Friday 10 October 2008


I’m going to go a little off-topic today, and talk about a movie I went to see last night. Freakdog is a horror flick set in America, but it was written by a Northern Irish writer, filmed in Northern Ireland, backed by Northern Ireland Screen, produced by Generator Entertainment who operate from Northern Ireland and England, and it was directed by a Northern Irish director. So, American horror, but with a strong Northern Irish core.

Because I work in the same building as the writer, Spence Wright, I was lucky enough to read the script in two early drafts. You see, Spence has been kind of an unofficial screenwriting mentor to me this year, helping me out with my own script and passing out his contacts like they were Smarties. Thanks to him, I’ve secured funding and feedback from Northern Ireland Screen and approached a production company who’ve shown an interest in the film. And all I’ve done for him is buy him a few beers and attend the Northern Ireland premiere of Freakdog. And I really enjoyed the movie, so that’s hardly putting myself out, is it?

Anyway, the movie played in the Queen’s Film Theatre last night as part of the cinema’s fortieth anniversary celebrations. There was a great buzz in the lobby and in the actual theatre as Spence introduced the film before the projection wheels got to spinning.

The movie was made on a £1,000,000 budget, which seems a lot of money, but in the movie world it’s very low. But apart from the odd slip in accent from the British supporting actors (who I’m assuming were cheaper to employ than an all-American cast), I think the look and feel of the movie was up there with its slightly flusher contemporaries, and in many cases, surpassed them. What it lacked in polished sheen and acting ability was made up for by excellent writing on Spence's part and quality direction from Paddy Breathnach. And, you know, the slightly dark and grainy screen picture quality actually added something to the overall feel.

In his introduction, Spence used the words visceral and shocking to describe some of the more hard-hitting scenes. I’ll agree with his assessment, but the horror in this flick didn’t come from the gore for gore’s sake school of thought. This was no half-assed teen slasher flick. Suspense played a huge role throughout.

As leading lady, Catherine Thomas, Arielle Kebbel impressed me quite a bit. Very cute, but with a real dark look when it was needed. And I think the supporting character Sean Goodrich, played by Martin Compston, really shone through. Such a nasty wee piece of work with the sleekit looks to go with it. And of the British actors, his was probably the most convincing American accent. At least to my ears.

The movie will play as a preview at the QFT for a few nights next week and will see its official release closer to Christmas with a US DVD release in the New Year. Fingers crossed that this becomes a springboard for Spence’s writing career. The man deserves success.


Stuart Neville said...

Hm, sounds interesting. My flirtations with the film business have been through composing music, and I learned it's an even tougher racket than publishing. Kudos to anyone who can get a foot on the ladder.

The last locally produced horror I saw was Shrooms, which was, well, not so good...

Gerard Brennan said...

Stuart - Yeah, Shrooms and Freakdog were both directed by Paddy Breathnach but the general consensus seems to be that Freakdog is much superior. I can't comment personally because I haven't seen Shrooms. I'll not rush out to look for it, though.



Stuart Neville said...


I didn't mean to be dismissive of Shrooms. A lot of it was actually filmed in the forest park across the road from my office - we photocopied their call sheets every day - so I was particularly interested to see it. I have a lot of respect for anyone who can get a film made because I know from my limited experience how hard it is. I think the biggest problem with Shrooms was its visible struggle with the limits of its budget. I'll be interested to watch Freakdog to see if it can get more bang for the few bucks available to the film makers.

On a general note, it's heartening to see a film industry starting to take shape here, and Screen NI seems to be doing a great job. I only hope the current economic gloom doesn't hinder it too much.

Gerard Brennan said...

Stuart - Freakdog was definitely up there with the bigger budget horros and in many ways was far superior to some of the shite that's come out of the genre in the last five years.

And yeah, the film scene is entering a bit of a boom here. Generator Entertainment alone plan to knock out four films a year. Next up is one called Cherrybomb that I'm very interested in.

Long may it continue. especially since I'm trying to flog a screenplay myself!


Anonymous said...


I wanted to ask you if they actually showed a trailer for the movie "Cherrybomb" infront of Freakdog. I'm a big Rupert Grint and people are saying that the trailer played infront of the film. Did it? And if so could tell a little bit about it?

Thanks in advance.

Gerard Brennan said...

Hi Laura

They didn't play the trailer in front of the Freakdog showing, but they did have a panel discussion an hour before the movie rolled in another screen at the QFT that night. The writer, both directors and the head of the production company (Generator Entertainment) attached to Cherrybomb were all there. They did a brief discussion on the movie business in Northern Ireland then rolled a freshly put together trailer for Cherrybomb. No dialogue, just a number of choice clips and a thumping tune that I assume will be part of the soundtrack. It was hard to judge Mr Grint's acting without hearing his voice, but I can tell you, it certainly looks like it'll be his grittiest role to date. And he looked a lot leaner and meaner.

I know from the discussion the basic premise is two boys fall in love with the same girl. She has a wild side and they try to impress her by doing wild things, each act topping the last, again and again building, I think, to something very extreme.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing the movie.

Thanks for asking.