Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Borderlands (UK, 2013)

Yet another found footage film, but this one has been picking up good reviews and looks promising. A team of Vatican investigators are sent to the English West Country to investigate reports of paranormal activity at a remote church that has been built over an ancient pagan site.

From Sight and Sound: 'The characters' respective provenances (Scotland, Ireland, England) allow director Goldner to delve into the more atavistic elements of British colonial history and identity - tangentially echoing Ben Wheatley's masterful A Field in England - which in turn is linked to the all-destructive power of the Catholic church vis-a-vis pagan worship.'

Friday, 14 February 2014

Guardian of the Abyss (UK, 1980)

Guardian of the Abyss is a Hammer House of Horror episode that mingles The Devil Rides Out with The Wicker Man. David Fisher wrote the screenplay; he also penned a Doctor Who episode that featured bloodthirsty standing stones, The Stones of Blood. It stars Rosalyn Landor, who had a role in The Devil Rides Out when she was a mere 7 year old. Directed by Don Sharp, who gave us Psychomania.

The Occult Experience (Australia, 1985)

This documentary is a sometimes interesting and balanced look at occult practice. Watch out for Alex Saunders inadvertently setting his underwear on fire at the 22.45 mark. I knew those candles were going to be trouble, especially with that headgear on. Also features H.R. Giger.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Robin Redbreast (1970, UK) BFI dvd release

Norah is portrayed as sexually liberated, and the play caused some controversy for using a contraceptive cap as a central plot device. As Victor Pratt points out in the dvd notes, the play seems to be cynically  remarking upon the deflated feeling of the early 70s, when the free love and peace movement of the late 60s had not blossomed as many had hoped. Her fling with the dull Rob is anything but liberating. Her attempt at fitting into rural life is also doomed. Fisher's cryptic hints about her situation go over her head, and she only realizes the danger she is in when it is too late. 

Robin Redbreast was inspired by the 1945 Lower Quinton murder, where a tramp was murdered and his corpse dragged across crops - quite possibly his blood was used in the hope of fertilizing crops, his sacrifice rooted in rural ritual that many would like to have thought no longer happened in the 20th century. Whether this really was a witchcraft murder is of lesser importance than its cultural impact on influencing the screenplay of Robin Redbreast, which in turn most probably sowed the seeds for The Wicker Man.
Originally made in colour, only the 16mm back and white version survives after the BBC wiped a whole bunch of tapes in the 70s, losing many treasures in the process. Still, this release is a marked improvement on the fuzzy time-coded copy that had been doing the rounds previously. Also included is an interview with John Bowen (see short clip below) Bowen went on to script two of the BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas, The Treasure of Abbot Thomas and The Ice House, as well as the first of ITVs classic Armchair Thriller.

To cap it all off, the dvd has Around the Village Green as an extra, an 11 minute portrayal of bygone quaint village and rural life that folk horror films negate via depicting the occult forces at work there.

Friday, 22 November 2013

BFI Gothic season

A few things of interest going on at the BFI.

On December 9th at 6.30:
The Uncanny Landscapes of British Cinema
Peter Hutchings explores folk horror on film.
Dec 9, 2013 6:30 PM Sold out though!
"In this talk Peter Hutchings (author of A-Z of Horror) looks beyond the confines of the haunted house to the open yet sinister terrains of folk horror like The Wicker Man and Witchfinder General. Finding that British filmmakers have regularly conjured haunting and alienating images of rural landscapes – and done their best to overturn modern rational beliefs about our identities and our place in the world – he explores what motivates the desire to render the usually idyllic British countryside in such unsettling terms."

Sonic Cinema: Haxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages
1922 documentary-horror masterpiece exploring the effect of superstition on the collective medieval consciousness.
Aptly on Friday 13th, 7.00pm

Directed by Benjamin Christensen
With Benjamin Christensen, Elisabeth Christensen.
Running time 106 min

"This 1922 documentary-horror masterpiece explores the effect of superstition on the collective medieval consciousness. Presented for the first time with a BFI-commissioned score by electronic artists Demdike Stare. The duo base their music on samples from old recordings, twisted into new sonic shapes. The blend of Demdike Stare’s resurrected aural phantoms and Christensen’s Satanic horror promises to be a singularly modern yet arcane live experience."

Tickets £15, concs £11.50 (Members pay £1.50 less)

Demdike Stare are producing some of the best music around at the moment, often sounding like soundtracks to horror films - their bleak sound has been described in the past as 'unwellness music'. They are also used to performing with horror film imagery behind them.

In the accompanying season book, Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film, Rob Young has a 2 page spread entitled British Folk Gothic, pretty much going over what he had to say in The Films of Old Weird Britain Sight and Sound, 2010.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

A Fiend in the Furrows - Folk Horror conference in Belfast

Great looking conference coming next year....

From their website:
‘A Fiend in the Furrows’ is a three-day conference in association with the School of
English and the Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities at Queen’s University Belfast, exploring ‘folk horror’ in British and Irish literature,
film, television, and music. The event will include academic papers, film screenings,
musical performances, and readings.

Supernatural and horrific aspects of folklore inform the Gothic and weird writings of
M.R. James, Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood, where philosophical and
religious certainties are haunted and challenged by the memory of older cultural
traditions. Folklore has a profound and unsettling impact on the imaginative
perception of landscape, identity, time and the past. Folk memory is often
manifested as an intrusive and violent breach from an older repressed, ‘primitive’ or
‘barbarous’ state that transgresses the development of cultural order. Gothic and
weird fictions are burgeoning as the focus of serious academic enquiry in philosophy
and literary criticism, and the genres continue to have an impact on popular culture.

Through the writing of Nigel Kneale and Alan Garner, among others, the tradition
has influenced British and Irish horror cinema and television, being revived and reimagined in films such as Quatermass and the Pit (1967), The Devil Rides Out (1968), Witchfinder General (1968), Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971), The Wicker Man (1973), and more recently in Wake Wood (2010) and Ben Wheatley’s Kill List (2011) and A Field in England (2013). The conference will examine ‘folk horror’ texts, films and music in their period context and the implications for British and Irish culture’s understanding of their own unsettled pasts.

Proposals are welcomed for presentations that engage with various aspects of ‘folk horror’ from researchers in the disciplines of Literature, Film Studies, Music, Drama, History, Anthropology, Archaeology, Folklore, Geography, Art History, Philosophy and Theology. Presentation topics may include (but are not limited to):
Late 19th century Gothic literature
Early 20th century weird fiction
Modernism and weird fiction
The ghost story
Contemporary horror and fantasy fiction
Children’s literature
Folklore collectors and redactors
Folklore and the supernatural
Primitivism, atavism, degeneration
Rural and urban folklore
Horror cinema and television

Anyone interested can submit a 300 word abstract together with a brief biography to:
 folkhorror@qub.ac.uk – by 1st June 2014.