• The Folk of Folk Horror

    Derek Johnston (see profile)
    Cultural Studies, Film Studies, Horror, Television Studies
    Horror, Motion pictures, Societies, Culture
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    Contemporary Folk Horror in Film and Media
    Conf. Org.:
    Leeds Beckett University
    Conf. Loc.:
    Conf. Date:
    29-30 January 2022
    Folk horror, Film, Society
    Permanent URL:
    ‘Folk horror’ has often been considered, following Mark Gatiss’ description of the genre, as centrally focused on a particular ‘obsession with the British landscape, its folklore, and superstitions’. While these elements are clearly significant, they become more problematic when opening up the genre to include texts from beyond Britain. Not only that, but they broaden the genre to include a wide range of rural-set horror texts, while also being not entirely descriptive of the ‘unholy trinity’ of Blood on Satan’s Claw, Witchfinder General and The Wicker Man.  While accepting the importance of these elements, and the problems around claiming specific defining characteristics for any particular genre beyond the way that the genre label is popularly used, this paper suggests that a central element to be considered in folk horror is ‘the folk’, in the sense of the community of ordinary people. The community in folk horror is typically responsible for preserving the beliefs and rituals that separate them from the outside world. These beliefs and rituals give them cohesion and identity, but often present horror to outsiders underlying their initial appeal. More than that, the fact that these beliefs and rituals are perceived to work suggests that these communities of ordinary people know more about the actual working of the world and nature than all the politicians, academics and experts who promote a mainstream way of life. This presents a challenge to dominant power structures and ways of understanding how the universe works. It also suggests one of the reasons for the contemporary resonance of folk horror in a time when issues of national or community identity, populism and the desirability of isolation dominate the news.
    Last Updated:
    2 years ago
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