South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival – Folk Horror derives its roots from folklore – cryptids, oral traditions, and ancient folktales. In the 1960s, folk horror suddenly hit its stride as a crucial part of horror film history, particularly as films from Britain were making their mark all over the world. As television became the media du jour, folk horror made its way into homes all over – and became a pillar of horror as we know it.
Clocking in at an impressive three hours long, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror discusses over 100 films and features over 50 interviewees – Authors, actors, critics, historians, filmmakers – all of whom get their chance to discuss the deep roots of folklore. Native American culture, British folktales, Historical events such as the Salem Witch Trials, and even biblical and other religious influences are discussed at length. The first portion of the documentary focuses mainly on what is referred to as the “Unholy Trinity” – Witchfinder General (1968), The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971), and The Wicker Man (1973) – three British folk horror films that laid the groundwork for films to come. British lore is hugely highlighted as a source material for future horror and much time of the documentary is spent on this subject.
Transitioning and expanding into American horror, films like Pumpkinhead (1988) and Candyman (1992) are discussed, as from the deep bayou to the prairies American history is spun and twisted like straw into gold – from history to horror. Beautifully, many cultures, religions, and belief systems are covered in the intensive and intelligent interviews featured. Myths like “Indian Burial Grounds” are dispelled, and the topics of voodoo and witchcraft are treated with reverence. Urban legends are discussed at length. This is a thoughtful love letter to horror and folklore unlike anything before.
Director Kier-La Janisse took on a subject that has never been broached in the world of documentaries – which is common ground for her. Having written novels on such varied subjects as female neurosis in horror and exploitation films, and rediscovering the “lost decade” of horror in the 1940s. The film is uplifted by a stunning score by Jim Williams and beautiful animated interstitials by Ashley Thorpe, and collages by Guy Maddin. A thoughtful, thorough piece of intricate art – like nesting dolls or a piece of paper craft, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror is something otherworldly and remarkable.
Spirituality and thrilling terror intersect, and create a world that many of us know but are too meek to dive deeper into. The title, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror paints an image that is exactly like our knowledge of folk horror – murky and mysterious. Thankfully, now we have a thorough and meaningful film that discusses the ins and outs and sheds light on the darkest corners of folk history.
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror reviewed as part of our South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival coverage.
8 out of 10
|Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror
||No Trailer Available
||3 Hrs. 14 Mins.