As recently announced, I have a book being released in January all about Folk Horror and its many related areas of interest. The book has been in the works for the last year or so though many of the arguments within have been growing now for several years. Though I’ll undoubtedly being doing the usual interview-esque things to coincide with the release in December and January, I wanted to get some words down about the book now just before it becomes available; it is, after all, the first book to fully attempt to understand what this strange genre of film and television actually is. In October 2015, I was lucky enough to be approached by Auteur Publishing with the offer of a book deal involving an analysis of the genre. The result is Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange, named from a line of Macbeth which I feel surmises the genre beautifully (because of both its oddness and its essential link to various temporal slips and notions of the past). The book is heavily about landscape but also touches upon history, sociology and various other issues besides culture.
The book is split into six chapters in a style which I hope balances the academic detail with a sense of readability. The first chapter deals with the specific etymology of the classification and looks into several potential meanings which could be attributed to the description of Folk Horror. This has been a constant in the general analyses of Folk Horror from its inception and I hope that this chapter in particular adds to the many interesting theories and ideas already set down in the last few years. The second looks into the Unholy Trinity of films (The Wicker Man, The Blood On Satan’s Claw and Witchfinder General) and seeks to find some linkage between them; a complex and surprisingly difficult problem that is usually the first to be addressed in most Folk Horror explorations. The third looks into the role of topography in Folk Horror, specifically in the stranger iterations of British television. This has been a subject close to my heart of late and is a detailed overview of how landscape functions in a variety of television classics including the BBC Ghost Stories, the multitude of HTV children’s series and the television work of Alan Garner.
The fourth looks at a concept I have labelled as Rurality, which attempts to connect the more disparate elements of the genre with many films that run parallel to it but are, perhaps, not quintessentially Folk Horror. Through a surreal clashing of rural aesthetics, the tipping of the diegetic reality can arguably account for the many films and examples that crop up in analysis of the genre that appear odd and often ruffle a few academic feathers. The fifth attempts to link the concept of Hauntology with the sprouting of occultism in film during the post-war era. This is the most complex argument presented and covers a huge range of pulp occult material as well as assessing what I call the “Urban Wyrd” through exploring the work of Nigel Kneale and Folk Horror that is set in more urban realms. The sixth finally looks at the politics of the genre, its modern equivalents and potentially why it has manifested again in the 21st century; through both its more nostalgic modes in the likes of Ghost Box Records, and its more viscerally political modes in films by the likes of Ben Wheatley and others.
In other words, there’s a lot of area to cover and I hope that, in trying to do so, that the detail still remains interesting and varied. The last aspect to mention is what really haunts this book and what it ultimately concludes upon. Though I won’t give specific details for now, not that you can really spoiler a documentary book such as this, the bulk of the writing was done during the run-up to the UK’s referendum on membership of the EU. It is impossible to not see the manifestation of many of Folk Horror’s darker traits in the very social and political discourse of recent months; where the diegesis has blurred and we are now living in a surreal, post-factual Summerisle of our own making. I can only hope that this particular Folk Horror film, one that personally terrifies me on a daily basis, rolls its credits sooner rather than later.
Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange is released in paperback in January, 2017. It is available to pre-order here. (Amazon are currently using the US release information, the book is still being released in January).