Local cinema in Northern Ireland is going through something of a minor golden age at the moment, thanks to grassroots talent, excellent crew and an international interest in the filmmaking work going on here.
Among the great local films to arrive on our screens this summer is Boys From County Hell , a comic horror film about a trio of cash strapped workmen, led by a conflicted father and son team, who undertake a job in a forbidding and isolated location, only to awaken an ancient Irish vampire in the process.
The film was written by Chris Baugh and Brendan Mullin, who previously made the acclaimed Belfast-set revenge thriller Bad Day For The Cut .
Boys From County Hell also stars some well known actors, including Derry Girls star Louisa Harland, stage and film star Fra Fee, and In The Name of the Father actor John Lynch.
Leading cast member Jack Rowan, who viewers will know for his role as Bonnie Gold in Peaky Blinders, took us behind the scenes of the film, saying that it an incredibly fun process, which he hopes will be reflected in the final product.
Jack Rowan in Boys From County Hell
(Image: Aidan Monaghan)
He Belfast Live: “For anyone who’s seeing it, I’m hope that they have as much fun watching it as we did filming. It was a real joy.
“The first thing that jumped out at me when I auditioned – because my dad’s Irish – is that I’d get a chance to try out the accent. So that’s what led me to want the role. Everything that followed was a bonus.”
Jack, who’s from London, admitted that there has been a few dodgy Northern Irish accents over the years but hopes that his father’s background has given him an advantage.
He said: “I’ve had practice because my dad’s from there. Obviously there’s one thing imitating an accent and playing an actual character but I suppose it will always go down well having a few beers with my dad and hearing him talk and taking it all in.”
Jack describes Boys From County Hell as a comedy horror film which also tells an interesting story about a relationship between a father and son.
Nigel O’Neill in new horror comedy which premiers August 6
He explained: “It follows these construction workers in a small town in Ireland, based on somewhere in Tyrone. They’re a bunch of drifters.
“My character is the son of the head of construction, he’s content with his life and having a few beers and hanging out with mates. And then one day they unleash an ancient Irish vampire. At the core of it is a story about me and my father and how we’re bickering constantly and how it takes a vampire trying to kill us to bring us together.”
Jack found himself working with local filmmakers Chris Baugh and Brendan Mullin, an experience which he loved.
He added: “They’re fantastic guys. They’ve wanted to make this film for years. They actually made a short film of it years ago just to try to get funding, so it’s been a real passion for them.
“So the journey – me coming into it as the movie’s about to be made – it felt like I was connecting with something that really meant a lot to these two people. It makes me really proud of them to see it finished and I hope to work for them again.”
The film also allowed Jack to work with some of the brightest stars on the Irish film scene, including Fra Fee, Louisa Harland, John Lynch and Nigel O’Neill.
Louisa Harland gets a little bit bloodied
Jack said: “I remember seeing Fra on the stage years ago and loving him. Then I hadn’t seen Derry Girls but I knew of it and I knew of Louisa.
“Nigel I knew from watching him starring in Bad Day For The Cut, then obviously John Lynch is massively well known.
“It’s nice to meet these people and work with them and consider them friends. To know that someone like Fra Free isn’t someone I just know from the stage, he’s someone I can call a mate, someone I can text and say hello to now.”
Boys From County Hell was filmed just before Covid, meaning that the pandemic caused a delay in getting released. Jack said he’s relieved that it’s being premiered, saying that it feels like things have come “full circle.”
He added: “We made iit nto Tribeca Film Festival and a few other film festivals. The ball was rolling right before Covid hit. During that time, we just sort of thought, ‘Are we ever going to get our cinema release?’
“We didn’t get to go to those festivals and there was a lot of uncertainty, so it’s been one hell of a journey. But it has its cinema release now and seeing some of the reviews, seeing it getting out there, it feels like its come full circle.”
On a personal note, Jack said that he enjoyed his time during the filming, maintaining it was the most fun he’s ever had on set.
He revealed: “One thing that always sticks for me is that whenever we’d finish for the day, even if it was a night shoot, even if we rolled up at 5am, we’d go straight to the hotel bar and have a nightcap/early morning cap. Then we’d go to Little Italy around the corner for a pizza.
“We ended up getting so comfortable with each other that we’d be walking in sometimes without taking our blood off. Going into the bar or into Little Italy making our order, the workers probably thinking, ‘Who are these people?’
“It was nice for me to play a character that didn’t take himself so seriously. I’ll say that this was the most fun I’ve ever had on set. It’s hard to pick one moment, because it was all so much fun. Even during Covid, and everything that came after, I found myself reminiscing about that role a lot.”
Boys From County Hell will land in cinemas in Northern Ireland on August 6.