Boys from County Hell, currently on Shudder, was written by Chris Baugh and Brandon Mullin, and directed by Chris Baugh. As a fan of the vampire genre, it’s easy to get into a very predictable formula. Every now and again we get a fresh take on an old story, and Boys from County Hell certainly does that. Set against an Irish backdrop, road workers (against the wishes of the residents) set out to demolish an ancient mound. Once removed, an ancient vampire rises and will not stop until the town is drained of every last drop of blood. I recently had the opportunity to speak with writer and director Chris Baugh about his film.
First, let me start by saying I love Boys from County Hell. I’m always a fan of taking a classic vampire story and breathing new life into it.
Q: Where were you when the idea for the film first popped in your head?
CB: I actually think I was working in a bar in Belfast many many years ago when I had the idea of wanting to make a genre film set in the specific part of Northern Ireland where I grew up.
Q: Do you feel that horror allows you to tell stories and attack themes in a different way from other genres?
CB: I think since its inception, the horror genre has been a way for filmmakers to explore interesting or controversial themes and ideas. I think the genre evolves with the culture and will always be there to hold a mirror up to the darker parts of reality.
Q: Growing up, what was your relationship with horror? Did you have an early introduction to a multitude of monsters, or did horror introduce itself by way of lore and myth?
CB: Not just with horror, but one of my earliest memories in life was seeing Nightmare on Elm Street at four years old. My parents were pretty loose about film age certificates. I still remember seeing the opening with Freddy building the glove and being deeply affected, terrified, and fascinated. That has never really left me.
Q: The relationship between Eugene Moffatt (played by Jack Rowan) and Francie Moffat (played by Nigel O’Neill) is really complex. You have two people living in this world of shared grief over the loss of a mother and wife. They revolve around each other interacting, but never really getting to the heart of their pain. What was the process like creating the dynamic between father and son?
CB: That relationship is really the heart of the movie and some is based on personal experience and people I observed growing up. I always wanted that relationship to be difficult and fraught, but also funny and heartfelt. I tried to do that on the page, but ultimately it was really about casting the right people with the right chemistry. Nigel and Jack knew these characters so well and understood the relationship so instinctively that the dynamic was there from the first rehearsal, really.
Q: The creature design in Boys From County Hell is really striking. There’s no Ferrari-driving, smooth-talking, handsome playboy vampire hanging around the town pubs. We get this beautifully crafted creature from the furthest depths of darkness. It is the thing we fear will rise from the moldy earth and walk into our nightmares. How did your team go about creating and designing your creature? Did you go through many sketches before settling on the look and feel that ended up on screen?
CB: We always wanted to create something that looked terrifying and world class for a low budget movie. The idea was to base his look on bog bodies, which are ancient corpses that have been preserved by peat bogs. Once we had that idea, it didn’t take a massive amount of research and development to land on the right look. Again, it was all about casting the right person (Robert Nairne) and hiring the brilliant Millennium FX and Claire Ramsay who did an incredible job on the creature prosthetics.
Q: How did COVID protocols affect your filming, if at all? Did you find it harder creatively connecting with your actors and crew with the limitations?
CB: We actually wrapped shooting two years ago, so well before COVID. The only thing that affected us was the weather!
Q: What’s next for you?
CB: I have a couple of projects in development that I should be able to announce very soon! Boys From County Hell is currently playing on Shudder and Amazon Prime.
Kamarra Cole is an Afro Horror contributor and horror fanatic. You can find her on Instagram at @kamarranichole