His first full-length feature, “I Sell the Dead,” is now showing in cinemas in New York and Los Angeles and will open on August 28, in Boston.
Saturday night used to be movie fright night on BBC2 and it was the highlight of his week. “I would stay up all night watching them,” recalled writer and director McQuaid, who is 36.
His well-received low-budget is ” bit of a homage” to the old Hammer films and others in the horror genre, he readily conceded, and the work of actors like Christopher Lee, something that critics spotted straight away.
“The real genesis of the project is a love for those movies and it also came about from wanting to make one as opposed to wanting send them up,” McQuaid said.
The plot involves a pair of grave robbers in 19th century Britain. It was entirely made in New York City, however, and the fog and the blood are fake, too.
The director described it variously as a “horror-comedy” and a “fun romp.”
“It’s not going to stand up to a whole lot of scrutiny. It is what it is, he said. “I wasn’t going for anything too deep or existential.”
The reviews were not only generally positive but also helpful, he said.
McQuaid reported the budget was “well, well under $1 million.” Indeed the original plan was to make it for $50,000, but “it grew organically.” Well-known actors came on board, for one thing.
Dominic Monaghan, from “The Lord of Rings” trilogy, stars, as does Ron Perlman, the Irish-born Brenda Cooney and Larry Fessenden, who does double duty as producer.
McQuaid himself is on screen at one point as a backup singer to London Irish New York rocker Joe Hurley (a case of a Hammer fan collaborating with a Hammers fan).
The writer-director had previously collaborated with Fessenden, a writer-director in his own right, and Cooney on his first project “The Resurrection Apprentice,” a horror short that showed at a few festivals.
“I Sell the Dead” featured at 22 festivals, 12 of which McQuaid attended.
“I’ve just come back from South Korea,” he said.
“It’s going to do very well on DVD, hopefully, and video on demand [it’s already available in that format] and stuff like that,” he said about “I Sell the Dead.”
McQuaid, who grew up in Artane, is currently involved on a project that is set in Dublin, which he visits several times a year.
He’s also currently reading scripts that have been sent to him from L.A., and hopes to find one he’ll like enough “to spend the two years involved in getting it on the screen.”
Since his immigration to New York in 1999, the Chelsea resident McQuaid has mainly done post-production work, particularly in animation and on TV commercials.
He trained in graphic design in Waterford Regional Technical College, and did some further college work in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. He then completed some film production courses at NYU.
“It wasn’t until I hit the States that I started to believe that I could do it,” he said about writing and directing.
As for working on the film set, McQuaid said: “I loved it” and, but when certain scenes had to be reconfigured “it was insane, hellish in a way.”
He particularly enjoyed the collaboration with actors who were taking time out from much bigger projects.
“My inspiration will always be horror, but I definitely want to branch out,” he said.
“It’s a very good start, but I could never rest on my laurels,” said McQuaid, whose other passion is playing rugby. “I really have to continue challenging myself. I’m still learning.”