Did you know that Halloween has Irish roots?
The spooky holiday was created by the Celts as the day of All Souls that ghosts walked and the undead spoke.
The 2,000-year-old ancient Celtic festival is called Samhain (pronounced sow-in).
The Celts celebrated their new year on November 1, a day that marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of winter – a time of year they associated with death.
It was believed that on October 31, the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurry, and ghosts returned to earth.
To mark the coming of otherworldly spirits, Celtic Druids built large sacred bonfires, where everyone gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic gods.
During Samhain, the Celts wore costumes, usually consisting of animal heads and skins, and told each other’s fortunes.
Perhaps a bit more intense than today’s Halloween, but spooky nonetheless!
In celebration of the upcoming holiday and its Celtic origins, we’ve compiled a list of 10 great Hollywood horror flicks that have Irish roots themselves.
“Interview with the Vampire”
This 1994 film from famous Irish director Neil Jordan was a huge hit with both audiences and critics.
Adapted from Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles” novel, the movie features Brad Pitt as Louis, a 200-year-old vampire who tells his epic story to a journalist (Christian Slater).
Tom Cruise plays the charismatic villain Lestat, who turned Louis into a vampire in the 18th century in order to make him his companion. Louis hates being a vampire, but Lestat convinces him to turn a little orphan girl, Claudia, into one as well, and together Louis and Claudia live on through the centuries.
A classic vampire tale from a great Irishman.
“Queen of the Damned”
Another installment of Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles was brought to the big screen in 2002, and an Irish actor took over the role of Lestat.
Stuart Townsend, best known as Charlize Theron’s Irish boyfriend, appeared opposite the late R&B singer Aaliyah in “Queen of the Damned.”
The Dubliner portrayed the legendary vampire Lestat, who after many years of sleeping in his coffin, awakens to a modern world unfamiliar to him. Lestat decides to become a rock star, and his music awakens the ancient Akasha, Queen of the vampires and the damned.
The film may not have gotten rave reviews, but it rocketed its Irish star to the spotlight – so job well done!
“Bram Stoker’s Dracula”
In 1992, legendary director Francis Ford Coppola finally brought an accurate version of Irishman Bram Stoker’s masterpiece “Dracula” to the silver screen.
Dubliner Stoker wrote the classic novel in 1897, introducing the world to the now iconic conception of the modern day vampire, and Coppola helped solidify that image with his film (though he certainly made the repressed Victorian sexuality within the novel a bit more overt).
The horror movie, starring Gary Oldman as Dracula, Winona Ryder as Mina Harker and Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker, was a huge hit, and some even consider it to be one of the best films of the 1990s.
Coppola – you owe it to Bram!
Coppola incorporated the Irish in one of his earlier horror movies as well – “Dementia 13.”
The film, which was the director/writer’s first mainstream film, was shot in Ireland in 1963.
The thriller tells the story of a woman named Louise whose Irish-American husband dies. Louise wants in on her wealthy Irish mother-in-law’s will, so comes up with a scheme to get the cash. Her plan involves traveling to Ireland to visit her late husband’s family castle.
Her scheming ways are interrupted, however, when a maniac begins murdering members of the family.
“Dementia 13” got mediocre reviews, but most critics agreed: the Irish setting made the movie.
“The Company of Wolves”
Back to some great Irish direction – Neil Jordan had a great pseudo-horror film back in 1984 called “The Company of Wolves.”
In the movie, which is made up of several gothic tales, Jordan tackles werewolves and their sexual connotation.
Angela Lansbury stars as Granny, who tells her granddaughter Rosaleen stories about innocent girls falling for handsome strangers with heavy brows, and then suddenly disappearing when the moon is full. Naturally, Little Red Riding Hood pops up in one of the stories, with Granny being eaten by the wolf.
Nobody tells folkloric tales better than the Irish!
“Darby O’Gill and the Little People”
No, this classic Irish Disney film isn’t traditionally classified as “horror,” but its banshee scenes make it a contender in the Irish scary movie contest!
The 1959 adventure film set in Ireland starred Sean Connery (and his awful Irish accent) as the hero Michael McBride.