Dead by Dawn 2017: Foxes and Without Name Review (plus Q&A with Lorcan Finnegan)
Before the main feature, Without Name, was shown there was a short by the same director with a similar horror in nature theme.
Director: Lorcan Finnegan
Starring: Marie Ruane, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor & Karen Griffin
Running Time: 16mins
The short focuses on a couple Ellen (Marie Ruane) and James (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) who are financially struggling and trapped in an estate that has been left to ruin after the financial crisis. Ellen, who is a freelance photographer, becomes obsessed with a group of shrieking foxes that roam the estate.
It is a short heavy on atmosphere and the use of location to put over the sense of isolation both emotional and actual is excellent. The initial build is full of foreboding and Ruane is a striking screen presence. While narrative is not always so important in shorts it does seem a bit flimsy in nature here also for all the atmospheric build up the pay off at the end seems somewhat underwhelming. There is however no doubting this is a beautifully shot and intriguing short film.
Verdict: Not totally satisfying but certainly visually striking and well performed.
Without Name (2016)
Director: Lorcan Finnegan
Starring: Alan McKenna, Niamh Algar, James Browne, Morgan C. Jones, Olga Wehrly
Running Time: 93mins
It is hard to strike any new ground in horror these days and a “something supernatural going on in the woods” movie is hardly new but you do not have something totally original to make something interesting and director Lorcan Finnegan, in his debut feature, has certainly made something interesting, even if only in flourishes.
The story concerns land surveyor Eric (Alan McKenna) who has been commissioned to survey an unnamed woodland which his client, only ever see on a laptop, may or may not hold the deeds in order to see if a new development can be built there. Right from the off it seems there is something not quite right about the place as Eric’s equipment is messed with and strange things start occurring which for, obvious reasons, he initially put downs to vandals or possibly eco-warriors who have heard about the possible development.
He is also told scare stories about the woods when he goes to visit the local pub (which is of course your stereotypically unfriendly village pub). Here is where he meets Gus (James Browne) who is a
cheerful hippy traveller who he befriends but is also suspicious of. Eric is also later joined by Olivia his student-cum-lover who is ostensibly there to help with his work.
While the performances of the lead actors are generally good, particularly from McKenna who is in practically every scene of the film, most of the characters themselves don’t leave much impact. Except for Gus who is probably the film’s most interesting character and certainly has the best lines.
The plotting is also a bit heavy handed with a book with the manic scribbling’s of the previous tenant of the cottage Eric is holed up in rather heavily sign-posting the madness to come and while a slow-burn approach can be eminently successful there are stretches here where nothing much seems to be happening and there is not enough narrative depth and intrigue to hold onto for the viewer.
All of which makes this sound like a totally turgid experience but it is not because the visuals in the film are great. The cinematography here is top drawer and there plenty of eerie images of the forest that are likely to be emblazoned on your mind long after you watch it. The film has obviously been meticulously constructed too with nearly every frame looking painterly in composition.
Talking more on the visual’s the movie is at most effective when delving into hallucinogenic territory whether portraying a magic mushroom tea induced trip or Eric’s psychedelic strobe lighting-infused psychedelic freak-out towards the end this is where the movie really takes off, if only there had been more of it.
Verdict: By turns frustrating and intoxicating. Visually impressive but narratively flat. There flashes of great things to possibly come from Finnegan but here it is overall slightly unsatisfactory.
Q&A with Lorcan Finnegan
The screening was rounded off with a short Q&A with the director Lorcan Finnegan. There was questions both on Foxes and Without Name. With one on the former asking if the location was real. To which the answer was yes apparently there were a number of “ghost estates” in Ireland at the time that were going to be fancy estates but where left desolate after the financial crash.
A lot of the questions on the main feature also focused on location with people asking how difficult it is filming in the woods and what he prefer location shooting or studio shooting. Finnegan said he preferred shooting outside and suggested filming in the forest was less difficult than you may think as while it looks on the screen like a very isolated area it had a car park like a 100m’s away and was easily. It was also interesting listening to him talk about how they achieved some of the visual effects.