The Cellar’s Eoin Macken on Horror and His Love of Genre Films

The cave is another addition to the creepy basement trope as seen in movies like Thesilenceofthelambs, evil Deadand House on the haunted hill. However, the inclusion of complex mathematical and scientific equations, as well as a staircase to a different dimension, allows The cave to stand out in a crowded genre. Written and directed by Brendan Muldowney, The cave is based on the award-winning short film by the same director, 2004 The steps.

Keira and Brian Woods, played by Elisha Cuthbert and Eoin Macken, and their two children move into a new home in Roscommon, Ireland. When their daughter mysteriously disappears in the basement of the house, it’s up to Keira to find out how she disappeared using the math symbols and equations scattered throughout the house. However, the cursed cellar haunts the rest of the family as they attempt to regain control of the house.

Digital Trends spoke to Macken about his relationship with Muldowney, the benefits of shooting a horror movie during a pandemic, his relationship with genre films, and why he continues to seek them out.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Digital Trends: How did you initially find this project and what made you want to get involved?

Eoin Macken: It was all Brendan Muldowney, to be honest with you. I wanted to work with Brendan, probably for a long time. I just did some scenes for the movie we called Wild years ago, and I thought Brandon was a wonderful director. So when I read this script, I was like, “I really wanted to do this.” I thought the way he designed it and the way he wrote this tradition of what it was fascinated me. I wanted to know what was going on. And then at the end, I was like, “Okay, I have to do this.”

Did “Evil math house” attract you to the project?

[laughing] That was actually their pitch when they sent the script.

Did you and Brendan plan to work together again? Have you stayed in touch, hoping to find the right project one day?

Not so much that we had been looking for something. I think I was just lucky that the kind of script got to me. I think I might have told Brendan at a film festival that I really wanted to work with him again. We kind of knew each other in certain movie circles over the last decade. Then it happened. I think he was a fan of night thieves, and it seemed to match. I was a fan of his, so when he told me about The caveI said, “I’d like to do that.”

I actually spoke with Brendan about this, so I want to get your perspective. Your character works at this ad agency and in a way your job is basically to manipulate the customers as well as the public perception of what you are selling. But inside the house, your whole family is manipulated. Is this a strange form of karma? Are you being punished for things you have done in your life?

Yeah, I thought that was interesting. As characters, their job is to create some sort of lie or fabrication. And I think for Keira, her character has more imagination so she connects to it. Brian is much more pragmatic. But yeah, it’s interesting how they don’t even see what’s happening to their child in terms of bullying and so on. So it makes sense that they don’t even really see what’s going on in their own house because they’re kinda focused on their work, you know?

Keira holds a light with Steven standing behind her in a scene from The Cellar.

You shot this film during the pandemic. I assume you must have quarantined yourself before, which means you are alone for a few weeks. In the film, you are also alone, playing the role of the father who does not believe that his daughter can supernaturally disappear. Did the two weeks of quarantine help you get into the right character mindset?

Yeah, really. We spent two weeks in cottages, side by side in the middle of the forest, and the house was right there. So the house we were about to film in was kind of towering over us from that hill. We were walking around it, and it got really scary at night. There were these [strange] sounds of these cows on the ground. It sounds weird, but when nobody’s around, you have these forests and this deep bellowing of these cows coming in the distance to this creepy house overlooking our cottages, and we just kind of stay [them]. Yeah, that was a little weird. But we had time to work on what we were doing, and we thought, “We’re definitely doing a horror movie.”

Did you think the current house [they filmed in] was haunted?

I’m not allowed to say whether it was or not, but I’m telling you, just between you and me, it was incredibly weird. Where we were around this house, it was a strange, strange place. Beautiful but strange.

Was it good to at least be back in Ireland to film again?

I mean, I love every time I come home to Ireland, but we were just in a forest. This is where we were during the whole shoot. I don’t think Elisha even had a pint of Guinness because we couldn’t get to the bars. They were closed due to COVID.

Ellie stands in front of her father Brian in a scene from The Cellar.

Speaking of Elisha, I know she is a “Scream Queen” in her own right. You have great chemistry throughout the film. What was it like working alongside him?

I think she’s fantastic. She was a gem. We had a very good relationship because we met a few weeks before the shoot. We had a great camaraderie, which kind of helped everything, so it could be a little more subtle. I think we didn’t need to push things. I think she did a great job.

You seem to gravitate towards horror and mysteries like The cave, La Breaor I am scared. What is it about this genre that attracts you to these mysterious roles?

It’s interesting. I think it’s usually sort of who the director is and what he wrote and who the character he created is. I think I got to play some of the most interesting characters in the genre. All the stakes are still pretty high and that makes it a lot of fun. I think when you’re doing genre movies and shows, there’s an energy to what you’re doing all the time. It’s always like the idea is always kinda out there, which I find amusing. I like genre stuff anyway. This is what I grew up watching and reading. So for me, it’s my jam.

Do you have a favorite horror movie?

Whenever someone asks me that, I always say Rosemary’s baby because it’s the one that scared me the most. There’s something in Rosemary’s baby that, I don’t know, gets into your bones and into your belly. So that was always the one that sucked me in.

Did you find it difficult to work with the actors (Abby Fitz and Dylan Fitzmaurice Brady) who play your children in the film? They responded very well to all the horror elements.

Honestly, I couldn’t have done what they did at their age. I couldn’t have acted in my teens, and both were fantastic. They were great.

The cellar was screened at South by Southwest (SXSW), which is known for its loud crowds and good horror movie reactions. How was the premiere?

I actually saw the movie for the first time at SXSW. It was partly because I wanted to see it with an SXSW crowd and also I wanted to see it in a theater for the first time. I wanted to see everyone. So that scared me a little. The energy watching this movie for the first time on a Saturday night was awesome, especially because I didn’t know what to expect. I got a huge kick out of it. I liked it.

In addition to being an actor, you have written, produced and directed your own feature films. How does this overall background add to your performance in movies like The cave?

I always want to do things. Even now when I’m on La Brea, we’re in Australia and a few other guys just want to do stuff. It’s like being a child. But I find that it helped me understand the process better. So I give my trust to the director and I say, “I’m going to do whatever you need me to do. I am here to serve your vision. It’s kind of very relaxing for me because then you realize there are so many different moving parts to making a movie. As an actor, I’m just there to help create the director’s vision.

The cave is now theatrically released and available to stream on Shudder.

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