Garry Walsh told David Hennessy about his debut feature film Wickedly Evil blending elements of crime, comedy and horror, and why you can’t freeze bread.
Wickedly Evil is a genre-bending heist-gone-wrong comedy-horror film.
The film starts with Dancer, played by James Farrelly, and Gaz, played by Darryl Carter, both carrying guns on the street.
Both are wearing masks that were meant to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but are actually frog masks someone has painted the coloured bandanas on. It is the moments after some kind of robbery but while you would think they would be in a hurry to get off the street, Dancer is not moving until Gaz answers his question about whether you can or can’t freeze bread.
It is clear we are not dealing with master criminals here.
A third member of the gang Frankie, played by Joseph McGucken, makes it to the gang’s rendezvous point, a house in the countryside. There he waits for his accomplices but by the time they get there Gaz is losing a lot of blood and Dancer has taken a hostage. Meanwhile the fourth member of their crew doesn’t seem to be showing up at all.
They were meant to lie low in the countryside, but the hapless hoodlums could get more than they were bargaining for.
A feature debut for writer/ director Garry Walsh, Wickedly Evil follows events as the lads wait for instructions from their Chief, who is played by Owen Roe. But should they already be running? Do the guards, or the rival gang they just hit, know where they are? Or is there something even more terrifying out there?
Garry Walsh told The Irish World: “The process and doing your first feature and doing it for such a small amount, it’s such a phenomenal learning curve.
“It was a really tight shoot and it was very hard, but I loved every second of it. It was great.”
Joseph McGucken’s Frankie is the most relatable of the gang. He bumbles around the neighbour Sadie, played by Cat L Walsh, and tries to flirt with a guard who comes to the door as it is the only way he can think of to get rid of her.
By contrast, Dancer gets more drug crazed by the minute and is a psychopath at the best of times.
“James Farrelly and Joseph McGucken were brilliant.
“They carried the whole thing.
“Joe was actually cast for another part and then one of the leads fell through, so he took that part on literally a day’s notice and just came in, hit the ground running.
“He was brilliant, he’s very well known over here for his comedy but he’s a brilliant actor as well.
“He really is such a good actor.
“I know James personally. He’d never been in anything, he’d never acted before and he’s just phenomenal as Dancer, and he was so professional how he approached it.
“I couldn’t speak highly enough of the two of them.
“I think for as good as it is, the two of them could take a lot of the credit and Louise (Bourke) as well who played Claire, she was brilliant as well.
“It was a really tough shoot.
“There was no comforts, we were in that house.
“It was freezing, it was cold. It was nearly all night shoots so I can’t speak highly enough of all of them.
“I would definitely like to do something else with them again.”
A backdrop to the film is the feud between two Dublin crime families.
Did you take inspiration from real life events in recent years with the Kinahan and Hutch crime gangs shooting it out on the streets of Dublin?
“No, not really. I can’t say I was really thinking about that.
“I suppose you’re thinking, ‘How do we make it interesting for 90 minutes?
“You know what the barriers are to that as in budget, location, tiny crew.
“You think, ‘Well, how can we make this story interesting and entertaining?’
“Like it or not people are interested in crime and will watch it.
“At the start just when I had finished the script, there’s a guy I use in the US for script coverage and he’s very good and one of the first things he came back with was like, ‘Well, would you not be better off seeing the crime? Seeing the heist, seeing the robbery?’
“I was like, ‘No, no, no, because then to me it becomes very much a crime film’.
“I’m not interested in that.
“For one thing, we wouldn’t be able to do it anyway, wouldn’t be able to do it justice.
“But I’ve no interest in that, I want to see what happens afterwards.
“I suppose the reason I made them criminals was that you’re taking al these people and putting them in a small space, but you know they’re all bad, they are criminals.
“They’ve told us, we’ve seen that they are criminals.
“So it’s not like ‘he’s good’, they’re all bad.
“Even Frankie, although he comes across as being a little bit nice, he’s only nice when you compare him to Dancer. If you took Frankie out and put him with us, you’d be like, ‘This guy’s a lunatic’.
“Put him next to an actual kind of psychopath like Dancer and he seems a little bit more normal.
“I suppose it was that.
“I wouldn’t say it was influenced by what was going on but then again, subconsciously, it probably is.
“You can’t help but be influenced by what’s around you.”
Wickedly Evil blends the crime genre with horror.
Like many of the greatest horrors, it is also set far away from civilisation.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Deliverance, so many horror films start with the premise of city people going into unfamiliar territory.
With Frankie, Dancer and Gaz on unfamiliar ground and trying to avoid the law, who will come running if they get into trouble?
“I moved from Dublin to Gorey.
“Tara Hill’s a beautiful place but growing up in a council estate in Dublin where it’s just noises and sound and people around all the time, you’re suddenly in the country where your neighbours are three minutes away and you can literally hear nothing.
“At night time that was one of the things I kind of really had to get used to.
“You’d be outside at night.
“It’s just pitch black, you can’t hear anything. There’s nothing, you could shout, you could scream and, like you said, no one’s coming running.
“No one’s coming to you. Well, that’s good and bad.
“I suppose that was just a good bed rock for what we tried to do it with the film.”
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen vampires in an Irish production which was refreshing. If it was an Irish man Bram Stoker who invented them or at least popularised them, and now they seem to be a preserve of American horror films and TV.
“We kind of gave birth to vampires, didn’t we? Or one of our brothers did.
“I love horror, I absolutely love it.
“Like you talked about, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Tobe Hooper and guys like that, Carpenter and Craven and all of them, I love all of that stuff.
“And I think certainly for whatever I do next, I’d love to maybe not have a genre splitting feature where it’s kind of half one thing, half another, I’d love to just kind of go all in on the next one like with horror but we’ll see.
“Obviously I’m a huge fan of them and it was just fun.
“It was fun to throw in something a bit crazy.
“Whether it worked or not, I suppose that’s up to whoever watches it.”
Was Reservoir Dogs an inspiration because I think the films are a little similar? They’re about the aftermath of a heist..
“I think you’re being very kind.
“Maybe on a small level it shares some very slim similarities.
“I’ve been a huge fan of Tarantino.
“I didn’t set out to replicate Reservoir Dogs but I suppose with anything you do, the things you love and your inspirations creep into it.
“Obviously, the story is a group of criminals and the story starts after the heist, which I suppose is similar to Reservoir Dogs.
“I’ll take that compliment.”
Is Love/ Hate also an inspiration?
“I grew up in a council estate in Dublin, not to say that it was gangs and violence and crime everywhere.
“Not at all but I suppose that stuff is just everywhere and those characters are kind of people you would have known at some point.
“Again, I’m not talking about knowing heavy criminals or anything like that but just that world.
“Love/Hate is obviously very Dublin centric, so again those influences like Love/Hate/ Intermission, that film from 20 years ago now.
“That kind of crime but with the comedic element to it- It’s probably influenced by Dublin, I suppose more than anything.
“Again not to say that Dublin is some crime ridden city or anything like that, there’s probably people outside of Dublin that say, ‘No, it is. It is’.
“I suppose they’re the influences, more just the people I kind of would have known and characters and obviously all the stuff you watch again, like I said, of course Love/ Hate and stuff, factors into it.”
Speaking of Intermission, you must have been delighted to have a member of its cast Owen Roe appearing in your first feature?
“I love Owen Roe. I actually did another short film a couple of years ago.
“It was an animated one and he did some voiceover work for it.
“Intermission is one of my favourite, definitely one of my favourite Irish movies if not one of my all-time favourites.
“I absolutely love it, and he was brilliant in it.
“And obviously, I’ve seen him doing a lot of theatre over the years.
“I was just such a huge fan.
“So we just reached out and he said he’d do it and fair play to him.
“I mean we had him for two nights, it was freezing cold. We covered him in blood and had him roll around the floor.
“And he was just so generous with his time, with his talent and everything, absolute gent of a guy so delighted to have him in something.”
Inexperienced directors are advised to keep things simple in terms of cast and locations.
You’ll notice that Quentin Tarantino’s own directorial debut Reservoir Dogs took place mostly in an old warehouse.
Wickedly Evil, Garry’s debut, takes place mostly in and around a country house in Gorey, Co. Wexford.
“We had no choice but to be contained and it had to be written that way and obviously, it had to be shot that way.
“And how interesting can you make something in a house?
“I don’t know how it comes across in the film, but the house itself was tiny so it was trying to, obviously, expand that whole canvas of like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna have to spend 90% of the film here, and still have it interesting’.
“Whether or not I succeeded, I suppose, is up to anyone who watches it.
“I was actually living in Gorey at the time, a place called Tara Hill, beautiful area in Gorey.
“And as I was writing, the only thing you could see from the window was actually this old, kind of derelict house really which was the house which was next door to us.
“And as I was writing, I just kept looking at the house thinking about it, even just logistically staring at this physical space in front of me, and by the end of it I was just like, ‘Okay, I’ll have to contact the owner’.
“Someone had bought the house, he actually lived in the UK. He wasn’t doing anything with it at the time.
“I just sent him an email and said, ‘Look, you don’t know me but I live next door to your house in Gorey, can we borrow it for a movie we’re filming?’
“And that was it.
“It was perfect.
“I mean, the house was kind of stuck in the 90s.
“The family that had been living there had passed away a good few years ago, so it hadn’t been touched, so it had these kind of great fantastic old couches, curtains that hadn’t been touched in about 10, 15, 20 years probably, so it actually ended up being perfect for us.
“Aesthetically, it was perfect and functionally, it was awful.
“But I suppose it has to be give and take.”
Garry was producer on Alex Fegan’s 2015 documentary, Older Than Ireland.
The documentary spoke to several centenarians to get a unique perspective of modern Ireland from those who were older than the state.
The film’s stars have since passed on which makes it even more important that their stories were documented.
“That was one of my favourite things I’ve ever done, I’ve ever worked on.
“Actually the last centenarian Michael passed away last year.
“It was just amazing, just what an incredible group of people and Alex, who I worked with on it, he’s brilliant, great director and storyteller.
“It really was, I think out of all the stuff I’ve done- film, television, writing- That was definitely one of the most rewarding ones, just to talk to that group of people. What a special group of people.
“I nearly think a film like that should be made every 10 years or so, because they’re just so unique, and they are a rare group of people and what they have actually, which is definitely a rarity, I think in society today was that they really didn’t care what you thought. They weren’t trying to be funny even when they were funny. They weren’t trying to be smart.
“It was very much, ‘I’ve lived my life. Here’s what I think. I’m not trying to impress you’.
“Which is rare when you’ve got a camera pointed at somebody.
“It was great. I loved working on that.”
What’s next? Are you already working on your next project? “I’ve got two.
“I’ve kind of nearly a split of what Wickedly Evil was, so I’ve got an all out horror that’s kind of set in the late 1970s.
“It’s about a young girl who gets pregnant and sent off to a mother and baby home and she kind of becomes convinced while there that her unborn child is unnatural.
“It’s kind of her descent into madness.
“And then I’ve got another kind of straight up Dublin crime comedy as well.
“So it’s like I’ve split the film into two so I’ve got both of them ready and just at the point now where I’m just kind of pitching them around.”
Just one more question before I let you go, Garry. I’m not going any further before I got an answer, though. Can you freeze bread?
“You can’t freeze bread. Who freezes bread?”
That really would be criminal, and horrifying.
Wickedly Evil is out now on digital from 101 Films.