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Since the days of renowned Irish director Rex Ingram (1892 – 1950), the reputation of Irish horror films has grown and evolved. The last decade or so has seen the release of some award-winning new additions to the genre, from 2005’s farm-based nightmare Isolation to 2015’s The Hallow, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. These five have gotten the seal of approval from bonafide horror buffs.
2009’s The Eclipse tells the story of a widower, played by Ciarán Hinds, who begins to experience paranormal activity soon after his wife’s untimely death. Set in the town of Cobh, County Cork and directed by Dublin-born Conor McPherson – writer of the hit Irish comedy I Went Down – this supernatural drama was well received by critics and won several awards, including the Méliès D’Argent Award for Best European Film and a Best Actor Award for Ciarán Hinds at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival in New York.
Psychological horror film Citadel (2012) won over the acclaimed Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, who called it ‘a horrifying thriller painted on a small and very dark canvas’. The film was written and directed by Ciaran Foy, also from Dublin. Premiered at the South by Southwest Festival in Texas, it is loosely based on an event from Foy’s own life, when he was attacked by a gang of young people in hoodies. The film won Best Feature at the Imagine Film Festival in Amsterdam and Best Debut at the 2012 Galway Film Fleadh.
Irish writer/director Billy O’Brien – director of 2016’s I Am Not A Serial Killer – invented the plot for Isolation (2005), about a genetically modified killer cows. In the vein of films like Dead Meat (2004), this horror takes the impending-zombie-apocalypse theme into the bovine realm. Starring the wonderful Ruth Negga of World War Z, it won three awards at the Texas Fantastic Fest in 2006, including horror jury awards for Best Picture and Best Director.
Starring Aidan Gillen of Love/Hate and Game of Thrones fame, Wake Wood (2011) centres on a couple whose young daughter was killed by a dog. After they manage to bring her back to life through doing a pagan ritual, there are some murderous and inevitably gruesome consequences. Filmed between Northern Ireland and Sweden, Wake Wood was directed by David Keating, co-writer of the famous Irish film Into the West. Receiving generally favourable reviews, it was made into a novel the same year.
A British-Irish co-production, The Hallow (2015) was shot in the Irish countryside and first shown at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Another story revolving around a young family, this one pits the central characters against demonic creatures living in the forest. Based around traditional Irish folk tales with a dark twist, the film was a critical success, with Variety and The Hollywood Reporter both predicting big things for young director Corin Hardy.