A deep dive into popular horror history // The Observer
Folk horror is a rather nebulous subgenre, traditionally lacking a precise and quick definition. However, for the purposes of this article, folk horror can be defined as horror media that deals with folklore, witchcraft/paganism, themes of power and isolation and often involves some form of ancient ritual. or magic(k).
In the 1960s and 1970s, popular horror provided a number of great films such as “The Wicker Man”, “Blood on Satan’s Claw” and “Witchfinder General”, but its popularity waned as studios and filmmakers were turning to slasher. genre at the dawn of the 80s in the wake of “Halloween” by John Carpenter. In recent years, popular horror has enjoyed something of a renaissance thanks to films like “The Witch”, “Midsommar” and “Hagazussa”. Director Kier-La Janisse’s new documentary, “Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror,” is a three-hour magnum opus that deftly navigates the complex history of folk horror.
The film is structured into chapters, each with a different theme. The film is made up of footage from over 100 films, interviews with film historians and filmmakers, and beautifully animated footage that captures the mood of each chapter. “Woodlands” covers everything from foundational folk horror films to obscure hidden gems of the genre from around the world. If that sounds too niche, I promise it’s not. If you enjoyed recent A24 horror movies, you’ll enjoy this movie.
What I found most impressive about the film was how Janisse manages to squeeze through the film’s gargantuan 192-minute runtime, because every second is absolutely necessary to the film. Each frame adds to the broad scope of the film in a significant way and deepens the film’s discussion of popular horror history and its cultural context. I was absolutely absorbed; I found myself totally lost in the deep study of a type of horror film that I love. The history of popular horror is as rich as the history of any genre and appears in different forms across the world, but it is most often associated with England and America, and this movie does a brilliant job of showing that popular horror exists in every culture across the world and shows how it interacts with the folklore of every culture it’s about.
The final chapter of the film is dedicated to exploring folk horror across the world, as well as discussing indigenous and marginalized voices in horror cinema, which span a number of woefully underrated cinematic cultures. studied in the Western world. The remaining chapters of the film feature discussions of the underlying political messages of many folk horror films, such as nationalism, the legacy of colonialism, and the otherness of indigenous peoples and “foreign” cultures, particularly in the discussion of British and American folk. horror.
I get it, it’s a niche thing. But if you are a horror fan, this is mandatory. It really is a brilliant documentary film. Janisse’s authorial voice is present throughout the film, unwavering and certain in every move, which imbues the film with a sense of confidence in its style and presentation that makes “Woodlands” eminently watchable despite its running time. certainly daunting execution. Even as a hardcore Folk Horror fan, I was surprised at how much I learned from “Woodlands”, because there are movies mentioned here that I would never have discovered if I hadn’t watched. this film. So if you liked the 1973 version of “The Wicker Man” or “Midsommar” and want more, “Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched” should be your next stop on your journey into the world of folk horror – you’ll come away feeling like an expert on the subgenre.
Title: “Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A Folk Horror Story”
Director: Kier-La Janisse
If you liked: “The Wicker Man”, “Midsommar”, “In Search of Darkness”
Clovers: 5 out of 5