As Halloween creeps closer, this Trinity News writer would urge you to take refuge from the truly frightening weather and stay in for a spooky movie night. To be sure, horror tropes have been overutilized to the point of exhaustion, from hideous monsters to possessed kids. However, there’s something about watching people flail about, investigate weird noises and generally get murdered that continues to resonate with us all: they’re fun. But what movie can one turn to when all the usual suspects have been expended? In the spirit of togetherness, here are three Irish horror movies that you have probably never watched before as they are relatively obscure.
“Bonus points for having seen a demonic child sing a scary version of Rattlin’ Bog — watch it for that if nothing else.”
The Hole in the Ground (2019)
Inspired by the myth of the changeling, The Hole in The Ground tells the story of a woman named Sarah O’Neill and her son, Chris, who have moved to a new town after Sarah has left Chris’ father. Unfortunately, their idyllic existence is interrupted by the dark and sinister woods next to their new house — And that’s not all. It turns out that within the woods, there is a hole in the ground. Also, within the hole, there is a monster who likes to come out and impersonate people. Although not the most original premise, director Lee Cronin knows how to maximise the tension as the viewer follows what turns out to be a fairly standard case of demonic child syndrome. The cinematography is startling and particularly memorable in a few key scenes. The movie also works well on a thematic level as Sarah questions whether her son has changed in the wake of her divorce or if he is, you know, possessed. Many parents have undoubtedly had the same question. Bonus points for having seen a demonic child sing a scary version of Rattlin’ Bog — watch it for that if nothing else.
“Genuinely scary moments may be scarce, but Grabbers attempts and mostly succeeds in making up for a lack of scariness with its genuine stupidity.”
At a first glance, Grabbers may seem like your typical creature feature. On a second glance, it is a typical creature feature — with an Irish twist. In this goofy tale, two Gardaí with opposing personalities (one an alcoholic, the other a workaholic) must join forces to combat an alien evil landed on a remote Irish island. The catch is that the blood-sucking monsters are deathly allergic to alcohol. As you might expect, drunken mayhem ensues when the panicking characters figure this out. Genuinely scary moments are scarce, but Grabbers attempts and mostly succeeds in making up for a lack of scariness with its genuine stupidity (this comment is not at all intended as an insult to the director’s vision, as I think most would agree, we do not watch horror movies to see people make intelligent decisions but to get eaten by monsters, thereby providing a sense of peace and clarity about our own lives). I may be a fool, one can reason, but at least I’m not that fool who opened the door. Grabbers is full of such deeply satisfying moments. To provide an example: a drunken man decides to leave the safety of the bar. His friends and companions all shout for him to return to safety, but no, he is determined to approach the giant tentacled in the parking lot. Why, you might ask? He says: “I need a photograph with it for National Geographic.” Of course, he is promptly picked up by the monster and thrown to his death. I really think that says it all.
“Though a television series rather than a movie, the horrors of miscommunication and dramatic pauses are second to none. A truly torturous watch.”
A Dark Song (2016)
An innovative take on horror, A Dark Song is about a grieving woman named Sophia Howard who rents a mansion with the intent of holding a ritual there. It turns out that the purpose of the ritual is to summon demons and angels to communicate with her dead seven-year-old son. To achieve this goal, she has hired an occultist named Joseph Sullivan and they proceed to isolate themselves in the mansion for months. However, both are deeply damaged people and their plans soon go awry. A Dark Song is slow-paced, but make no mistake, its horror will reach you. Thanks to the excellent screenplay, the plot feels surprisingly believable despite its admittedly far-fetched nature. To be clear, the two main characters are deeply flawed and shocking in their actions, from urinating in each other’s food to drowning and reviving each other with CPR. Despite the supernatural elements, the story implies, what we really have to fear is each other. In the face of difficult circumstances such as the loss of a child, the movie advocates for forgiveness and moving on with one’s life without feeling preachy as Sophia wrangles with her complicated feelings. A thoughtful approach. Well worth the watch.
Bonus: Normal People — Though a television series rather than a movie, the horrors of miscommunication and dramatic pauses are second to none. A truly torturous watch.