueling demonic ritual. This is not just any ritual—it is one that requires days, even weeks, of staying in a single location, reciting lines, writing prayers, and sitting in one place for prolonged periods of time. It is a film where paranoia and desperation breeds fear, with some of its scariest moments come from a small knock or faint whisper. Perhaps it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but director Liam Gavin creates something truly special with A Dark Song.
2. The Hallow (2016)
What’s that knocking on your door? Some pissed off fairies, that’s who. Corin Hardy’s 2016 film, The Hallow, takes the fairy folk of Irish folklore and shows them in their true, terrifying, baby-stealing form. The film begins with a family moving to the Irish countryside for Adam’s (Joseph Mawle) job as a tree surveyor (yes, there is an environmental message being made here, too). But, as they begin to settle in, and meet their strange neighbors who warn them of danger in the woods, things start happening around the house. It turns out that the fairies of the surrounding forest aren’t too happy with them and unleash hell upon the family. This is a phenomenal creature feature that will change your perception of fairies. They aren’t pretty little beings with delicate wings, sprinkling magic dust. They are ugly, angry, and hungry.
1. Let Us Prey (2014)
Brian O’Malley’s Let Us Prey (2014) is one of the craziest films I have ever seen and I loved every minute of it. It is a nonstop bloody hell where Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman) kicks major ass as a rookie police officer. PC Rachel Heggie (McIntosh) encounters a strange man named, Six (Liam Cunningham). We come to learn that Six is some kind of otherworldly being who possess and control other people (is he Satan? Maybe so). An absolutely nightmarish night unfolds as secrets are revealed, sins are confessed, and revenge is pursued. I don’t want to spoil its wild ride, so just give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.