Browsing Tag

Folk Horror

Posted on November 23, 2023

Why You Should Watch The City of the Dead (and its Striking Resemblance to Psycho)

Dawn Keetley

It’s a moment of uncanny serendipity in horror film history.

The City of the Dead (re-named Horror Hotel in the US) – the first directorial project of Argentinian-born British director, John Llewellyn Moxey – was released in the UK in September 1960. Produced by Americans Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg, the film is generally considered to be the unofficial first of their Amicus Productions (a British company they would officially found shortly after the release of City of the Dead, and which had an impact on the horror genre in the 1960s that was second perhaps only to Hammer Studios)[i]. Filming commenced “at Shepperton Studios [in Surrey, England] in the Summer of 1959,” [ii] running at least through October.

The vastly more famous Psycho, produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, made at Universal Studios in the US and distributed by Paramount Pictures, was released in New York City in June 1960 and saw general distribution, like City of the Dead, in September 1960. Also like City of the Dead, filming began on Psycho in the later half of 1959 (running, specifically, between November 1959 and February 1960).

In other words, there’s virtually no way that either City of the Dead or Psycho could have influenced the other. And yet, they share some striking similarities. They are also, I should add, profoundly different in their approach to horror. Both these similarities and this difference are worth exploring.

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Posted on September 15, 2023

Agatha Christie’s Incursion into Folk Horror in Hallowe’en Party (1969)

Dawn Keetley

Initial reviews suggest that Kenneth Branagh’s new Hercule Poirot adaptation, A Haunting in Venice (2023), has little in common with the Agatha Christie novel on which it is supposedly based. While Hallowe’en Party (1969) is set in a small English village, A Haunting in Venice is set in, well, Venice. The latter apparently centers a séance, completely absent from Christie’s novel. There’s an opera singer with a dead daughter – also not in the novel. Indeed, one wonders why this film is being marketed as an adaptation at all.

Perhaps the only thing the novel and film appear to have in common is that both represent an unusual crossing of horror conventions into Hercule Poirot’s world of clues and ratiocination – into the neat and orderly world of detection. That said, the particular horror conventions that infuse novel and film seem quite different. While A Haunting in Venice seems shrouded in the supernatural – harking back to perhaps the best-known of supernatural horror films set in Venice, Don’t Look Now (Nicolas Roeg, 1973), Christie’s Hallowe’en Party manifests the influence of folk horror.

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Posted on August 13, 2023

The Black Demon: Shark Horror Meets Folk Horror

Dawn Keetley

It’s summer, so shark movies abound, notably Meg 2: The Trench (Ben Wheatley, 2023) and The Black Demon (Adrian Grünberg, 2023). Both films feature not just a shark but a megalodon, suggesting the need to up the ante when it comes to shark fare – the ante, in this case, being the shark’s size. Neither film is faring terribly well at the hands of critics, although The Black Demon seems to be marginally more highly-praised. It’s not, in truth, a very good film. It is, however, an interesting one.

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Posted on July 21, 2023

American Folk Horrors – Call for Papers (Edited Collection)

Call for Papers/ Dawn Keetley


Edited by Dawn Keetley

Abstracts due: October 29, 2023

There has been a veritable outpouring of both popular and academic writing on folk horror in the wake of folk horror’s resurgence in the post-2009 period. The last three years, for instance, has seen an excellent, comprehensive documentary film, Kier-La Janisse’s Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror (2021); a special issue of the journal Revenant: Critical and Cultural Studies of the Supernatural (2020) dedicated to folk horror (with a special issue of Horror Studies in the works); and four collections of scholarly essays either just published or forthcoming in 2023 (see Bacon; Bayman and Donnelly; Edgar and Johnson; and Keetley and Heholt).

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Posted on February 4, 2023

Rewilding – A Thoughtful, Beautiful Folk Horror Anthology

Dawn Keetley

Rewilding is a folk horror anthology written and directed by Ric Rawlins. It includes three short films, “Stone Mothers,” “The Family Tree,” and “The Writer’s Enquiry” that all harken back to the stories of M. R. James and to their adaptation in the 1970s’ BBC’s A Ghost Story for Christmas series. The influence of James is especially strong in the first two, with “Stone Mothers” evoking “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” and “A Warning to the Curious,” while “The Family Tree” recalls “The Ash Tree.” The third installment, “The Writer’s Enquiry,” which has a brilliant ending, most definitely manifests the influence of Robin Hardy’s 1973 The Wicker Man – and is also akin to the recent “Mr. King” episode of Inside No. 9 (2022).

Any film that was so aware of tracing the influences of the tradition from which it emerged would be of interest to me – but that is by no means the only reason I highly recommend Rewilding. It is essential viewing for anyone interested in folk horror – or in slow-burn, thoughtful horror more generally. Each of the three short films is extremely well-written and directed; the settings are gorgeous, beautifully shot, and, in true folk horror fashion, contribute demonstrably to the meaning of the film; and the actors are all great. Rawlins obviously assembled a dedicated group for this project, and their investment in what they’re doing is palpable.

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