Nicholas McCarthy (director)

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Nicholas McCarthy
Director Nicholas McCarthy on the set of THE PACT (2012).jpg
McCarthy on the set of The Pact in 2012
BornNovember 1970 (age 51)[1][2]
EducationBrookline High School
Alma materSUNY Purchase
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter, producer, actor
Years active2000–present
Notable work
The Pact
At the Devil's Door

Nicolas McCarthy (born November 10, 1970) is an American film director and writer based in Los Angeles. A lifelong lover of film, McCarthy struggled for the first decades of his career, receiving his first break into the motion picture industry at the age of 40 with the release of his 2012 feature film The Pact. In 2014 he released At the Devil's Door, establishling himself primarily as a maker of horror film.

Early life[edit]

McCarthy was born in New Hampshire to an Irish-American Catholic family.[3] His family relocated to the Boston area when McCarthy's father took a position as headmaster at Brookline High School.[4] His mother also worked in education as a schoolteacher.[2]

McCarthy began shooting films at the age of 10 with a Super 8 camera.[5] One of McCarthy's first movie theater outings was seeing the movie Jaws with his older sister, and he later frequented Boston's many repertory cinemas, such as the Coolidge Corner Theater,[6] which screened 35mm prints of older American and foreign films.[5] Local television station WLVI also provided McCarthy with free access to B-movies through its weekly science fiction and horror movie program Creature Double Feature[7]

McCarthy became fascinated with cinematography and by junior high was drawn to the films of David Cronenberg, George Romero, John Waters and David Lynch.[2][5][6] When he entered Brookline High, McCarthy struck up a friendship with future author and humorist John Hodgman.[8] The two shared a love of weird films and co-edited the controversial magazine Samizdat. Named after dissident underground literature in the Soviet Union, the friends published the magazine for free.[9] The handmade high school publication's open editorial policy sparked a free speech debate among the school's students and faculty and brought citywide attention to its young publishers.[10] During his teens McCarthy also made short movies using a video camera and dabbled in animation through classes in high school and a local arts center.[4]

Filmmaking career[edit]

After high school McCarthy lived in Chicago and took filmmaking classes at Columbia College before relocating to New York to attend SUNY Purchase full-time.[5] After graduating with a degree in film, he moved to Brooklyn and worked as a bartender. In his spare time, McCarthy worked in his apartment using a rented editing machine to finish a film that he'd started at SUNY. McCarthy only showed the film once, to a group of his own friends in a rented movie theater.[2]

In 2000 McCarthy moved to Los Angeles where he slept on a couch in his sister's home before renting a Sunset Boulevard apartment for $500 a month. He soon formed the Alpha 60 Film Collective with fellow cinephiles Neil Matsumoto and Cecil Castellucci.[11] Named for the fictional computer villain in Jean-Luc Godard's film Alphaville, the group collaborated on making numerous short films, which they showed at the Echo Park Film Center. McCarthy's 12th film for Alpha 60, entitled Maid, was envisioned as a Spanish language documentary that evolves into a Korean musical in under six minutes.[12] Upon seeing the short, a scout from the Sundance Film Festival recommended McCarthy submit any subsequent work to Sundance.[13] This vote of confidence prompted McCarthy to make "Cry for Help," a short film about a zombie version of Jesus Christ, which premiered at Sundance in 2005. His next short film, Chinese Box starring Sam Ball and Petra Wright, was shot for just $300 and played at Sundance in 2009. Each film toured the festival circuit and netted interest from producers, but no offers for further production.[2]

His third short to play at Sundance, an 11-minute ghost story called The Pact, debuted in 2011. When the short was optioned for a longer production, within six weeks McCarthy expanded it into a feature and was contracted to direct the new feature-length version of the film. The 89-minute feature of The Pact premiered at Sundance in 2012[2][14] and was picked up for distribution by IFC.[15] A wide release in the United Kingdom grossed $4 million,[16] and the film was well received stateside with the Los Angeles Times later calling it "a crisply made haunted house movie that benefited from its grab-bag approach."[17] McCarthy immediately got to work on his next film, originally titled Home, which premiered at Austin's South by Southwest Film Festival in 2014.[18] Before distribution, McCarthy changed the film's name to At the Devil's Door at IFC's suggestion.[19] That same year McCarthy served as executive producer on a sequel to The Pact starring the first film's original leads, but written and directed by Dallas Hallam and Patrick Horvath.[17] McCarthy had no creative involvement with the sequel.

McCarthy was approached by French horror film directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo to make an English language version of their film Livid, but the project fell through.[15] In 2016 McCarthy was featured as part of the 17-disc Blu-ray set Feast, commemorating the life and films of Herschell Gordon Lewis.[20] That same year he contributed a short film about the Easter Bunny to the horror film anthology Holidays.[21] The short was praised by both secular and religious writers online as a disturbing examination of faith. [22]

McCarthy directed the horror-thriller The Prodigy for Orion Pictures, which was released on February 8, 2019. The film was written by Jeff Buhler and starred Taylor Schilling and Jackson Robert Scott.[23]

Award nominations[edit]

At the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, McCarthy's original short version of The Pact was nominated for a Short Filmmaking Award in the category of U.S. Dramatic Film.[24]

At 2014's South by Southwest Film Festival the audience nominated home for an award in the Midnighters category.[25]

Personal life[edit]

In 2007 McCarthy married college friend Alexandra Lisee, a television, film and video producer who also produced McCarthy's first short for Sundance.[12] They have a daughter, Agatha.[2]


Year Film Credit Notes
2004 Maid Director, written by, composer Short film, co-directed and co-wrote with Sam Zuckerman
2005 Cry for Help Director, written by Short film, co-wrote with Charlie Short
2009 Chinese Box Director, written by Short film
2011 The Pact Director, written by Short film
Catch .44 Special thanks
2012 The Pact Director, written by
2014 At the Devil's Door Director, written by
2016 Holidays Director, written by Easter segment
Love is Dead Special thanks Short film
2017 The Neighbor Special thanks
Jackals Thanks
Final Vision Director TV movie
2019 The Prodigy Director
2020 Body Cam Screenplay by Co-wrote screenplay with Richard Riedel, based on a story by Richard Reidel


  1. ^ McCarthy, Nicholas. "About". Facebook. Retrieved 13 October 2017. November 10[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Streeter, Kurt (20 January 2012). "Hollywood dream of filmmaker Nicholas McCarthy is stop and go". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  3. ^ Brady, Tara (June 8, 2012). "The Fright Stuff". The Irish Times. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  4. ^ a b Sheasley, Chelsea (July 30, 2012). "Horror show: Q&A with Brookline's Nicholas McCarthy". Wicked Local. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d "Meet the 2012 Sundance Filmmakers #35: Nicholas McCarthy, 'The Pact' | IndieWire". Indiewire. January 13, 2012. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Talkhouse Film Contributors Remember George A. Romero". Talkhouse. July 17, 2017. Retrieved 27 September 2017. I saw Night of the Living Dead for the first time, just after I had turned 11, at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in suburban Boston ... It was clear that I had seen something different from any other horror movie I’d encountered ... The movie was humanist, but also pessimistic about humans. That’s George Romero in a nutshell, and no one made movies like him.
  7. ^ Probert, John Llewellyn (19 August 2012). "Nicholas McCarthy". This Is Horror. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  8. ^ Campbell, Bruce; Sanborn, Craig (2017). "Introduction". Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor. Macmillan. ISBN 9781250125613.
  9. ^ Gross, Terri (October 30, 2017). "John Hodgman Reflects On His Mother's Death And White Privilege". Fresh Air. National Public Radio. WHYY. Retrieved 4 November 2017. Nick McCarthy, who was one of the editors with me—his dad was the headmaster of the school. And because of that, we actually went to Brookline Town Hall to use their massive Xerox machine for free. It was literally being published by the state. It could not have been more upside down.
  10. ^ Norton, Michael Patrick (February 17, 1988). "STUDENT MAGAZINE STIRS CONTROVERSY IN BROOKLINE". The Boston Globe. p. Metro Section, page 19.
  11. ^ "History". Alpha 60. Archived from the original on 2 April 2016. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  12. ^ a b "Did you know shag carpets come with rakes?". Pearl Snap Discount. 14 March 2011. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  13. ^ Smith, Nigel M. (July 5, 2012). "FUTURES: 'The Pact' Writer/Director Nicholas McCarthy On Going From Arty Shorts to Mainstream Horror | IndieWire". IndieWire. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  14. ^ Dargis, Manohla (5 July 2012). "'The Pact,' a Horror Movie Feature Debut by Nicholas McCarthy". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  15. ^ a b Barone, Matt (July 6, 2012). "Interview: "The Pact" Director Nicholas McCarthy Talks Ghost Stories & The Influence Of Dario Argento's "Suspiria"". Complex. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  16. ^ Collis, Clark (3 July 2012). "'The Pact' director: 'Hearing people scream is almost too addictive'". Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  17. ^ a b Abele, Robert (30 October 2014). "'The Pact 2' doesn't hold much promise". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  18. ^ Donato, Matt (12 March 2014). "Home Review [SXSW 2014]". We Got This Covered. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  19. ^ Miska, Brad (May 29, 2014). "IFC Dates 'At the Devil's Door,' Formerly 'Home' (Exclusive) – Bloody Disgusting". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 27 September 2017. After IFC acquired the movie at South by Southwest they floated the idea that a more genre-direct title might help the movie reach its audience.
  20. ^ Anderson, Kyle (24 October 2016). "HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS FEAST is a Balanced Film School Meal (Blu-ray Review) | Nerdist". Nerdist. Archived from the original on 27 September 2017. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  21. ^ Bibbiani, William (24 March 2016). "Happy Easter from 'Holidays' | An Exclusive Scary Easter Clip! – CraveOnline". CraveOnline. Archived from the original on 27 September 2017. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  22. ^ Gravino, Neil. "Nicholas McCarthy's Easter: A Modern Fairy Tale | Horror Homeroom".
  23. ^ Ford, Rebecca (May 18, 2017). "'The Pact' Director Nicholas McCarthy to Helm 'Descendant' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  24. ^ Esteban, Julieta; Frey, Kelly (January 30, 2011). "2011 Sundance Film Festival Announces Awards". Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved 27 September 2017.
  25. ^ Yamato, Jen (5 February 2014). "SXSW: 'The Guest,' 'Oculus,' '13 Sins' Among Midnighters; Full Shorts Slate Unveiled". Deadline. Retrieved 27 September 2017.

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