SALEM HORROR FEST: Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror(2021)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This movie was watched as part of Salem Horror Fest. You can still get a weekend pass for weekend two. Single tickets are also available. Here’s the program of what’s playing.

If you have even a passing interest in the world of folk horror, Kier-La Janisse’s exhaustive exploration — which clocks in at 3 hours and 14 minutes and could have been a thousand more if I had my way — is the film of a lifetime. From the unholy trinity that launched this trend on to screens — Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General, Piers Haggard’s Blood on Satan’s Claw and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man — all the way through British television and films around the world, this movie is quite literally the last word in what folk horror is, what it means and how it’s still part of the world of cinema today, perhaps more than ever before.

With more than fifty major names in the world of horror and horror writing — everyone from Amanda Reyes, Piers Haggard, Adam Scovell, Jeremy Dyson Samm Deighan, Kat Ellinger, Robert Eggars, Ian Oglivy, Kevin Kölsch, Dennis Widmyer and around forty more voices appear with great insights — there’s never been a more well-rounded approach to tackling a movie genre within a genre. This feels like the kind of film that I’ll be coming back to again and again.

Beyond the expected anchors of the genre, I was so excited to see lesser-known films get their due, like Alison’s Birthday (which is on the gigantic All the Haunts Be Ours box set that Severin is releasing), beDevilDark AugustEyes of Fire (also beng released by Severin), Grim Prarie TalesLemora (which seemingly has footage from the mysterious blu ray of the film that never materialized) and Zeder.

This is the kind of material that you want to pause, write down, make notes on and keep updating your Letterboxd while you watch it. This isn’t just a movie about films. This is a true celebration of the magical wonder hidden within the flickering image, an exploration of a genre of all the dark old things and a journey through how each country documents the unknown through their media.

There aren’t enough stars in the firmament out of ten to rate this one. You can preorder this film from Severin now or watch it on Shudder. You can also visit the film’s official site.

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