Crone Wood: An impeccable slice of ‘culchie horror’

Film review: Writer-director Mark Sheridan works a miracle in his low-budget debut feature

The film-maker’s hide-and-seek horror timing is impeccable in Crone Wood

Film Title: Crone Wood

Director: Mark Sheridan

Starring: Elva Trill, Ed Murphy, Sarah Jane Seymour, Karen McCartney

Genre: Horror

Running Time: 86 min

Mon, Feb 1, 2021, 05:00

   

As a subgenre, found footage peaked more than a decade ago, a little way into the Paranormal Activity and Rec sequences, around the time that District 9 was shortlisted for best film at the Oscars. It remains an occasionally fruitful form, wherein name directors and movie stars – see M Night Shyamalan’s The Visit or Jon Chu in Searching – can get back to storytelling basics.

Crone Wood, Mark Sheridan’s nifty, low-budget feature, shot over seven days on a teeny, part-crowdfunded €17,000 budget, is a welcome addition to the canon. 

The film opens as a meet-cute romance as Danny (Ed Murphy) and Haley (Elva Trill) begin chronicling their freshly minted relationship. Lovely, natural performances and perfectly pitched dialogue define their early dating highlights, which include an impromptu beach dip followed by hastily decided-upon camping trip.

The hiking shop is fun. The banter is playful. But deep in the woods – the dark, atmospheric woods – the pair are disturbed by the appearance of odd figures. They happen upon creepy ruins. There’s some chatter about a witches’ coven.

There are folkish echoes of The Wicker Man, Kill List and The Blair Witch Project in what follows, but Sheridan’s Green Manly mythology finds a unique seam in what might be termed “culchie horror”. From the get-go, Danny’s clueless attempts at heroism are rooted in his urban origins. Clever script incursions into gender politics add to the psych-out.

Fiona Delaney’s costumes and Richard O’Leary’s set designs get the grand framing they deserve around the Hellfire Club, where the film was partially shot. Murphy and Trill make for terrific company. The film-maker’s hide-and-seek horror timing is impeccable.

Too many first time writer-directors opportunistically plump for horror without loving or knowing the genre. Sheridan, who has worked a minor miracle here, is not one of them. We can’t wait to see what he does with a bigger budget. 

Crone Wood is available on digital platforms from today