FANTASIA FEST 2021 REVIEW! When you think of the term “folk horror,” what automatically comes to mind? The Wicker Man? The Witch? Midsommar? Well, all of those films and a seemingly endless trove of others are discussed in the mind-blowingly thorough and epic documentary from Kier-La Janisse, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror. With a swath of horror geniuses in tow, the director takes us on a six-part, three-hour-long tour of the beloved subgenre.
I greatly appreciated Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched because it covers nearly any and every nook and cranny of folk horror territory. So whether you are a novice or a champion when it comes to your folk horror knowledge, you will come away with something. The usual suspects of the genre, named above, are treated with reverence, and the diamonds in the rough that might not be as well known are showcased with pride. I came away with a list about five composition notebook pages long full of movies I am now dying to watch.
“…covers nearly any and every nook and cranny of folk horror territory.”
The filmmaker gathers a very engaging and knowledgeable panel of speakers, including Robert Eggers, Mattie Do, Ian Ogilvy, Jonathan Rigby, Emma Tammi, and more. The documentary talks about the historical background for the eras in which the films take place and the ones in which they were made, and how they impact each other. There are big discussions about religion, paganism, and the occult. They talk about vampires, werewolves, and even White Reindeer.
The most important thing about the documentary is the level of inclusivity that is reached. Many movies that talk about the history of some particular sub-sect of cinema can be very Eurocentric, aka white. Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched tells the truth about voodoo and hoodoo and how the two are often confused in cinema. We see examples of many wonderful Asian productions that showcase the folk horror of those often-overlooked places that coincidentally oftentimes make some of the best films in any given genre. It is also not afraid to take different white people to task, such as racist southerners or Nazis themselves.
I only have positives things to say about Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror. It’s a wonderful master class on one of my most beloved sub-categories of my most cherished genre. Kier-La Janisse knows what she is talking about when it comes to horror, having written the amazing book House of Psychotic Women (as well as another about director Luciano Rossi) and being the founder of the international Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies (seriously look them up, they’re amazing). So I am not surprised at how in-depth this is. I’m just surprised at the number of incredible movies out there that I have to see!
Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror screened at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival and the 2021 Fantasia Fest.