'Three low-rent, cash-strapped workmen get stuck in a landscape known as County Hell,' explains Boys From County Hell producer, Brendan Mullin, attempting to keep his plot synposis as concise as possible. 'And over the course of the evening they realise that something is keeping them there, and that they will have to defend themselves against it.'
Writer/director Chris Baugh, on the other hand, is less reserved in his desciption of his film's outlandish storyline. 'Basically it's blue collar workers versus vampires,' he jokes, adding, 'If we had to give it a B-Movie style title, we would have chosen Vampires Vs. Characters Out of a Bruce Springsteen Song.'
Baugh and Mullin staged a private screening of Boys From County Hell, which is being marketed as an 'unashamed genre piece', at Queen's Film Theatre on Saturday, June 23. (Watch the trailer here.) For those interested in attending future screenings, Baugh and Mullin stressed that while there is no shortage of viscera in the film, the emphasis is on narrative and characterisation rather than pints and pints of claret.
'We never wanted to do gore for gore’s sake,' says Baugh. 'We’re both heavily inspired by films from the 1980s such as Alien, The Thing, early John Carpenter, Lost Boys and more recently films like Dog Soldiers and The Descent: all films that are more character driven. They have the scares and the gore, but it’s not the be all and end all.'
Boys From County Hell has been a labour of love for the friends and filmmakers, coming from an idea first explored when they met as young film enthusiasts seven years ago. Since then, Baugh and Mullin have honed their craft, working on films and television features through the years.
Mullin shudders to think what Boys From County Hell would have looked and sounded like had it been produced straight out of college.
'We were a lot more naïve back then,' he admits. 'We might have been able to write the script, but we wouldn’t have had the necessary skills to make the film, and we wouldn’t be able to think on our feet like we do now.'
Thinking about the future, the two have ambitions to expand the piece. They hope that in its current guise, Boys From County Hell, which was filmed entirely in Northern Ireland, will serve as a springboard to bigger and better things.
'Since it's inception, the idea has always been to make the film a full length 90 minute feature,' says Mullin. 'We figured nobody is going to give us money to fund a feature horror film unless we prove we can handle the genre. So we’ve spent the past two years developing this script. In a sense it is a trailer, a sales tool, but it also works as a stand alone short film with a narrative of its own.'
Having recently returned from Cannes Film Festival, Baugh and Mullin’s aspirations are global, with Boys From County Hell being sent to potential funders around the world. The film may be set in deepest, darkest Tyrone, and take its name from a similarly titled Pogues song, but Mullin is confident that the distinct local sensibility is balanced by the universal themes explored.
'The whole thing is definitely infused with a dry wit which I think is thoroughly Irish. However, it is at its heart a father/son film, which I think people will respond to.' Baugh is in agreement, adding that responses from audiences in America during test screenings have been 'very positive'.
Despite a three day shoot in pitch black conditions at Black Mountain in Belfast (it was unfeasible to relocate the entire cast and crew to Tyrone), both filmmakers are happy to report that the process was relatively pain free, if a little chilly.
'We thought that one of the biggest challenges was going to be the weather,' admits Baugh. 'It was unbearably cold, certainly, and an unexpected mist rolled in, which looked great, adding a lot to the production value. Up there you can turn a camera around 360 degrees and not see any signs of life. We thought it was going to be tough, but in the end the real challenge was fitting everything into three nights.'
Despite now being industry professionals, the magic is still very much alive for Baugh and Mullin. They hope to follow their QFT screening with a DVD release, but for the time being both are firmly fixed on the here and now. 'It is definitely nerve-wracking showing it to a live audience,' concludes Baugh, 'but still the most exciting and rewarding part.'
Boys From County Hell is being screened at the Queen’s Film Theatre on Saturday, June 23 at 3:15pm. For free tickets email Brendan Mullin at firstname.lastname@example.org.