‘Revenant: Critical and Creative Studies of the Supernatural’ is a peer-reviewed, online journal looking at the supernatural, the uncanny and the weird. “Revenant’ is now accepting articles, creative writing pieces and book, film, game, event or art reviews for a themed issue on folk horror, guest edited by Dr. Dawn Keetley.
DEFYING DEATH IN THE HORROR FILM: Since at least Pet Sematary (1989), we’ve known it’s not a good idea to try to bring loved ones back from the dead. Indeed, this theme goes back still further. What was Frankenstein (1931), in the end, if not a warning about what happens when you raise the dead? But if horror is at bottom about the inevitability of death, it’s also about our efforts to defy that inevitability—efforts that are at the same time heroic and dangerously hubristic.
The release last week of The Other Side of the Door (2016), directed by Johannes Roberts, written by Roberts and Ernest Riera, and starring Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead, Colony) and Jeremy Sista (Six Feet Under, The Returned), is a dramatic manifestation of the fact that we’ll never get over (or around) the implacability of death.
Indeed, we can see the persistence of the human desire to overcome death in the fact that The Other Side of the Door is strikingly similar to another relatively recent horror film—Wake Wood (2009), which was directed by Arthur Keating and stars Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones), Eva Birthistle (The Children), and Timothy Spall (Harry Potter, Mr. Turner). Both films are worth watching, both in and of themselves and also because of what their similarities say about an enduring theme of horror. Read more
If you haven’t yet heard of folk horror, this post will serve as your introduction to a subgenre that seems to be experiencing something of a renaissance. It’ll also get you ready for the release onto VOD on Friday (November 6) of what promises to be a compelling example of that renaissance—The Hallow, a British-Irish co-production filmed in Ireland, and directed by Corin Hardy. The official trailer includes the tag-line, “Nature has a dark side,” getting at what I think is perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of folk horror: Nature is no longer content to be background. Nature has power, agency, in folk horror. It lives, moves, acts, overpowers, destroys.
By most accounts, the term “folk horror” was coined by Mark Gatiss in a 2010 BBC documentary on the history of horror. Gatiss identified three films as the core of this tradition—Witchfinder General (1968), Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971), and The Wicker Man (1973). Recent discussion of this newly-defined horror subgenre (almost all on websites and blogs) has begun to uncover both its roots and its persistence, looking back to late nineteenth-century writers of “weird” fiction, like M. R. James and Algernon Blackwood, and recognizing the contemporary renaissance of folk horror in Wake Wood (David Keating, 2010) and Ben Wheatley’s Kill List (2011) and A Field in England (2013). I should add to the list, too, the upcoming The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015) and The Forest (Jason Zada, 2016).