Irish filmmaker Brian Deane’s 4th short film, “Blight”, is terrifying, macabre and remarkable. It screened in the “Shadow Shorts” competition program at this year’s Transilvania International Film Festival after premiering at the 2015 Galway Film Fleadh and subsequent successful selections in Cork and the Dread by Dawn Horror Film Festival in the UK.
This dark psychological horror was produced by Anna O’Malley, the producer behind the hit Gothic-horror TV series “Penny Dreadful” and is set on a remote island off the West Coast of Ireland during the 1950s. It follows a young priest who is sent there to battle dark supernatural forces that are tormenting a young girl.
Penned by his long-time collaborator and writing partner in crime, Matthew Roche, and funded by the Signatures Funding Program of the Irish Film Board, “Blight” is the first Irish exorcism film ever. It is also a homage to horror films of the 1960s and 1970s, a feat very visible in its aesthetic, style and pace. In that regard, the scenes evolve in carefully framed and lit wider shots and close-ups are eschewed. Even if he wanted to emulate and recreate the aforementioned style, Brian Deane’s own personal style is very much present in this confidently directed piece. The “old-fashioned” and “old school” aesthetic and approach are spryly achieved thanks to the DoP, Russell Gleeson, and his old anamorphic lensing with the lighting top down, reminiscent of the old times of the genre Deane wishes to recreate. The only modern twist comes with the point of view of the supernatural creatures with the use of a tilt-shift lens.
“Blight” is not only a film about possession and exorcism; it also toys with the idea of incest and the role the Catholic Church played in the events in the 1950s. It is not a critique of the Church per se but more a commentary on Irish society and the strength of its belief in the Church to whom the people went to fix their problems – or create them in certain cases. Moreover, as far as the subject of possession is concerned, “Blight” cannot regarded merely as possession as the director and writer look at the possessed person as a gateway to the other side. This is a rather novel approach, hence the depiction of the boatman in the mist, echoing the crossing over to Hades and his underworld realm.
As far as the acting is concerned, the lead actor, George Blagden (known for his role as Athelstan in the TV series “Vikings”) delivers a commanding performance as Father Carey while Alicia Gerrard gives an impressive highly physical turn as Maebh, the possessed girl.
With its astounding visual beauty and polished aesthetic, courtesy of DoP Russell Gleeson, and production designer Connor Dennison, strong performances and commanding directing, “Blight” is an elegant, spectacular and effortless addition to the horror film genre, a clear showcase of Brian Deane’s evident natural filmmaking skills and proof of the renaissance of the Irish film scene.
Production: TW Film, Irish Film Board (Ireland 2015)
Producers: Anna O’Malley
Director: Brian Deane
Screenplay: Matthew Roche
Cinematography: Russell Gleeson
Music: George Kallis
Production Design: Connor Dennisson
Costume design: Giovanni Lipari
Editing: Eamon Cleary
Cast: George Blagden (Father Carey), Donncha Crowley (Father Andrews), Alicia Gerrard (Maebh), Joe Hanley (Pascal), Tristan Heanue (Young Priest), Matthew O’Brien (Willard), Marie Ruane (Eithne)
Color – 15 min.
Premiere: 11/07/2015 (Galway Film Fleadh)