The Best: Folk Horror Films
I am late on the draw with this one, but I finally got around to watching Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror (2021). This documentary is wonderful. I would definitely suggest watching it if you are interested in human history, ritual, horror, paganism, folklore, British history, film history, etc. After watching this film, I was left with a huge list of films I want to watch. Which I will slowly work my way through. But in the meantime, I wanted put together a list of some of my favorite folk horror films. I’m sure this list will expand and grow, but these are based on the films I have seen as of this post.
The Wicker Man (1973) We have to start this list off with perhaps the pinnacle folk horror film. The Wicker Man is a classic British folk story. It was directed by Robin Hardy, starring Britt Ekland. The Wicker Man was inspired by a novel that came out several years earlier in 1967, called Ritual. The premise, somewhat similar to The Wailing, tells the story of a police officer who visits an island in search of a missing girl. If you are into paganism and ritual, this film is for you.
The Wailing (2016) A South Korean film written and directed by Na Hong-jin. The film tells the story of a police officer who is investigating a series of murders in a small town. It’s an incredibly well received film all around. The Wailing stars Kwak Do-won and Chun Woo-hee. It's deeply powerful and a standout in the genre.
The Blair Witch Project (1999) One of the really fun things about folk horror is the legend that the films center around, the belief system. I will admit, The Blair Witch Project is somewhat light on the actual folklore compared to some of these other films. But to me, it’s one of the most successful in modern times. And it’s one of my favorites. It’s a perfect story of modern teens stumbling into folklore without knowing enough about it.
The Hallow (2015) This film was directed by Corin Hardy and stars Joseph Mawle. It premiered at Sundance, the same year. A young family moves to live along a remote Irish forest, the husband is a conservationist, but they did not expect to find what they find lurking within. This is a truly scary film with an intriguing world that I wanted to keep learning about.
The Ritual (2017) The Ritual was directed by David Bruckner, and stars Rafe Spall. This isn’t one of my absolute favorites but it’s definitely worth mentioning. It tells the story of a group of friends who embark on a hiking trip across Sweden. It’s a fun take on Scandinavian folk horror.
Midsommer (2019) and Hereditary (2018) Two films by Ari Astor that I love and both qualify as folk horror. Hereditary starts as a familial drama that devolves into a terrifying folk horror film. One of the scariest and most lingering films I have seen in a while. Midsommer, a famously bright movie, tells the story of a group of friends who travel overseas to join a May festival. But, as you might expect, it’s so much more. Both of these films are laced with paganism, familial horror and true terror.
Pumpkinhead (1988) Don't let the name deter you, this is one of my favorite films in this genre. It was such a surprising watch. For me, it was incredibly emotional and loaded in a way that felt refreshing and unique. Not to mention the crazy, cool creature and lore.
The Witch (2015) I know this will be controversial, but I was not a HUGE fan of The Witch. That being said, I definitely owe it a re-watch. I am including it here because the majority of people in my life love this film. And I am excited to watch it with fresh eyes and see how I feel.
Children of The Corn (1984) I owe this film another watch too, it was a bit slow for me. That being said it had moments that really stuck with me.