Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror

Director Kier-La Janisse / 2021 / USA

From race to religion, flesh to nature, this comprehensive documentary explores how cinema exhumes the old traumas that modernity tries to bury.

Canadian film writer, programmer and horror authority Kier-La Janisse makes her feature directorial debut with this erudite, richly descriptive ploughing of cinema’s cursed fields. In her encyclopaedic deep dive, folk horror is revealed as a film mode that makes symbolic monsters of historical atrocities, which take uncanny vengeance on the modern world that repressed them.

Over a mesmerising three hours, film historians, filmmakers, folklorists and critics – including Australia’s own Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Briony Kidd – outline the shared thematic concerns linking more than 200 works from around the world, from genre-defining 1968 UK/US film Witchfinder General and 1975 Australian classic Picnic at Hanging Rock, to recent Guatemalan chiller La Llorona (MIFF 2020) and the horror cinemas of Mexico, Brazil, China and the Czech Republic. Showered with praise following its SXSW 2021 premiere, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched is a must-watch for serious fans of myths and movies alike.

“Unearths the history of cinematic folk horror in such loving, erudite, and seductive detail that you almost can’t wait for it to be over so you can start watching some of the 100+ films that are excerpted along the way.” – IndieWire

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