Back in 2010 I watched a series on tv, A History of Horror, hosted by Mark Gatiss. The second episode of this series was entitled ‘Home Counties Horror’ in which Gatiss focussed on British horror films of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. I remember this episode vividly because Gatiss discussed three films which I’ve long had a fascination with, The Wicker Man, The Blood on Satan’s Claw and Witchfinder General. In discussing these films he put two words together to describe a sub-genre, Folk Horror.
Folk Horror! Such a simple phrase with such a depth of meaning. It ignited an indefinable something in me; it seemed that all the subjects I had long been interested in had suddenly been gathered together and given nomenclature.
And it seems I wasn’t the only one.
Illustrator and writer Andy Paciorek created, what was to become, a very popular Facebook page under the name Folk Horror. In time, Paciorek changed the Facebook page to a Facebook group called Folk Horror Revival, of which I became a member shortly after it formed. This group now has a 10,000+ (and growing) membership base and an outstanding team of administrators made up of artists, musicians, filmmakers and academics all associated with the field. You can find the group here:
On the back of the Folk Horror Revival group Paciorek recently created Wyrd Harvest Press, a small press dedicated to the subject. Their first publication is Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies.
So, what exactly is Folk Horror? Well, that’s a difficult question to answer as, by its very nature, it’s a nebulous thing. Each individual element of it is often shrouded in obscurity and the connecting threads are often intuitive rather than concrete. The definition of the phrase is something the Facebook group has been grasping for and this book elucidates upon; Paciorek gives an excellent overview in his introduction to this book.
For me the key to the subject would perhaps be somewhat inadequately described as “works which explore the darker side of humanity’s instinctive interaction with the landscape they find themselves in”. I’ve been using this theme in my own writing for several years.
Field Studies is a collection of fifty or so essays and interviews covering many of the key elements of the subject. I’m not going to go through the contents in detail as I always think it’s best to come to a book such as this, with such a diverse array of subjects, cold and see what surprises it holds for the individual reader. Instead, let’s whet your appetite with a selection of titles:
Public Information Films: Play Safe ~ Grey Malkin
Hysteria and Curses in Nigel Kneale’s Baby (Beasts 1976) ~ Adam Scovell
Folklore and the River: A Reflection on David Grubb’s The Night of the Hunter ~ Stephen Canner
Kill Lists: The Occult, paganism and sacrifice in cinemas as an analogy for political upheaval in the 1970s and the 2010s ~ Aaron Jolly
Diabolical Landscapes and the Genii Locorum ~ Phil Legard
Darkness, Beauty, Fear and Wonder: Exploring the Grotesque and Fantastical World of Czech Folk Horror ~ Kat Ellinger
Now there’s some titles to get your imagination racing! And that’s really just skimming the surface, add to those other articles referencing folklore, film, literature, music, occultism, paganism, hauntology and psychogeography and you’ve got quite a collection.
We also have interviews with the likes of Philip Pullman, Thomas Ligotti, Robin Hardy and Alan Lee.
And to top it off, a rather touching dedication page:
If you read this blog regularly, or if you’ve stumbled across it by accident and have got this far, then I would hazard a guess that you will find something in this book to interest you.
Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies is available to purchase at the link below. At 500 pages it’s quite a hefty tome for £15.00 and, even better, 100% of profits go to The Wildlife Trust (which is, incidentally, an organisation I worked for as a ranger many years ago).