The Cellar Interviews: Elisha Cuthbert, Eoin Macken & Brendan Muldowney on their spooky thriller

One of the breakout horror hits at this year’s SXSW was Irish director Brendan Muldowney’s The Cellar. Based on his acclaimed short film, The Ten Steps, The Cellar is a change of pace for the director, who previously helmed the star-packed Pilgrimage, starring a pre-fame Tom Holland, Jon Bernthal and Richard Armitage. The Cellar is a spooky, atmospheric horror flick shot at the height of the pandemic on an isolated rural estate in Ireland. In fact, the cast and crew were quarantined in the same area they shot in, which, I learned, greatly added to the vibe of making this creepy thriller.

In it, Elisha Cuthbert and Eoin Macken play parents who relocate their family to an isolated Irish estate, only for their daughter to go missing when she decends into the titular cellar. The Cellar premieres on Shudder today! Here’s an interview we did on the even of their SXSW premiere with Muldowney and his stars, Elisha Cuthbert and Eoin Macken. 

On making The Cellar in Ireland during quarantine:

Elisha Cuthbert: It was a kind of an incredible experience because unlike most people (during COVID), I was able to sort of skirt away to the beautiful countryside that is Ireland and actually make a film, you know? The crazy thing about it though, was that we did have to quarantine for two weeks prior to being able to film, but we were quarantining on the property where we shot the film. It did feel like the bubble created this amazing experience where we couldn’t leave. 

And we were just completely immersed in the project. We really got two weeks to focus in on the script and I really got to concentrate on what I wanted to do with the character. And you just really felt like you were immersed in it and it was just a really incredible experience.

Eoin Macken:  I was thrilled to go back home and shoot something there. And I was also really excited to work with Brendan (Muldowney). I wanted to work with him for a long time because I’ve been a fan of his work. So to be able to do that and then being in an isolated environment where we’re all together…

There was a lot of logistical difficulties for the production, but I think for myself and Elisha they looked after us and we were able to get to properly create our characters and you’re kind of immersed in what this story was because we were living pretty much across the field from it.

So in a way it was kind of quite special. And then of course, you’re making this crazy, crazy horror story, which then permeates into your being because you’re kind of isolated anyway, in a weird way as well. So the whole thing was, was a really kind of amazing experience on many levels in that regard.

Brendan Muldowney:  It’s interesting, because you know, sometimes we’re all so busy that to be forced into two weeks of, “well, there you go…” Sometimes that’s really nice for people. You know? I was down there for the two weeks where I was busy and I’m sure the guys were too, but I saw them enjoying the countryside a lot.

Arrow in the Head reviews The Cellar, starring Elisha Cuthbert. Coming to theatres and the Shudder streaming service on April 15th.

On why people love the spooky house genre so much, which gets scarier as you get older on develop more responsibilities and have a family:

Elisha:  I think the genre has always been so strong in the way that, you know, people have amusement parks and want to get on the scary ride. It’s that fear, it sort of brings something out in you. It sort of takes you on a ride and I think that’s really appealing. I’ll tell you once I got the screener for it just leading up to the festival (SXSW) so that I could see it, I was sitting there and sitting there, sitting there, I just was like, I don’t know if I could do this, and we made the movie! I think that’s the beauty of the genres that it just sort of evokes this sort of reaction out of people… It’s a lot of fun. And it’s been a long time since I had done one (her last horror film was 2007’s Captivity). Because they have to be really well thought out and I think audiences who like the genre they want a certain thing and they want it to be done right. And this one really felt special.

And obviously to be the female lead of it…She’s such a strong character and you know, they’re usually not. So it was a nice to take a different approach. 

On taking a less gore-based approach in The Cellar than in previous work and its place on Shudder

Brendan: The short film (The Ten Steps) won at the Sitges Film Fest, So that was for hardcore sort of genre heads. And it won the New York International Children’s Film Festival. Somewhere on Twitter. I found recently there’s kids in Spain using this (the short) as a storytelling technique to come up with endings for the short film. I’ve seen kids on the platforms for years, all commenting and asking, “what happens next” and stuff. 

I love Shudder and I love grown up horror films. And if you look at my back catalog of films, they’re not for children. They’re not for grannies. But with this one I also wanted to make a film my daughter could see. And my old films…I know what I’m working on next is going to be just as demented. But I did want to make something that was atmospheric based and Shudder has plenty of atmospheric based ghost stories as well. You know, it doesn’t necessarily need to be gore based.

The Cellar is currently in theaters and streaming on Shudder. Check out our review here and also some cool horror recommendations Elisha, Eoin and Brendan gave us back at SXSW. 

About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.