Our next stop on our trip around the horror world is Scotland and Ireland to uncover haunting psychological horror gems and influential creature features.
Foreign horror fans, we welcome you back to our journey in search of the best hidden gems from every corner of the world. For our tenth stop, we will be exploring two unique psychological horror films from Ireland and two monster movies from Scotland.
Although Scotland is technically part of the United Kingdom, it only felt right to separate the two in this series as their brands of horror are so completely unique. In the previous entry to this series, we covered England and their long history of gothic horror from Hammer Productions. Scotland, on the other hand, is more well known for their modern yet occult films with a focus on folklore. Werewolves, witches and seances are all around once you leave London and head for Glasgow.
Dog Soldiers (2002)
Probably one of the most famous of the Scottish horror films, Dog Soldiers started a movement when it came to the werewolf genre. The werewolf has been a staple of the horror genre since the beginning, but post-Dog Soldiers, the werewolf was no longer been restrained to straight horror. Rather, it has found its way into more action/horror genre mashups.
Dog Soldiers follows a group of soldiers on a military exercise in the Scottish highlands when they encounter a pack of blood thirsty werewolves. Most of the film takes place in a secluded cabin where the soldiers are surrounded by the werewolves. It relies heavily on the dialogue of the soldiers coming to grips with their dire situation, and it’s this focus on humanity that moves the film along.
Overall, Dog Soliders is a fantastic twist on the werewolf genre.
Check out one of the films hugely responsible for the mini renaissance of the sub genre for free on Tubi.
So this is a very Scottish film, so much so that you may need to turn the subtitles on as the accents are so thick. This one is fairly out there and ambitious in terms of story. On the surface, it’s about Mary and her son Fergal who moved to a new home. But soon the film takes a drastic turn into the occult. You see, Mary is a witch — some sort of ancient race of people with control over magic. She paints runes on the wall of their apartment to ward off those who seek to find them and do them harm.
Who would want to do them harm is the true mystery of this film. The film begins to focus on Cathal, a hunter, who is looking for Mary and maybe Fergal. He is introduced as he gets a bunch of runes tattooed on his back, and he keeps talking about his new skin and new body. Director Colm McCarthy (The Girl with All the Gifts) really jams a lot of world building into a very short low budget film.
As the movie progresses, Fergal starts falling for his neighbor Petronella against his mother’s wishes, and it’s revealed that someone, somewhere is a giant slimy beast. But who is it? Fergal? The Hunter? The mother? The third act ties the whole thing together in a really unique way with a great deal of twists.
Outcast is currently streaming on Amazon Prime
Irish horror is unique to say the least. From hallucinogenic slashers, the kids possessed by aliens and even giant celtic monsters, many of the films from Ireland take a simple concept that has been done 100s of times before and turns it on its head creating something new and unique.
Shrooms is an interesting little Irish film about a group of Americans who go to the wilds of Ireland to trip on psychedelic mushrooms, but soon things take a very dark turn. They make their way into the forest to pick mushrooms, and their guide tells them to steer clear from the dangerous black capped mushrooms. However, in typical American fashion, one of them ignores this and eats it anyway.
She soon starts having a really bad trip, which is all exasperated by their guide telling scary stories from Irish folklore around the campfire at night. The next morning, the friends drink their mushroom tea and start tripping and dying one by one. No one is certain if the crazy things they are seeing are figments of their imagination or if they are really being hunted in the forest by mythical beasts of lore.
Overall, Shrooms is a really interesting take on the standard “young kids in the woods” type of horror movie. The inclusion of folklore and psychedelics make the film really unique.
Shrooms is currently available for streaming on Tubi.
The Hole in the Ground (2019)
2019 was a fantastic year for horror. With so many great releases, there are films that got overlooked. The Hole in the Ground is one of those films. It’s a tight, slow burn horror about a mother and son who move out of the city and into the country — away from an abusive husband. All seems great, except their house is strangely close to the titular hole in the ground, which one calls to the young boy during an intense storm. The next day, something is off about young Chris, and his mother can tell.
Typically with these possessed kid types of films, the parent doesn’t know at first what’s happening. But with The Hole in the Ground, the mother knows immediately. It’s a really interesting take. There are no overtly obvious signs that a doppelganger form a giant hole has replaced her son. He looks identical. He sounds the same. He has the same memories. To everyone else, nothing has changed. But, somehow, she knows.
Due to this subtle difference in storytelling, the flow of the film is much different from what you might expect. Instead of spending the film on the slow path to discovery that an evil force has taken hold of her son, the mother in this story is convinced from day one and spends the film trying to find out what happened to her real son.
The Hole in the Ground is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
If you are hungry for more Scottish and Irish horror, check out one of my all time faves Rawhead Rex, the paranormal nightmare of A Dark Song, or the creature feature comedy Grabbers.
Make sure to follow Morbidly Beautiful (and me) on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or wherever you consume social media for the latest in the series as well. You can also check out this letterboxd list.
The next stop on our journey is Germany, where we will explore the bizarre world of German expressionism.