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.
McCarthy was born in New Hampshire to an Irish-American Catholic family. His family relocated to the Boston area when McCarthy's father took a position as headmaster at Brookline High School. His mother also worked in education as a schoolteacher.
McCarthy began shooting films at the age of 10 with a Super 8 camera inspired by scary movies that he saw. One of McCarthy's first movie theater outings was seeing the shark-fear movie Jaws with his older sister, and he later frequented Boston's many repertory cinemas, such as the Coolidge Corner Theater, which screened 35mm prints of older American and foreign films. Local television station WLVI also provided McCarthy with free access to hundreds of B-movies through its weekly science fiction and horror movie program Creature Double Feature
McCarthy became fascinated with cinematography and by junior high was drawn to the films of John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, George Romero, John Waters and David Lynch. When he entered Brookline High, McCarthy struck up a friendship with future author and humorist John Hodgman. 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 used McCarthy's father's connections to access an industrial photocopier at Brookline's Town Hall and published the magazine for free. The handmade high school publication's open editorial poloicy sparked a free speech debate among the school's students and faculty and brought citywide attention to its young publishers. 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.
After high school McCarthy lived in Chicago and took filmmaking classes at Columbia College before relocaing to New York to attend SUNY Purchase full time. After graduating with a degree in film, he moved to Queens and worked as a bartender in New York City. In his spare time, McCarthy worked in his apartment using a rented editing machine to finish a film that he'd started at SUNY. The film was a mystery about a group of close friends who confront issues of mortality. McCarthy only showed the film once, to a group of his own friends in a rented movie theater.
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. The following year he worked briefly as an office assistant for a company that made video documentaries about the making of feature films, and McCarthy is credited for working on docs about The Silence of the Lambs, The Princess Bride, Starship Troopers and Robocop.
He soon formed the Alpha 60 Film Collective with fellow cinephiles Neil Matsumoto and Cecil Castellucci. 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. Upon seeing the short, a scout from the Sundance Film Festival invited McCarthy to submit his work to Sundance. This invitation prompted McCarthy to make "Cry for Help," a short film about a drug dealer who dies and meets a zombie version of Jesus Christ in heaven. With family support and crowd-funding at parties, McCarthy and his friends raised the $15,000 needed for production, and the film screened 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.
His third short to play at Sundance, an 11-minute ghost story called The Pact, debuted in 2011. Shot in two days on a digital SLR camera, the short was optioned for a longer production. Within six weeks McCarthy expanded its script and was contracted to direct and edit the new feature-length version of the film. This 89-minute cut of The Pact premiered at Sundance in 2012 and was picked up for distribution by IFC. A wide release in the United Kingdom grossed $4 million, 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." McCarthy immediately got to work on his next film, originally titled Home, which premiered at Austin's South by Southwest Film Festival in 2014. Before distribution, McCarthy changed the film's name to At the Devil's Door at IFC's suggestion. 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.
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. In 2016 an McCarthy was featured as part of the 17-disc BluRay set Feast, commemorating the life and films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. That same year he contributed a short film about the Easter Bunny to the horror film anthology Holidays.
In 2017 McCarthy was chosen to direct Jeff Buhler's thriller Descendant. The film was re-titled The Prodigy and released on February 9, 2019.
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.
At 2014's South by Southwest Film Festival the audience nominated home for an award in the Midnighters category.
In 2007 McCarthy married college friend Alexandra Lisee, a television, film and video producer who also produced McCarthy's first short for Sundance. They have a daughter, Agatha.