6 August 2020 The Irish Film & Television Network
Brian O’Malley Speaks With IFTN Ahead Of 'The Lodgers' Irish Cinema Release This Friday
08 Mar 2018 : Nathan Griffin
IFTN journalist Nathan Griffin caught up with director Brian O’Malley ahead of the national release of his new gothic ghost story, ‘The Lodgers’ this Friday, March 9th.

Written by musician and Professor of Gothic literature, David Turpin and produced by Julianne Forde and Ruth Treacy of Tailored Films, the film was shot in Loftus Hall in Wexford, widely recognised as the 'most haunted house in Ireland'.

Nominated for three IFTAs including an award for ‘Best VFX’, the film stars Charlotte Vega (‘American Assassin’), Bill Milner (‘Son of Rambow’), David Bradley (‘Harry Potter’, ‘The World's End’), Moe Dunford (‘Patrick's Day’, ‘Michael Inside’), and Deirdre O'Kane (‘Noble’) . ‘The Lodgers’, which premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and has been sold for theatrical release in over 22 countries receives its home-grown release in Ireland this Friday.

The film is set against the backdrop of the Irish War of Independence in 1920s rural Ireland. Anglo Irish twins Rachel and Edward share a strange existence in their crumbling family estate. Every midnight, the mansion is haunted by the sinister presence of The Lodgers, who enforce three rules upon the twins: they must be in bed by midnight, they may not permit an outsider past the threshold, and they must always stay together.

IFTN: What attracted you to the project and in particular to making a ‘Gothic Ghost Story’?

Brian: “Well it was kind of two things, so at the time I had just done ‘Let Us Prey’ (2014) and I was being offered a lot of hardcore horror movies. I didn’t want to be typecast as that kind of horror director because while I am into horror, I also have a very wide interest in genres. So I was lucky because I wanted to do something that fell under the umbrella of ‘Horror’ because I wanted to cash-in on the attention I had received, but I wanted also to move into a different horror space so when ‘The Lodgers’ came along, not only did it represent that, but I also have a lifelong love of gothic ghost stories.

“When I first saw ‘The Innocent’, the 1961 Jack Clayton film with Deborah Kerr, I kind of fell in love with that genre, so when this came along, not only did it satisfy the career choice I wanted to make, but also a personal love of that genre. So it was kind of an easy decision.”

IFTN: And can you tell me a little bit about working with first-time scriptwriter David Turpin?

Brian: “It’s funny because it didn’t feel like working with a first-time scriptwriter with David. I don’t know if it’s because he’s a songwriter and he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema but he feels like someone who has a very strong grasp of it. For him it was probably more so that he had no frame of reference because he hadn’t done it before but I had so I was quite comfortable working alongside him and giving him some notes, etc.

“I get on very well with David and I was trying to make the film he had written so there wasn’t that pull-push thing between us. My notes were generally to do with areas where I identified a problem that was going to manifest itself on set and it needed to be changed so that we could pull it off. We had a very positive working relationship together, and we are working on something else so evidence and proof!”

IFTN: You had an excellent cast & crew involved on the production, shooting across only two sites – How did you find the experience of having everyone on set at the one time?

Brian: “Yeah well I suppose the film is divided into two halves, you’ve got the haunted house and you’ve got outside the haunted house so when we were in the village, we had everybody there except ‘Edward’ (Bill Milner) because he never leaves the house. So that was fun, everyone was there because they wanted to be there and I tried to encourage a very positive atmosphere on set where everyone’s opinion is listened to, and everyone can contribute. So it was a very positive experience, and then we had two weeks inside the house. That was mainly Bill and Charlotte, and then the occasional intruder like David Bradley or Eugene Simon.

“It was great, everybody got on really well, everybody was really into the project so there was no drama, it was just a very positive filmmaking experience with a bunch of people who wanted to make it the best it could be! We had very little time to make the film, we shot it in 22 days, there are 210 scenes in the film so that breaks down as almost 10 scenes per day, which is kind of crazy. So we had to move it at an incredible rate and because everybody was so on board, everybody just went along with it and we shot very, very quickly – there are good things and bad things about that..”

IFTN: No time to dwell on anything!..

Brian: “Yeah, you really can’t dwell on anything so you move on! But despite being shot with a great sense of momentum, it was a very satisfying creative experience.”

IFTN: With the film releasing on Friday, March 9th, why should audiences go and see ‘The Lodgers’ and what can they expect?

Brian: “That’s a very good question, so what I will say, is rather than it being a horror, it’s actually a film adjacent to horror. It’s a very elegant, gothic, ghost story, and it’s more about how it makes you feel then jump scares.. It’s not a film with jump scares, and shocks, and there is no violence in it to speak of. It’s all about the mood and the tone, and that creeping sense of dread that permeates the film, and builds to that very strange, unexpected climax.

“I would say if you are a lover of film like ‘The Innocents’, ‘The Others’, and ‘The Devils Backbone’, those types of ghost stories, you’ll enjoy it.”

IFTN: Finally, you alluded to it a little bit earlier, but what is next on the agenda going forward?

Brian: “Yeah well I am attached to another gothic horror movie with Fantastic films, who I made ‘Let Us Prey’ with, and that is in the works at the moment. And then also, myself and David Turpin have developed a high-concept Science-Fiction project, and the screenplay is just near completion. Then I am also pitching on a number of Science-Fiction films, so I want to stay within genre, and I am happy to do more horrors but I would like to also spread a little into other genres beyond Horror.”

Produced by Ruth Treacy and Julianne Forde of Tailored Films, the film was made with the participation of the Irish Film Board / Bord Scannán na hÉireann and international sales agents Epic Pictures.

The film is released in Ireland by Wildcard Distribution.

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