Respecting the past while also embracing the challenges and triumphs of modern culture can be a difficult journey for any family, especially one that’s become disconnected by their unique views on how to do so. That’s certainly the case for actor Eoin Macken’s character of patriarch Brian Woods, his wife and their two children in the new horror movie, ‘The Cellar,’ as they soon discover there’s an ancient and powerful entity controlling their new home.
The drama was written, directed and executive produced by Brendan Muldowney. The feature reunites the filmmaker and the performer after they previously worked together on the 2009 crime thriller, ‘Savage.’
‘The Cellar’ is now playing in theaters, courtesy of RLJE Films, and streaming on Shudder. The movie’s official release comes after it had its World Premiere in the Midnighters section at last month’s SXSW.
‘The Cellar’ follows married advertising professionals Keira (Elisha Cuthbert) and Brian as they moved into an old mansion in the Emerald Isle countryside to help them build their company. While the couple is looking forward to having a fresh start for their business and family, their two children – teenage daughter Ellie (Abby Fitz) and elementary school age son Stevie (Dylan Fitzmaurice-Brady) – aren’t as excited about their new home.
Ellie’s relationship with Keira was already strained before they moved, but their connection becomes more complicated as the teenager begins to repeatedly blame her mother for making her leave their old home and her friends. The teen’s discontent is further amplified when her parents ask her to babysit her younger brother while they attend a business dinner, and the lights in the house go out. Seeking help, she frantically calls her mother, who advises her to go downstairs and find the circuit breakers. The family’s troubles only amplify, however, when she descends into the dank cellar and disappears.
Police assume Ellie has run away, but Keira believes something else happened to her daughter. So she begins to research into the house’s former tenants, during which she discovers that the property has a history of alchemy, mathematical equations and a Biblical evil. In her quest to reunite her family, Keira must convince Brian to defy explanation and believe in the house’s past before their daughter is lost forever.
Macken generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘The Cellar’ during an exclusive interview over Zoom. Among other things, the actor discussed that he was immediately interested in playing Brian in the drama because he appreciated the subtle ways that Muldowney structured the characters and overall story. Macken also noted his appreciation that he was able to attend the drama’s premiere with an audience in a theater at SXSW.
The conversation began with the performer explaining why he was drawn to play Brian in ‘The Cellar.’ “I had always wanted to work with Brendan when the script first came to me in a proper capacity. I did a small part on one of his earlier movies called ‘Savage’ years ago, and I’m a big fan of his work in general. I also love his movies, ‘Pilgrimage’ and ‘Love Eternal,'” he shared.
“So once I read the script (for ‘The Cellar’), I loved the way that Brendan created these characters, as well the subtle way that he structured this film, especially the ending,” Macken continued. “I think I read the script at nighttime, because I like to read horror scripts at night, as it amplifies what you’re reading. When I got to the ending, it kind of blew me away. So I thought, I have to do this movie.”
Further speaking of working with Muldowney on the movie, the actor noted that the writer-director “is a very specific filmmaker. He’s very clever in how he understands the genre and what he’s trying to do in it. The whole way this movie is structured, in terms of the characterization and beats, and how he allowed our performances to grow, is actually really clever.
“What was really interesting is that Elisha, Brendan and I spent a few weeks together before filming began in these cottages, in a quarantine situation. So we all had a bit of time to get into the characters and understand what we were doing,” Macken also shared.
“With Brendan, it was all about those subtle moments (between Brian and Keira), and how couples relate. I thought (the script) was really well-crafted, in terms of setting this situation up. You have to care about the characters and what’s going to happen to them,” the performer emphasized. “So the way that he created that was incredible. The kids he cast were also great.”
Then further delving into working with Cuthbert, Fitz and Fitzmaurice-Brady on ‘The Cellar,’ Macken gushed about his easy ability to collaborate with them on the production. “It was good! It was an intense shoot because we were on this one location, and we couldn’t really go anywhere because of COVID. Abby and Dylan were really, really good; I couldn’t have done what they did at their age. But overall, it was a nice, intense, spooky vibe” on set.
Further speaking of the drama’s location, the feature mainly takes place in the family’s new home, and was shot in the winter of 2020 in the West of Ireland, around Roscommon and Sligo counties. The actor shared what his experience of shooting ‘The Cellar’ on location was like during the production.
“I think Elisha never got to go get a famous pint of Guinness in a pub because everything was closed,” Macken divulged with a laugh. “She was disappointed with that!
“But the house was on top of a hill, and quite creepy at nighttime. We were shooting at nighttime a lot of the time. Since we were in this intense environment, that amplified everything,” the performer revealed. “So a lot of what you’re seeing on screen is what we felt. We shot in the dark a lot of the time, which quickly engulfed us.”
With the film following Brian, Keira and Steven as they search for Ellie after she disappears in the titular cellar, Macken shared the process of creating the physicality for his performance. “We didn’t have so much stuntwork. Due to the vibe that Brendan devised on the movie, everything was quite specific. A lot of the physicality was just about being calm and controlled, and allowing the tapestry of the story create that element of the film.”
Once production on ‘The Cellar’ was complete, Macken enjoyed the experience of being able to bring the feature to Austin last month to premiere at SXSW. “It was amazing. I hadn’t actually seen the film until I saw it at SXSW. So the first time I saw it was with an audience at the midnight screening at SXSW. I missed that feeling of being surrounded by people while watching a horror movie; I don’t think anything beats watching a horror movie in a cinema with an audience,” the actor divulged.
Macken also stated that he’s happy the movie is now playing in theaters and on Shutter, and can shared with audiences in a communal environment around the world. “I’m really excited that people get to see it in a cinema. Now that the cinemas are opening again, all I do is go to the cinemas every week, as that was one of the things I missed the most last year. So I’m excited that people get to see it with an audience,” he concluded.