There are three things Unwelcome quickly makes us aware of when it comes to the creature feature’s Redcaps. One, they require a daily blood offering. Not a human sacrifice or anything like that. Just a nice slice of raw liver (or perhaps equivalent organ meat) left out by the garden for them will do. Two, fail to feed them and be prepared for the consequences. Three, as per Irish folklore, if you call for the Redcaps to help you, they will —but there will be a price to pay.
Basically, we’re led to believe the far darrig, or Redcaps, are potentially violent little goblins who it’s better to appease whether you believe they exist or not. Got it.
What does any of that have to do with St. Patrick’s Day?
Not much. Aside from the fact that Unwelcome is set in Ireland. (For the most part. It starts in London before quickly relocating to the Emerald Isle.)
There’s also the fact Redcaps are considered a sort of Little People, similar to leprechauns. Except they’re more like the leprechauns’ malevolent cousins.
And they are quite vicious. We end up seeing what they’re capable of, but there’s a twist to them and how they star in this movie too. (I was all set for more of an Irish Gremlins-type movie, but that’s not how it turned out.)
We’ll dive in and take a look, but it’s hard to do without spoilers. So, fair warning, there are some ahead.
The Redcaps are coming!
The very first spoiler I want to start with is one I always appreciate when a pet is in a horror movie. I like knowing their fate ahead of time, especially if it’s not good. I don’t care what happens to the people half as much as what happens to any of the animals.
Luckily, in this case, after a tense few scenes, we learn that the Redcaps don’t harm Molly the dog; only her drunk and obnoxious owner, Rory.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Maya (Hannah John-Kamen) and Jamie (Douglas Booth) meet Rory and Mollie in the pub when the locals welcome them to their new village. They move to Ireland to inherit the country home Jamie’s Aunt Maeve left him when she died.
Aunt Maeve died shortly after the couple experienced a harrowing home invasion. Maya had just taken a pregnancy test that revealed they’d finally done it. They were pregnant! Jamie ran down to the local convenience mart to pick up a non-alcoholic bottle of Prosecco to celebrate. But while he’s there, three thugs confront him and then follow him home, bust in, and proceed to beat up both him and the newly pregnant Maya.
Fast forward several months later, and a now very pregnant Maya and Jamie make their way to their new home, where a friend of Aunt Maeve’s lets them in and explains about Redcaps duty. Maya promises to leave the daily offering, even though she doesn’t believe in the mythical beings.
Anyway, that’s when the friend also invites them to the pub that evening. When they get there, they meet a lot of folks who welcome them, including the very inappropriate Rory, who gets kicked out for his vulgar remarks.
It’s while he’s walking home with his dog Molly that the Redcaps attack, in part because Maya forgot to leave out the offering. Again, luckily, the Redcaps don’t mean Molly any harm, but poor Rory is a goner.
Redcaps to the rescue
The Redcaps are one thing, but there’s no appeasing another threat: the Whelans. Led by Daddy Whelan (Colm Meaney), the locals warned Jamie and Maya that the family is no good when they hired them to do some work on their home. Sadly, they find out the hard way the locals were right.
But this is where the twist comes in. She may have forgotten to feed them once, but she does end up setting out a nice plate of liver for the Redcaps the next night.
This becomes helpful when she finds herself suddenly under attack by Eoin Whelan, Daddy Whelan’s big oaf of a son —who at first seems harmless but proves he’s anything but. When he tries to kill her, she calls out for help from anyone within earshot. It happens to be the Redcaps that come to her assistance, and their justice is swift and sure.
But that unleashes the wrath of Eoin’s dad and his other two siblings upon Jamie and Maya, completely shattering the couple’s hope of finding peace and safety in the Irish countryside. The Whelans are every bit as dangerous as the city thugs were, more so, because they mean to end Jamie and Maya’s lives.
And this is where the twist comes in. From the trailer, you might think it’s the Redcaps Jamie and Maya have to fear, but they prove to be their saviors.
Not a perfect horror movie (for St. Patrick’s Day or otherwise)
Unwelcome doesn’t come close to being the perfect St. Patrick’s Day horror movie for a couple of reasons. The biggest is that it doesn’t really have anything to do with the holiday. I’m only associating it with it because it’s (a) set in Ireland, and (b) releasing in March, just before St. Patrick’s Day. (It releases in theaters on Friday, March 10, as part of the AMC Thrills & Chills lineup, and on digital Tuesday, March 14.)
Also, while it’s fairly flawless for 90% of the movie, there’s the issue of its ending. Den of Geek politely described it as anarchic, but I have another word for it: disappointing.
However, endings are hard and are often a letdown. Up until then, I viewed Unwelcome as a very welcome addition to the horror genre. The characters are immensely likable, the storyline is well-developed, and the Redcaps, even as cheesy as they are, are a refreshing change of pace as far as creature features go.
But that ending…messy! Literally. Blood everywhere! And even though it’s clear the Redcaps want a new queen because their old one is about to kick the bucket, why do they even need a queen? That made no sense.
Although, speaking of their queen, that tied into an interesting storyline concerning Aunt Maeve and a child Jamie and Maya first believe died of pneumonia. They end up finding out that wasn’t true.
Overall, I liked Unwelcome very much until the last 10 minutes. Would I add it to my St. Patrick’s Day horror movie marathon? Probably not. But I might watch it on Mother’s Day, as it’s also loaded with a very strong family and maternal theme.
How do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Do you watch any horror movies as part of your tradition? We’d love to hear about it. Let us know in the comments!