I typically stick with reading recommendations here on the Grimoire, but today we’re branching out a bit. Why? Because a) the studio is still under construction and it’s going to be a little while before I can share our progress, and b) I am currently obsessed with the film Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched (2021). Produced and directed by Kier-La Janisse for Severin Films, it’s a deeply thorough look into the history of folk horror—truly, clocking in at over three hours it was almost a cinematic syllabus of sorts.
Broken into “chapters,” the film…
is the first feature-length documentary on the history of folk horror, exploring the phenomenon from its beginnings in a trilogy of films – Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General (1968), Piers Haggard’s Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973) – through its proliferation on British television in the 1970s and its culturally specific manifestations in American, Asian, Australian and European horror, to the genre’s revival over the last decade.
…While exploring the key cinematic signposts of folk horror – touching on over 200 films, television plays and episodes as well as early inspirational literature – the film also examines the rise of paganism in the late 1960s, the prominence of the witch-figure in connection with second wave feminism, the ecological movement of the 1970s, the genre’s emphasis on landscape and psychogeography, and American manifestations of folk horror from Mariners’ tales and early colonial history to Southern Gothic and backwoods horror. Finally, the film navigates through the muddy politics of folk nostalgia. The term ‘folk horror’ is a loaded one, and Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched explores the many ways that we alternately celebrate, conceal and manipulate our own histories in an attempt to find spiritual resonance in our surroundings.(about)
Having once upon a time worked in both a reivival cinema and an indie movie theater, I’m a bit of a movie addict. I have long been a fan of gothic and folk horror, and I have a pretty solid collection of B-horror films (my tastes are more along the lines of The City of the Dead and A Bucket of Blood, less contemporary slashers). As someone who identifies as a witch and is fascinated by the intersections of folklore, art, and culture, discovering WD&DB felt like kismet. And while I rented the film, I feel certain I will have to purchase it for rewatching, likely while taking notes on all the folk horror I’ve yet to discover!