We’ve done found footage, we’ve done slashers, and now, it’s time to turn to one of my personal favourite horror sub-genres – and that’s the folk horror. What is worse than the terror of a badness baked into the very fabric of a society? From The Wicker Man to Midsommar, there’s nothing quite like of evil that you can talk your way out of, because everyone takes it as standard. But those are the big hitters – what about the smaller ones you might have missed? I’ve got you covered.
- Jug Face
Lead by a performance from Lauren Ashley Carter, star of Darling, one of the weirdest and most wonderful modern psychological horrors ever made, Jug Face is a micro-budget horror set in backwoods America that’s all about the true horror of arts and crafts.
Well, not quite; it tracks the story of Ada, a young woman set to be married to a man she doesn’t love, after she discovers that she has been picked by the mysterious powers which her family worships to be fed to a local pit to ensure their continued safety. Slow-burning, deeply unsettling, and profoundly unique, Jug Face mixes superstition with the modern, and teases out a couple of brilliant performances from both Carter and co-lead Sean Bridgers. Its’ nebulous relationship to mysticism and reliance on the creeping inevitability of its ending – not to mention some really striking set design and the stunningly gorgeous Jug Face pottery of the title – give this move a gritty, down-home feel that makes its eventual climax even more unsettling.
2. The Ritual
Maybe it’s just because it happens to be the first review we ever did on this blog, but I have a real soft spot for The Ritual. Maybe because it takes on some of my favourite horror themes – guilt, grief, loss – and wraps them up in a wry British cast led by Rafe Spall and set against the icy backdrop of the Swedish wilderness. You think Midsommar was the OG Swedish folk horror? Well, you’ve got another thing coming.
The Ritual blends a sharp sense of wit with a few shocking and striking images that serve to set the scene for one of the oddest, most memorable folk horrors of the last ten years. Exploring the impact of grief and the eternal saviour that is a commitment to cowardice. Director David Bruckner delivers that slow-burn bad-dream that just lets the dread build from the moment our hapless Mad Lads vanish off into the forest,
3. The Wailing
Oh, hell. I know how hard a sell The Wailing is – it took me years to get to it, what with that near three-hour runtime and the subtitles to match – but it’s worth every single moment of your time, trust me. As folk horror goes, The Wailing might just be the best ever made.
Because it’s not just one kind of folklore it takes on: from the South Korean small-town backdrop it takes place against, to the Japanese stranger who has become the centre of the town’s ire, to the Christian deacons trying to assuage the creeping horror that’s slowly beginning to envelop the small province. Kwak Do-won’s central hapless cop tries to navigate the nightmare that’s approaching his family and his home and brings a solid human element to the story, but it’s the deft and deeply-felt mesh of symbolism and ritualism that really gives this such a hypnotic, unique atmosphere. The Wailing is honestly an unforgettable experience, rich, layered, and a total triumph for director Na Hong-jin. Basically, watch this, so I have more people to talk to about this.
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via BeFront Magazine)