Visability Film Club - December: Folk Horror
Welcome back to the 3rd edition of the Visability Film Club, an absolute must for seasoned cinephiles and Sunday sofa streamers alike.
Each month we'll be bringing you viewing recommendations, interviews, behind the scenes featurettes, and further reading, revolving around a different genre.
There'll be recurring subsections, such as our 'Main Event' (the one you simply must see), 'The Hug' (for those who may need a light-hearted introduction to a new genre) 'The Challenger' (not for the feint hearted - for those seeking something off the beaten track), and 'Short n Sweet' (short films). We'll also strive to make sure that the films are available to watch without too much fuss someplace on the internet - hopefully some of them even for free.
So without further ado, here goes....
'The Main Event' - Hereditary (2018)
It had to be, didn't it? Genuinely terrifying, and able to compete artistically with the best that any other genre has to offer. In his seminal study Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange, Adam Scovell pinpoints four key elements of folk horror—landscape, isolation, skewed belief systems and morality, and the summoning/happening—as part of “The Folk Horror Chain”, cementing Hereditary's place at the head of the Folk Horror table. In truth, we could just as happily recommend director Ari Aster's other recent Folk Horror outing, Midsommar, as both are truly excellent examples of the genre. For us however, the everlasting excellence of Toni Collette just about tipped the scales in Hereditary's favour.
Currently available on Netflix
'The Challenger' - Mandy (2018)
Mandy is, for want of a better phrase, absolutely batshit mental. And what better man to front that type of picture than everyone's favorite Hollywood oddball, Nicolas Cage. Once every few years it seems like the big man pulls off a performance that makes us all wonder, "is he really all that bad? Con Air was great!". No matter which side of the Cage/fence you sit on, Mandy is undeniably one of Nic's recent best. If you like your horrors to come with a splash of neon, then Mandy is the film for you. The camera work throughout is fantastic, and in the character of Jeremiah Sand, we get one of the truly memorable onscreen cult-leaders. Mandy is hypnotic from start to finish, and is sure to leave you feeling properly disturbed.
Nicolas Winding Refn, eat your heart out.
Currently available on Virgin TV Go (no, we didn't know that was a thing either)
Director & Cast discuss the uniqueness of the film
'The Hug' - The Love Witch (2016)
Let’s get one thing clear, Folk Horror very rarely offers a cuddle, but if it ever did, then The Love Witch may well be that cuddle. The phrase 'auteur director' has been bandied around a lot in recent years, but with The Love Witch's director, Anna Biller, also pulling the strings as Writer, Producer, Editor, Composer, Production Designer, AND costume designer...we think its pretty safe to say that Biller is one hell of an auteur. The Love Witch is a love letter to Horror films of years gone by and a love letter to love itself. Though perhaps not the healthiest kind..
Currently available on Mubi
Anna Biller FrightFest interview
'Golden Oldie' - The Wicker Man (1973)
It doesn’t get any better than this. The gold standard for Folk Horror films, Cristopher Lee's The Wicker Man. This is one of the purist examples of the genre you are likely to find, in which cults, pagan rituals, and sexual politics abound. Not to mention the kind of terrifying mask work that puts Eyes Wide Shut to shame (see pooch mask above). If you've been wishing for a folk musical with a healthy dash of nudity and flame, well then it actually came out 48 years ago and it's called The Wicker Man.
If COVID has taught us anything, its that the UK can offer some fantastic staycation options. That said, Summerisle may not be the best place to take the kids. Maybe play it safe and head for Butlins.
Currently available for free on Internet Archive:
Gently Johnny, one of the greatest folk songs in movie history: