There’s no doubting that folk horror is the subgenre du jour, given the current revival of public interest in the arcane and the ‘Wyrd’, psychogeography, hauntology, folklore, magic(k), carnivalia, paganism, and a general return to the pastoral. As a label, ‘folk horror’ is a catch-all for these and other nostalgia forms for the ‘people-horror’ of the 1960s/70s and its reflection of the counterculture of that era. Adam Scovell’s book provides a wonderful introduction to folk horror films, impressive in scope and comprehensive in sociocultural context.
Starting from the premise that folk horror is less a clearly definable genre than a set of cultural sensibilities, Scovell ploughs a wide furrow in terms of media coverage: ‘70s TV classics like Children of the Stones (1977) rub alongside Public Information Films of the time (such as the immortal Lonely Water ); the ‘British Rurality’ of Hammer co-exists with that of David Gladwell’s BFI-produced Requiem for a Village (1975); and M.R. James crosses paths on several occasions with Nigel Kneale. Locating as his well-spring the ‘unholy trinity’ of Witchfinder General (1968), The Wicker Man (1973) and The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971), Scovell takes us on a journey through the topography, rurality, occultism and urban ‘Wyrd’, leading us to the modern folk horror of the present day (such as can be found in the work of, among others, Ben Wheatley). The author flatly refuses to ‘beat the bounds’ of his subject – purists may object to the inclusion of films like Straw Dogs (1971) or Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev (1966) in a book (ostensibly) about horror cinema – but generally this broad approach works to Scovell’s advantage: it enables him to make connections between titles that might not at first strike the reader as folk horror, but which nevertheless help reveal folk horror’s deeper mechanisms.
Evocatively written and carefully researched, Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange is a compelling book that amply rewards reading and re-reading.
FOLK HORROR – HOURS DREADFUL AND THINGS STRANGE / AUTHOR: ADAM SCOVELL / PUBLISHER: AUTEUR / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW