Are the monsters in Unwelcome leprechauns? Irish Redcaps explained
Unwelcome is a new folk horror that pits an English couple against Irish monsters – but are those creatures leprechauns? Director Joe Wright explains.
Unwelcome is co-written and directed by Jon Wright, best known for the brilliant 2012 creature feature Grabbers. A decade on, he’s made another monster movie, with the official synopsis as follows…
Unwelcome stars Hannah John-Kamen and Douglas Booth as a couple who escape their urban nightmare to the tranquility of rural Ireland only to discover malevolent, murderous goblins lurking in the gnarled, ancient wood at the foot of their new garden.
But what are those goblins exactly? And can you call the monsters in Unwelcome leprechauns? The film itself has the answer, as does the director.
“Not leprechauns exactly”
When the couple in question reach Ireland, they’re warned by a family friend about monsters lurking beyond the wall at the end of their garden. The friend in question – Niamh – suggests they do what tradition dictates, and leave a blood offering out at night to keep them at bay.
When the couple ask what the creatures are, Niamh says “Not leprechauns exactly – some called them the far darrig. Or the redcaps.”
This is how a redcap is described on Wikipedia: “The redcap (or powrie) is a type of malevolent, murderous goblin found in Border folklore.
“He is said to inhabit ruined castles along the Anglo-Scottish border, especially those that were the scenes of tyranny or wicked deeds and is known for soaking his cap in the blood of his victims.”
The Unwelcome version of a redcap is consistent with that description, Niamh later stating: “The far darrig are not jolly little elves. They’ll be hungry, and they’ll need feeding every day.”
The folklore that inspired the redcaps in Unwelcome
Speaking to Cineworld about the inspiration for his monsters, Jon Wright says of the research he did with co-writer Mark Stay: “We delved into Irish folklore and myths and legends. We read a lot of fairy tales and a lot of those I’d read before when I was a kid. I revisited them all.
“The thing that struck us was the redcaps. They appear in Irish folklore and in other countries as well. They are goblins who dip their caps in the blood of their victims. That felt like a fun inversion of the leprechaun stereotype. On the surface, we’re talking about leprechaunish-type characters, but really these goblins are quite nasty. There’s something about dipping one’s cap in the blood that suggests one is pleased with the outcome.
“It was important in this film that the redcaps took pleasure in their work, and they absolutely do.”
“These aren’t nice goblins”
Wright doubled-down on the joy that murder brings the redcaps while speaking to Empire, stating: “These aren’t nice goblins, these are nasty goblins.
“They’re malevolent, but they also have a sense of glee. So when they do terrible things, they really enjoy it. There’s no remorse or guilt there, they take a lot of pleasure in it. It’s really a part of them.”
Unwelcome is released in the UK and Ireland on January 27, 2023, while for more of our horror coverage head here.