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An Interview with Paddy Murphy, Director of The Perished

by Mike Haberfelner

April 2020

Films directed by Paddy Murphy on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie The Perished - in a few words, what is it about?

 

The Perished is a social horror film set in Ireland, a couple of years ago when abortion was illegal. The film is about a young woman who falls pregnant in spite of doing her best to avoid it. She is shunned by her religious parents and must travel alone to the UK for the procedure. When she returns, her best friend Davet collects her and takes her to his familyís country home to recover. What neither realizes is that the house is a former Mother and Baby Home, previously ran by the church. Beneath the structure are the abandoned bodies of children who were uncared for and left to die by the Catholic Church years before. Confused and angry, they seek a mother figure. Sarahís guilt that she carries Ė not because she thinks she did the wrong thing, but because of the way everyone is treating her Ė kind of awakens and empowers the spirits and it kind of goes from there.

 

With The Perished being a movie about abortion, and (in a roundabout, metaphorical way) everything that goes with it, what made you want to tackle exactly that subject?

 

Well, in Ireland, up to May of 2018, abortion was illegal. Women who had an abortion could have been tried and receive up to 25 years in prison. I want to clarify that for most murders in our country people get in between 10 and 15 years. For years, there had been many movements trying to get this changed as women had to journey to the UK for abortions and other medical procedures relating to their health.

 

It all came to a head when a woman in Galway died after being denied a lifesaving abortion. The government decided to hold a referendum on Abortion Rights and repealing the eighth amendment to our constitution; which granted equal rights to the unborn child, as the mother herself. I am an incredibly pro-choice person and during the referendum I was very vocal about my beliefs, but there was so much hatred and vitriol from both sides being thrown around on social media. It was really upsetting.

 

The Perished was actually borne more so out of the arguments I witnessed between friends and family in the run up to the Repeal Referendum. I didnít want to come in and make a preachy film solely espousing my views. I wanted to show how shame, guilt, miscommunication, and treating things as taboo hurts women. I also wanted to explore how this guilt comes from a country whose past is steeped in awful tragedy. So many diehard religious folk were against the Repeal Referendum but for years covered up the mass baby graves under Mother and Baby Homes for the Church. This hypocrisy is to me part of what makes The Perished a complicated film Ė especially if youíre looking for a very clear black or white moral area on these issues. I mean I could have done that and gone totally pro-choice, but for me that wouldnít have been interesting or touched on the things that this film does.

 

(Other) sources of inspiration when writing The Perished?

 

I rewatched films like Donít Look Now for inspirations about struggling with grief, and films like The Brood and Ciaran Foyís Citadel for the idea of these evil children, ones created from pure rage. I saw The Changeling for the first time not long after I started writing the script and that definitely felt like it pervaded the film with a certain element of atmosphere. Me and the special effects supervisor Bekki Tubridy rewatched Hellraiser and used it as a template for the filmís practical effects. I studied a lot of Celtic/Pagan mythology, which is where elements like the birds came from. In Celtic mythology, the spirits of babies come back as birds, so that was something that I wanted to seed in there regardless of how many people would get it. I also studied creatures like the Tiyanak and Botchling, which were definitely influences on Kilinís design and motivations.

Side note: the creatureís name, Kilin, is actually derived from the Gaelic, Cilin, which is a graveyard for murderers, rapists, unidentifiable shipwreck victims, suicide victims and stillborn/unbaptized babies.

 

As a man, to what extent could you actually identify with The Perished's Sarah, and the emotional turmoil she's going through, and to what with her boyfriend Shane, actually?

 

I always say that I donít try to write strong female characters, I much prefer the idea of realistic female characters. Sarahís plight is definitely one a woman can truly relate to, but when I was developing the script I spent the time interviewing women who had been through everything Sarah had Ė some even described themselves as being ďhauntedĒ by their decision, thirty years later. None regretted the decision, but it was the shame and guilt put on them by anyone who found out that caused them to feel unyielding guilt.

 

I suffer from depression and often when in an episode fall into a guilt spiral, so I feel that I can relate to Sarah at least on that level. For me, a huge component of getting this film right was speaking to women Ė especially female cast & crew to get their thoughts on it and incorporating those ideas into the story. In terms of Shane, I personally donít relate to him. I was actually very against the argument that Shane throws at Sarah in the last act, during the abortion referendum. But for me, these kinds of arguments happen & are important. As such, just because I couldnít relate to Shane, did not mean I wanted to rewrite him or shame him. Shane is very much a real person, based again on research and interviews.

 

I wanted the characters to feel like they were real and not stereotypes or archetypes. I wanted them to have flaws, just as we all do. Every time I watch the movie, I feel that we succeeded and a huge part of that is down to not only the writing but the actors and performances and what they brought to their roles.

 

What can you tell us about The Perished's approach to horror?

 

With The Perished, we definitely wanted it to be more of a subversive horror. Something that gets under the skin and isnít just cheap jump scares. We wanted to explore the horror of reality in Ireland as a woman, as much as the horror of the monster itself. For me, the most horrific scene in the film is Sarahís lonely walk through the airport and just how alone and shamed she is. It absolutely destroys me every time. As the film ramps up, we definitely wanted to treat the horror as something more physical. We treated the house itself as a kind of womb that is keeping Sarah there, in spite of all the horrors inflicted on her. We wanted people to notice little things on subsequent watches that they might not spot the first time around too. We just really wanted to make people feel uncomfortable and constantly uneasy.

 

You of course also have to talk about the creature effects in The Perished, how were they achieved, and to what extent were you creatively involved in them?

 

I have to give the vast majority of credit to special effects and makeup supervisor, Bekki Tubridy, for Kilinís design. I told Bekki what I wanted on a Skype call, detailing the multiple limbs, etcÖ, and 45 minutes later she came back to me with a complete concept design that was absolutely perfect. Iíve worked with Bekki on every film of mine to date, with the exception of my latest, In Memoriam.

 

Bekki was aided in pre-production and on-set by her team consisting of Vachn Gill, Lynn O Doherty and sometimes Marie Hourigan, our assistant director. Bekki was fantastic at delegating tasks to her team. She also had help from her partner, Evan Murphy, on things like airbrushing the suit. The creature itself was played by Bekkiís brother, Stephen Tubridy. I had worked with Tubz, his nickname, on several films before and had seen him do creature performance work. I knew from the get-go he was my Kilin. I believe he and Courtney McKeon were the first two parts officially cast.

 

Kilin was a mixture of a modified Immortal FX mask, several hundred doll parts, a latex body suit and some slick airbrushing skills. One of the things I stressed as most important from the start was the finger spine. We originally wanted the fingers much smaller (like babies) but they didnít read on camera well, so we had to make them a bit larger.

 

What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

I really donít know what to say in regards to this. Usually on film sets, Iím doing everything but on this film, the producers, Barry Fahy & Vachn Gill, really made sure I could focus on performance and narrative. I was more involved in other departments like camera & special effects than I have been on other shoots, but itís because I wasnít bogged down in the logistics of transporting people, catering, or getting props, etc..., like I normally am.

 

My process is very actor-focused. Even at the casting stage, I like to talk to the actors about their process and then work with them to make sure they are generally comfortable with what is happening. I did however keep the cast from seeing the creature until they were in a scene with him, because I wanted to get a visceral real reaction from their first time seeing Tubz in the suit. For me, directing is all about delegation. Have good people around you and it makes your life easier. Itís also about problem solving, and on The Perished, it was great that with less on my plate I had the freedom to kind of wander off and come up with ideas when we faced potential roadblocks.

 

Do talk about The Perished's key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

The key cast of The Perished are Courtney McKeon (as Sarah Dekker). Paul Fitzgerald (as Davet Lynch), Fiach Kunz (as Shane Daly), Noelle Clarke (as Elaine Dekker), Conor Lambert (as Richard Dekke), Lisa Tyrrell (as Rebecca Daly), Oisin Robbins (as Nigel Kiely) and Stephen Tubridy (as Kilin).

 

I had worked with most of the actors before such as Courtney, Fiach, Noelle, Lisa and Tubz. It was my first time working with Paul, Conor and Oisin and it was an absolute pleasure. The casting process was a long grueling one. Right from the start we had cast Courtney as Sarah Ė she also helped out at the writing stage with feedback and suggestions; Tubz as Kilin and Noelle as Elaine. Paul Fitzgerald had a natural chemistry with Courtney and was great at adding levity to the film, which was very important in such a dour film. Fiach originally thought he might not be available for the role [same with Lisa] but we delayed their scenes to make sure we could have them. Conor was an absolute revelation and was just an absolute sweetheart to work with, and Oisin was a trooper. Everyone just felt right. Even some of the day players, like Tim Hourigan who plays Dr. Moylan and Brian O Regan who plays the shopkeep, just felt perfect due to the rigorous casting process. The scene with Brian O Regan in the shop is one of my absolute favourites because it just feels so earnest and believable. We were honestly truly blessed with the cast we obtained for the film and I canít imagine anyone else filling those roles.

 

I have to give special credit to Stephen Tubridy, who treated his portrayal of Kilin with as much reverence as any of the actors. He wanted to know and understand the creature's motivation for everything and really carried that into the performance. I really think creature performers donít get enough love. I was absolutely blown away by the life that Tubz brought to the role and will be forever grateful to him for giving it his all. Same with Courtney who had the challenging task of being on 93 of 96 pages. There was so much asked of her and she absolutely belted it out of the park, every damn time.

 

A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

The on-set atmosphere on most of our sets is very much like a family. Which isnít to say itís perfect. Families sometimes fight, families donít always agree on everything. But families love and understand each other. We had an on-set guest, who had no previous affiliation to Celtic Badger, named Ariel Fisher of Fangoria. She did a set visit article and I feel like she really hit the nail on the head. We all do every role. We help each other out. Weíre all creative problem solvers.

 

If the mood is heavy, someone will make everyone laugh. If the mood is heavy and the actors require that for their process, thatís respected too. We have all been working together more or less for the last four, five years, so there is shorthand at play that makes everything run very smoothly.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of The Perished?

 

The Perished had its world premiere at FrightFest, London in 2019 as part of their 20-year celebration. Coming out of that screening, the film had overwhelmingly positive reviews and I spoke to several people after the screening who were really touched by it. It went on to play in Dublin, London again, Italy and Ambleside in the north of England. I went to all of the screenings bar the one in Italy and I can say that at every screening there was at least one women who came up and told me how they related to Sarah, or how the film was somehow cathartic for them, which was an incredible feeling.

 

The film had its US premiere in January 2020 at Panic Film Festival in Kansas City. I once again flew out for this Ė especially once I found out that my idol/friend/mentor Joe Lynch would be hosting the film and moderating the Q&A. I was so excited to hear what Joe thought of the movie. The film had an INCREDIBLE reaction in Kansas City and I received some really kind words from Joe, AJ Bowen and a bunch of KC natives.

 

I was on cloud nine, as you can imagine. The press in the US has been less kind, which I fully expected given the subject matter. I always expected the film to be divisive and kind of knew that not everyone would Ė I hate to use the term Ė get it.

 

But Iíve been blown away by some of the reviews since the US premiere and release. I really think horror outlets get it a lot better than some more mainstream outlets. I think they really respect and understand the medium and are a bit more open-minded. Horror fans also seem to like when things are kept a bit vague and not everything is explained outright. Itís been a truly humbling experience to see this thing we built get out there and connect with people all over North America, but weíre so, so grateful to everyone who has bought or rented the film, whether they like it or not.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

At the moment Iím finishing up post production on an experimental found footage film called In Memoriam. I donít know how to really describe it. Itís not out-and-out horror but there are scares and a supernatural element, but again itís very much a film about loss and grief. We shot that in December 2019 and Iíve been really proud of it throughout post-production. I am writing a bunch of stuff, but Iím thinking I may take a break from feature films, as I canít seem to acquire funding from Screen Ireland. Instead Iím going to go back to short films and also do a lot more writing for other directors.

 

What got you into making movies in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?

 

I wrote a short story in 2014 called Ensnared that won a bunch of short story competitions. A friend of mine at the time encouraged me to make the short into a film. I actually wasnít even meant to direct, but the director had to bug out at the last minute so I kind of had to step up and do it. After making three short films, I was kind of fit to give up on film-making when I met a young man named Brian Clancy. He pitched a concept to me, looking for a screenwriter & director. His story The Three Doníts got me super jazzed, and on that set I met most of the people that now form Celtic Badge Media. That was in May of 2015, and together weíve shot over 30 short films, 3 feature films and a bunch of other content since that time.

 

Funnily enough I had studied Video Production & Manipulation in Limerick Senior College, way back in 2004. However after school, I ended up working in retail and then became a videogame developer in 2009. So it was weird that I did study film, but didnít actively do anything in that world till nearly a decade later.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The Perished?

 

Itís easier to show than tell. If you head to youtube.com/celticbadgermedia you can see most of our previous work there, including the trailer for our first feature film, The Three Doníts Ė which is available on Amazon Prime. Our back catalogue is also available on www.celticbadgermedia.com. As Celtic Badge Media we are a film-making collective that shares roles and responsibilities. On some films, Iím just the writer, on others the director. Iíve even acted in one or two. There are around 20+ published shorts available via our YouTube channel that you can check out, right now!

 


How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

Assertive. Itís so weird because off a film set, Iím the most indecisive person in the world. If my wife asks me what I want for dinner, Iím like ďI dunno. Whatever you want!Ē Once we get on set however, I am so decisive and assured. I know exactly what I want and I communicate it very clearly. Iím also very open to suggestion within reason. I will listen to all my cast & crew because a good idea is a good idea, no matter where it comes from. I would hope folks might say Iím a joy to work with, but theyíre probably like ďOh, that asshole!Ē Nah, I always try to have fun but I can be intense when I want to get something just right. But my main thing is I treat absolutely everyone with dignity and respect. It costs nothing and if you do that youíll notice that everyone else on set does the same.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

Clive Barker, Joe Lynch, John Carpenter, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Luc Besson, Peter Medak, George Romero, Olivier Assayas, John Boorman, Ana-Lily Amirpour, Jennifer Kent, Neil Jordan, Adam Green, Hideo Nakata, Takashi Miike, Stuart Gordon, Adam Wingard, Nicholas Winding-Refn, Karyn Kusama, Adam Egypt Mortimer, and Andrť ōvredal.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

This is a tough one. My favourite film ever is definitely Hellraiser. As a teen I wore the VHS tape out cause I watched it so much. I also adore slow burn, emotional horror so films like Donít Look Now and The Changeling. Growing up I absolutely loved slasher films like Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street and the Friday the 13th series, too. Iíve always been more drawn to horror than any other genre, but I always prefer films that have some kind of subtext or are about something bigger at their core. Lately, Iíve fallen in love with films like Sea Fever and Personal Shopper. Iím a huge fan of the work of people Iíve been lucky enough to tour the festival circuit with like Gigi Saul Guerrero, Joe Begos, Jeremy Gardner & Christian Stella and Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

I try not to hate on stuff. I typically try to find the good in stuff best I can. Usually if I hate a movie I donít even remember it, I just donít think about it again.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

Feeling lucky ?
Want to
search
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?

The links below
will take you
just there!!!

Find Paddy Murphy
at the amazons ...

USA  amazon.com

Great Britain (a.k.a. the United Kingdom)  amazon.co.uk

Germany (East AND West)  amazon.de

Looking for imports ?
Find Paddy Murphy here ...

Thailand  eThaiCD.com
Your shop for all things Thai

www.celticbadgermedia.com, facebook.com/celticbadgermedia, @celtic_badger on Twitter. For me personally itís @Paddybass pretty much everywhere (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook).

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Not really. Just super grateful to folks who are taking the time to check the film out on VOD. As a small indie outfit it means so much to get peoples support, especially with the way the world is right now. Also, if folks do check the movie out and like it, please rate & review on iTunes or Amazon, as that stuff really helps us too. Honestly, just knowing that people are checking the movie out and itís connecting with people is an amazing feeling. Forever grateful.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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written by
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