My Galway Film Fleadh horror
Vaughn was clever enough to invite her brother, Vince Vaughn, to narrate her film on the murals that decorate gables in Northern Ireland. It’s a mixed bag. Its explanation of the tribal disputes is, for a domestic audience, painfully pedantic and facile. The film reveals its lengthy gestation by including interviews with the loyalist politician David Ervine, who died in 2007, and undermines the cause of reconciliation by identifying each contributor as Protestant or Catholic. Still, it’s a useful record of a guerrilla art form that is struggling to survive in changed times.
Lón sa Spéir, made for TG4, is much more successful. The film seeks to investigate that famous photograph of construction workers lunching on a girder many storeys above New York city. There is a tense moment about halfway through when the film-makers ponder whether the image might have been faked. Happily, there seems to be little evidence to support such conspiracy theories, and the picture goes on to identify the two Irish workers who bookend the celebrated tableau. Lón sa Spéir manages, without becoming overstuffed, to accommodate some moving meditations on the overall immigrant experience and the lasting power of hastily snapped images. The vertiginous film should travel.
WE HAVE, IN THESEpages, already noted that this year’s fleadh, managed by the indomitable Miriam Allen and programmed by the energetic Gar O’Brien, found itself celebrating an apparent surge in Irish horror.
At least four new domestic features could be described in those terms. Bing Bailey’s impressively disgusting Portrait of a Zombie takes its lead from George Romero as it weaves social commentary into a tale of the walking dead.
The largely self-financed picture concerns itself with an ordinary Dublin family who are trying to care for a son who has taken to chewing live flesh while growling in supernatural fury. There’s plenty of black comedy here. “He’d eat anything. So not much has changed,” somebody says. But the film also manages to address economic decline, organised crime and the arrogance of contemporary media.
There is, perhaps, a little too much going on: it’s partly a faux documentary and partly a drama studying the making of that documentary. But Bing deserves serious praise for locating real emotion in such a fantastic tale.
The best Irish shocker I saw was, however, unquestionably Ciarán Foy’s absolutely splendid Citadel. Foy, known for his extraordinary short The Faeries of Blackheath Woods, offers us a tale about an agoraphobic young man (a convincingly shaky Aneurin Barnard) who is forced to watch hooded maniacs (or demons?) savagely assault his pregnant wife. The main body of the picture finds the hero skulking desperately about a supernaturally bleak Scottish housing estate that appears to be infested by the mysterious beings. There’s something of Roman Polanski’s Repulsion in the film’s obsession with the horror that lurks just beyond closed doors.