Ten great performances from Irish actors in horror movies you should check out

Ten great performances from Irish actors in horror movies you should check out

GIVEN how famed Ireland is for its myths and folklore, it's little wonder the country has a strong association with the supernatural.

It has influenced our culture, not least with arguably the most famous horror icon of all time, Dracula, being the creation of Irish author Bram Stoker.

Having produced one of cinema's most iconic villains, Ireland has also punched above its weight in the horror movie stakes in recent years.

The likes of Citadel, A Dark Song and The Inside had viewers hiding behind their cushions and you can find our list of top Irish horrors by clicking here.

In this list, however, we aren't restricting ourselves to Irish productions.

Instead, we'll look at the best movies where Irish actors have showed off their acting chops to frightening affect.

1. Gabriel Byrne (Hereditary)

Ari Aster's debut movie was an instant horror classic, weaving an eerie tale around real-life demons.

The supernatural provided the backdrop as Aster instead focused on the horror of a family slowly falling apart.

There were fantastic performances from all the cast, particularly Toni Collette.

However Gabriel Byrne gave an understated turn as the anchor who tried desperately to hold his family together.

2. Stephen Rea (Interview with the Vampire)

Irish director Neil Jordan did a fantastic job bringing Anne Rice's novel to the screen after years in development hell.

Beset with casting controversies, Rice originally criticised the choice of Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt as the movie's leads, at one point wanting Cher to play Lestat.

However there were no qualms over Stephen Rea, who was perfect as the duplicitous, deceitful Santiago.

3. Michael Fassbender (Eden Lake)

The 2008 British horror Eden Lake divided critics, some praising its gritty lack of subtly while others said it demonised the working classes.

However the general consensus was that Michael Fassbender gave an above-par performance as the city boy hunted down in the woods in what could have so easily turned out to be a run-of-the-mill slasher.

Fassbender would later join the greatest sci-fi horror franchise ever, Alien, with his performances as David and Walter being arguably the highlight of Ridley Scott's prequels.

4. Fionnuala Flanagan (The Others)

A critical and commercial success, The Others showed you didn't need blood and guts to scare viewers.

The haunted house horror with a twist went for atmosphere over action and it paid off.

Of course, a choice such as that needs strong performances to carry the movie and the cast delivered.

Irish Post Award winner Fionnuala Flanagan landed a Saturn Award for her performance as housekeeper Mrs Mills, as did co-star Nicole Kidman.

5. Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson (28 Days Later)

Not one but two great Irish performances here, as 28 Days Later breathed new life into the zombie genre.

Brendan Gleeson, who usually infuses his performances with humour, confidently plays it straight here as the father trying to protect his daughter in post-apocalyptic Britain.

Meanwhile, Cillian Murphy cemented his then-growing reputation as he held his own in the lead role, earning an Empire Award nomination for Best Newcomer.

6. Dylan Moran (Shaun of the Dead)

Comedy horror Shaun of the Dead set director Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg on a course for Hollywood.

The pair roped in some of their fellow Spaced alumni as well as actors from its sister show, Black Books, for this big screen outing.

Thus, Irish comedian Dylan Moran landed the role of David, who held a candle for Shaun's girlfriend Liz.

The sparring between Pegg's and Moran's characters provided some of the best laughs in the movie.

7. Michael Gambon (The Beast Must Die)

Clue (Cluedo) meets The Wolfman in this 1970s horror from Amicus Productions.

Known more for their anthology horrors, Amicus deviated from that path with The Beast Must Die, but it still had its own unique vagary.

Here, viewers had to guess which of the guests at a get-together in a rural mansion was a werewolf.

There was even an infamous break near the end to give viewers time to work out who the beast was.

It wasn't particularly loved or loathed by critics, but it's a personal favourite and Michael Gambon is superb as Jan, one of the werewolf suspects.

8. Jack Reynor (Midsommar)

Ari Aster's follow-up to Hereditary was less atmospheric, more predictable and not as successful financially.

However, the director still drew fantastic performances from his cast.

Florence Pugh steals the show as the antagonist Dani, however Jack Reynor impresses as her not-particularly-likeable boyfriend.

The pair excel as Aster once again looks at the horrors of an unhealthy relationship slowly but inevitably unraveling.

If you can bear it, the fate of Reynor's character is something to behold.

9. Ciaran Hinds (The Woman in Black)

This polished adaptation of Susan Hill's novel was a critical and commercial success, making more than 10 times its budget.

His first movie after the end of the Harry Potter franchise, Daniel Radcliffe instantly and effortlessly shook off the spectre of the boy wizard that threatened to hang over his career.

The character of Sam Daily, played by Ciaran Hinds, provides a voice of reason and support to Radcliffe's lawyer Arthur Kipps as he struggles to deal with superstitious locals.

Despite providing some of the more amiable moments in the movie, Hinds' outwardly affable character is hiding his own tragic secret.

10. Sam Neill (Event Horizon)

The Tyrone-born actor always seems so genial, even in roles where he plays a bit of a curmudgeon, such as Alan Grant in Jurassic Park.

So it's a mark of his ability that he's so comfortable in the horror genre.

He worked with horror icon John Carpenter on In the Mouth of Madness, and even played the Antichrist in Omen III.

Yet of all his horror roles, it's as Dr Weir in Event Horizon that he's at his most brilliant.

The sci-fi horror wasn't a success initially but has amassed a cult following.

And while it won't have been an Oscar contender, Neill looks like he's having fun as he battles personal demons and sinister forces aboard a hellish spaceship.

Honourable mentions

Kenneth Branagh (Frankenstein)

Nora Jane Noone (The Descent)

Colin O'Donoghue (The Rite)

Domhnall Gleeson (The Little Stranger)

Michael Smiley (Kill List)