Tag Archives: Irish horror movies

Swallowed Whole

The Hole in the Ground

by Hope Madden

About a month ago the film The Prodigy came out, and promptly disappeared. Lee Cronin’s Irish horror The Hole in the Ground treads similar territory: a mother looks at her young son and wonders with terror who it is she sees.

Where Prodigy took the path most ludicrous, Cronin mines a parent’s disappointment, grief, loneliness and alienation for more poignant results.

Sara (Seána Kerslake), along with her bib overalls and young son Chris (James Quinn Markey), are finding it a little tough to settle into their new home in a very rural town. Chris misses his dad. Sara is having some life-at-the-crossroads anxiety.

Then a creepy neighbor, a massive sink hole (looks a bit like the sarlacc pit) and Ireland’s incredibly creepy folk music get inside her head and things really fall apart.

I grew up listening to nothing but Irish music. If you don’t think it’s creepy, you aren’t listening properly.

In execution, The Hole in the Ground is less The Prodigy and more of a cross between the masterpiece of maternal grief, The Babadook, and another Irish horror of changelings and woodland spirits, The Hallow. (Plus a surprise third act inspiration I won’t mention for fear of spoilers.)

You look at your child one day and don’t recognize him or her. It’s a natural internal tension and a scab horror movies like to pick. Kids go through phases, your anxiety is reflected in their behavior, and suddenly you don’t really like what you see. You miss the cuter, littler version. Or in this case, you fear that inside your beautiful, sweet son lurks the same abusive monster as his father.

Cronin’s subtext never threatens his story, but instead informs the dread and guilt that pervade every scene. Performances are quite solid and the way folklore – in tale and in song – is woven through the story creates a hypnotic effect.

If you’re a horror fan looking to celebrate the season, here’s a more authentic way to do it than watching Leprechaun for the 15th time.

Metaphorically Yours

The Cured

by Hope Madden

Zombies have proven to be metaphorically versatile over the decades. For Romero, they were sometimes the mindless consumer, sometimes the oppressed, sometimes the political outcasts.

David Freyne’s new Irish horror, The Cured, pushes the epidemic/ostracism angle to create xenophobic and racist parallels, as well as flashes of the kind of contagion-phobic hatred the AIDS epidemic met with. And Freyne does so without losing sight of a compelling, sometimes punishing story.

The Dublin of the not-so-distant future is home to the world’s most cataclysmic outbreak of the MAZE virus—a 28 Days Later kind of thing.

Senan (Sam Keeley) is among the stricken. Along with thousands of his countrymen, Senan has spent the last several years a zombie of sorts—a mindless, cannibalistic killing machine.

And though a cure has been found—relieving 75% of the infected—returning to a society proves difficult because the cured can remember their beastly behavior. So can the uninfected.

Plus, there is still that tricky question of what to do with the other 25%, “the incurable.”

Ellen Page (who also executive produces) co-stars as Senan’s widowed sister-in-law, and becomes  our window into what humanity may be left in humanity.

For a world in chaos (ours, not that of the movie), zombies offer a simple way to contend with the unimaginable: racism being celebrated at the highest offices, child molestation being excused when it’s politically convenient, Nazis being labeled good guys. For Freyne, publicly sanctioned fear and hatred leads first to oppression and then to uprising.

His set decoration echoes WWII-era propaganda as his characters struggle with shame, disenfranchisement, and righteous indignation. Keely’s deeply human performance remains focused on overcoming, but it’s the unnerving turn by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor that makes this film a keeper.

A barrister with political aspirations before the outbreak, Vaughan-Lawlor’s Conor proves a natural to lead a revolution. But what feels at first like an imbalance between entitlement and outrage slowly blossoms into something impressively fiendish.

There are two concerns with The Cured. 1) By horror standards, it’s a sociopolitical drama. 2) By the time it decides to become a horror movie, any hint of novelty or originality vanishes.

But don’t discount it. The Cured is smart and relevant. It doesn’t leave you guessing and won’t satisfy your bloodlust, but there is something satisfying in knowing that the ugliness and chaos of the day has not gone unnoticed.