Forests Damned and Furrows Cursed: Book Review

Forests Damned and Furrows Cursed is a new anthology of classic Folk Horror novellas harvested by the author William P. Simmons of Shadow House Publishing.
We say ‘Folk Horror’ but all of the contained novellas were written in the late 19th/early 20th Century before the term Folk Horror was widely applied as a sub-genre or mode, therefore all are written with a purity of independence, free from the worry of whether their work conforms to a set idea or ticks all the expected boxes – a problem contemporary writers of Folk Horror may feel they face. So within these covers we are presented with 5 comparatively diverse tales, which still nonetheless should content both the casual and the more rigid readers of folk inspired horror.

The stories featured are ~
Watcher by the Threshold by John Buchan (1902)
The Novel of the Black Seal by Arthur Machen (1895)
Dionea by Vernon Lee (1890)
The Man Whom the Trees Loved by Algernon Blackwood (1912)
The Garden at 19 by Edgar Jepson (1910)

Differing from a number of Folk Horror anthologies that have collected short – short stories, Forests Damned gathers those creatures that dwell in the borderlands between short prose and novels – the land of the Novella. Outside of publisher demands (which may be of pragmatic /financial intent rather than creative) which may dictate a set word or page count, my personal belief with writing is that the story should be as long or as short as it takes to tell in the most rewarding manner. The precise amount of detail is required to describe the characters, setting and significant events. – applied to set the pace, to build suspense and either satisfy completely or to non-frustratingly leave the reader wanting more. Just enough detail for the reader to view the scene and unfolding events in their mind’s eye and to immerse in the story and be less conscious of reading a book, if that makes sense? So ideally, not so short as to appear rushed and unsatisfactory, not too long as to bloat and drag with superfluous padding. The stories in this book don’t always completely meet those aims but it is important still that they have been collected and presented again in our time as they are strong interesting stories in their own right and a vital link in the chain for any reader / collector that wishes to build a library and /or knowledge of literary fiction that falls under the umbrella of what is now rather widely referred to as Folk Horror.

Likewise these novellas are of their time which is relevant regarding their pace, style and also with reference to some social-political issues. They come from a time when there was little competition for attention in leisure time – no films, internet, games etc. So they can take their time getting where they are going and can stop to smell the roses in their descriptive manner. So as with all books and tales from different eras, may not be to the taste of all contemporary readers. In his introduction to the collection, Simmons does a good job of putting the works in context and explaining the feral nature of Folk Horror, so no previous experience of reading Folk Horror stories is necessary to enter into the wild lands contained, but it may be useful for those new to the form to read some shorter stories of both Folk Horror and of the era before tackling these long -short stories / short novels. Regarding the social-political issues within some of the tales, attitudes may raise some eyebrows and with fair enough cause; however whether they reflect the opinions specifically of the fictional characters portrayed, the author or the majority of their particular society at that time is not instantly identifiable. The reader can make their own judgement call when reading. Any issues do not overwhelm the tales, mostly they are concerned with traditional gender roles and the occasional opinion regarding foreign nations, but are mentioned purely for context of these tales being creatures of their own time. Such matters may also be of interest to Folk Horror fiction historians in their contemplation not only of tales being told but how they are told.

That overview out of the way, to look now at the individual tales contained and their creators.

John Buchan

The first story featured is The Watcher by the Threshold by John Buchan (first published in 1902). Buchan (1875 – 1940) was a Scottish polymath. In addition to being a fiction writer (his most famous work quite probably being The Thirty Nine Steps – an adventure tale of political intrigue (known more widely for Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 cinematic adaptation); Buchan was an editor, non-fiction author, Unionist Politician and Governor General of Canada.
The Watcher by The Threshold tells of a man living on the Scottish moors whose studies of Justinian and classical philosophy go beyond obsession and finds himself feeling haunted by a devil. The importance of landscape in Folk Horror is well represented in this tale. I have a love of moors yet find them somewhat unsettling and Buchan’s writing sets the scene very well here.

Arthur Machen: Illustration by Andy Paciorek

Next we have The Novel of the Black Seal by Arthur Machen (1863 -1947) (which was first published as part of his 1895 collection The Three Imposters). Machen was a Welsh journalist, author, proto-psychogeographer and mystic – being a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn for a while, his personal spirituality though leaned towards Celtic Christianity.
The Novel of the Black Seal shares an element of Buchan’s tale which is also evident in a lot of M.R. James’ work that of academic study becoming embroiled in real situations of archeological, anthropological or folkloric horror. In this case case we find explorations of a subterranean site in the Grey Hills of Wales turning up more than expected. The existence and nature of the denizens of a Faerie Otherworld coexisting with our own goes against any Disneyfied Tinkerbell ‘airy-fairy’ conceptions of the ‘Little People’ of folklore and presents us with a forgotten, hidden swarthy, troglodyte race. In being of its time, perhaps the most horrific scene is implied rather than graphically explained. This works to its advantage, for in contemplation of the origins of the conception of the strange servant boy in the tale, I found myself genuinely unsettled. This tale went on to inspire both HP Lovecraft and Robert Howard in their weird fiction writing.
It was in connection to the Machen story incidentally, that I thought of the comparatively low incidence of classic tales fitting a Folk Horror vein being adapted to film during this current current Folk Horror revival. Rather than ‘karaoke’ versions of The Wicker Man, it would be good to see more of the old stories brought to the silver screen. This train of thought commuted my mind to the (criminally little-known) film adaption of a collection of Machen tales, Holy Terrors (2018) by Mark Goodall and Julian Butler (see https://folkhorrorrevival.com/2018/01/19/holy-terrors-film-review/ ) and I think that they would be perfect to adapt Forests Damned and Furrows Cursed to film as a portmanteau – an Amicus-anthology style Folk Horror film if you will.
Anyway I digress, so on with the book …

Vernon Lee aka Violet Paget

Next up we have Dionea by Vernon Lee. Originally published in 1890, Vernon Lee was actually the pseudonym of Violet Paget (1856 – 1935). Paget was a strong proponent of feminism but was published under a masculine pen-name. The author’s own contemplation and experience of gender matters can offer a further context to the story of Dionea, a foundling child raised in an Italian convent. Dionea does not care for the studies, chores and sewing that the nuns put her too and instead is drawn more to nature. As she gets older, her independence of thought – her perhaps even feral nature puts her at odds with the convent and later beyond those cloistered walls. Dionea’s strength of character and wild free-spirit is even seen to affect the fate of others and she is viewed with both suspicion and superstition. The return of buried paganism is a recurring element through different examples of Folk Horror, which marks Dionea’s place in this book and the Folk Horror canon, and the voice behind it is a refreshing interlude to the male, quite conservative – despite the themes, uttering of the other featured tale-tellers.

Algernon Blackwood: Illustration by Andy Paciorek

Perhaps one of the most evocatively titled of all horror stories follows next, The Man Whom The Trees Loved (1912) by Algernon Blackwood (1869 – 1951). A member of both The Ghost Club and like Machen, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn; Blackwood is perhaps the biggest name in the book among horror circles. Extremely prodigious and successful in his horror writing career, alas I find issue with The Man Whom the Trees Loved – it’s not that it’s a bad story – it’s a decent enough tale. The problem is that in my opinion, it should be a short story not a novella. There for me is an issue of repetition in the tale – if handled skillfully then a little repeating can build up suspense but I just find too much of it and dallying here. It is surprising as Blackwood knows his craft, so it would’ve been hoped that he did not opt for a ‘less is more’ approach here. As for the tale itself, it is quite poetically beautiful as well as unsettling. A woman becomes extremely concerned with her husband’s obsession for the trees that surround their country abode. It has an underlying mystical and philosophical debate about the sentience of life, (indeed all of the stories featured in this book pose a studious contemplation of the ‘nature’ of both nature and the supernatural) and it is a valuable addition to the Folk Horror bookshelves but I unfortunately cannot help but feel that it would have been a more powerful narrative had Blackwood decided to have it edited down.

Edgar Jepson

Closing the book is The Garden at 19 (1910) by Edgar Jepson (1863 -1948). Jepson, an English writer, is more widely associated to crime and adventure novels ( as well as translating Maurice Leblanc’s French tales of the aristocratic brigand Arsene Lupin into English). One of his wanderings into fantastic territory The Garden at 19 is a mixed bag. Like The Man Whom the Trees Loved, 19 could’ve probably done with being a bit shorter. It also has its eyebrow raising moments in its oddly repeated opinions of German professors and also in its portrayal of girls/women and their societal roles. Otherwise it’s a fair enough tale, reminiscent of Denis Wheatley’s Satanism in suburbia romps. The presence of that old horny deity Pan explains the book cover (featuring a painting by the, alas not familiar enough, Belgian Symbolist painter of the uncanny, Leon Spilliaert) and relates how a young lawyer becomes intrigued both by the strange goings-on in his neighbour’s garden and then by the presence of his neighbour’s niece. The character of the neighbour, Woodfell, is very clearly inspired by the notorious occultist and tabloid scandal-fodder of the time, Aleister Crowley.

The afterword of the book comes in the form of questions, an interesting addition that would perhaps prove useful for book groups, genre-study classes, and academic or personal-interest students of Folk Horror / horror literature. This and the novel approach of presenting novellas rather than shorter fiction makes this book an interesting and valuable addition to folk’s Folk Horror book collection.

Faun by Moonlight: Leon Spillaert (1900)

Forests Damned And Furrows Cursed: A Haunted Heritage of Folk Horror Novellas
Edited by William P. Simmons
Paperback, 236 pages
Published April 26th 2022
by Shadow House Publishing
ISBN13 – 798806998614

Reviewed by Andy Paciorek

Lizzy Laurance – Rocketman Review

Lizzy Laurance’s debut album, Rocketman was released April 30th of this year. I would like to start by apologising to Lizzy for the delay in posting this review, however, a series of health issues and time constraints have held things up, which I hope are gradually coming to an end. Anyway, now that’s out of the way lets get down to Lizzy and her suitably impressive debut release.

Lizzy is a London based electronic musician who create “grainy pop-collages inspired by spatial locations; inner, outer and cyber”. In creating her music, she uses found sounds, ambient electronics, library samples, and electronic beats; stitching them together to create atmospheric  aural soundscapes. Lizzy explores “the mythology of pop music and the icons who inhabit it”, through stories of “female identity, image-making and toxic masculinity”. Her inspirations are varied and thought-provoking, Lizzy cites David Lynch, Lana Del Ray and Godspeed You! Black Emperor as key influences on the sound of her album, and whilst this may sound like a disparate selection of artists, you can hear a little bit of each in the music, as well as a whole lot of herself. This is by no means an exercise in simply showing adulation for her heroes, she simply uses them to inspire and inform her own original sounding material.

The concept for the album came together while Laurance was artist in residence at Illutron, an arts and technology institute situated on an 800ft dredging boat in Copenhagen. She lived alone on the boat and made a number of field recordings that would form the basis of the songs featured on the album, not just from a musical perspective but from a storytelling perspective too.  Lizzy says that she always felt there was “something rotten about the place” before she eventually uncovered that she was living at the site of the infamous Copenhagen Submarine murder of 2018. Founder of Copenhagen’s rocket building scene, Peter Madsen murdered a journalist (Kim Wall) who had come to interview him on board his home-made submarine. Laurance tries to reconcile the visionary ideals and technological innovations Madsen made with the destruction that was “left in its wake.”

After a short intro track (Promenade) that merely hints at what is to follow we are into our first song proper. “Baby Loves”, is a hauntingly atmospheric piece of Avant Garde audio that is eloquent and beautiful, yet possesses hints of a much colder, darker, industrial soundscape. “Come Down” almost sounds like drum and bass at times, yet Lizzy’s haunted vocals and the jazz trumpet samples give it a wholly warmer feel. “Gasoline Blue Jeans” reminds me a little of Portishead at their most experimental. There is also a starkness throughout the album that draws me back to Lynch’s solo albums Blue Bob and Crazy Clown Time. I also feel this particular track would have fitted nicely on the soundtrack to Lynch’s third series of Twin Peaks. “Too Hard to Die” is an off kilter, glitchy industrial nightmare that leaves the listener feeling drained, while “White Nights” is the sound of some sort of clanking mechanical hell, manifesting as music, with Lizzy’s ethereal vocals rising out of the clanking sounds of heavy machinery. “Shine” is a largely ambient track that allows Lizzy’s voice to take centre stage while strange otherworldly sounds move around it. I really like this track for the way in which it manages to create something that sounds like it belongs on the soundtrack to a 1970s Avant Garde science fiction movie. “Famous” starts off with what sounds like corrupted seabird samples before settling into slightly off kilter ethereal pop territory. The lyrics are written from the perspective of a man who stalked Lizzy during her time in Copenhagen, but it’s got a much deeper meaning about toxic masculinity and why women continue to fall for bad men. “Rocketman” is a collision of metallic sounds, screeching metal guitar punctuates ambient industrial drones amid the roar of mighty engines. This is a throbbing and pulsing masterpiece of wyrd electronica. The album closes with the incredibly sad, “Song for Kim Wall” a short, melancholy tour de force that reminds you of the horrific events surrounding her disappearance and subsequent discovery before coming to what feels like quite an abrupt end.

Overall, I found Rocketman to be a masterpiece of dark industrial electronica that sounds like nothing else out there. There are hints of other things from time to time, David Lynch’s albums really come to mind at certain points, but it retains a special quality all of its own. Lizzy’s ethereal vocals are somewhat reminiscent of the sadly missed Julee Cruise, but that may be a lazy observation on my part.

The album can be listened to and bought from Lizzy’s Bandcamp page at: https://lizzylaurance.bandcamp.com/album/rocketman

You can also keep abreast of any future news by signing up to Lizzy’s website at:

https://lizzylaurance.wixsite.com/mysite

All social media links are available on her website.

Interview with Erland Cooper, Composer of a New Score to the 1928 Silent Classic “The Wind”.

The latest commission in Opera North’s FILMusic series is Erland Cooper’s new live score for the classic 1928 silent film The Wind. Cooper has composed his predominantly vocal score for the women of the Chorus of Opera North. Folk Horror Revival were lucky enough to catch up with Erland just a few weeks before the tour kicked off in Gateshead to learn a little bit more about the project.

FHR: First off, thanks for agreeing to the interview. I suppose the first thing I really want to ask you is a bit about yourself and your musical history? Your bio states that you’ve worked in a variety of different fields of music, so if you could tell us a bit about that?

EC: Yes, it’s quite a diverse background probably, but I suppose on reflection… joining the dots back it all makes perfect sense. I grew up in the North of Scotland and folk music was quite accessible. That’s pretty much the mainstay of an island, passing troubadours would come in and out, great fiddle players, Aly Bain, accordionists…you know, all sorts of brilliant finger pickers and things like that. I kind of had this guilty pleasure of enjoying that while my mates were playing football. I was sneaking in to the town hall to listen to Phil Cunningham and Ali Bain.

So, when I got to London, I still had a real kind of interest in two things – one, recording studios, how I’d read about residential studios, and I  just turned up and found one and knocked on the door. It was Ridge Farm studio, they recorded everything from Queen to…you know, Bohemian Rhapsody was recorded there. Big, big records, big, big songs, and I thought I want to see one of these residential studios. I knocked on the door and it creaked open like in a vampire film and this guy came out with jet black hair and a white strip across his fringe and I said Oh hello my name is Erland, I’m from Orkney, would it be possible to see the studio? He swore and said “fucking hell, you’re from Orkney, you better come in”. I think he thought I’d travelled that day from Orkney. This guy introduces me to the producer Youth, who’s starting a folk label, Youth’s a big producer who’s produced loads of hits. Anyway, Youth introduces me to Simon Tong, Simon was the guitarist in a band called The Verve, and then Simon and I started writing together, we both had a love for psychedelic folk, acid folk, traditional folk. Not just someone with an acoustic guitar that they call folk music, we’re talking Bert Jansch all the way through to obviously Sandy Denny, and Jackson C Frank, but even further back Cecil Sharp, Ralph Vaughan Williams collecting these folk songs and transcribing them. So we both had this big love of that, and we just hit it off, Simon and I, and every week I’d go to his house and we’d write songs. To cut a long story short, Youth was doing a folk night and Damon Albarn was there. My first gig in London, my first gig, I get thrust up on stage in some bohemian club in Notting hill completely out of my depth, out of my comfort zone, looking out and seeing some of my idols as a boy. I get up and play these really earnest folk songs and I last… two minutes. It’s a loud din and then silence and they start again.

Anyway, a month later and we’re in Damon’s studio and we’re cutting a debut album, which took folk songs, much like Fairport Convention were doing, and other bands, Pentangle. Just twisting them up and before we knew it, it was out in the world. We did three records with that band. Then I did another project called The Magnetic North, which was really centred on place, Skelmsdale, Orkney, and that had more traditional orchestration.

So, I was starting to get a real interest in classical elements of working within shoegaze and psychedelia. So, if you look at it, over those 10-15 years, kind of psychedelic rock band to slightly more sophisticated indie band, and then because I’m not classically trained, I am constantly learning. I’m up early every day studying myself, but writing, I feel like I’m just getting warmed up, you know. I get to write these 8 or 20 notes and give it to a violinist like Daniel Pioro and he makes them sound incredible, it’s like a joy. I didn’t intend to be a solo artist, that has just happened.  And now I’m commissioned to compose music, so that’s what I do. So that’s the thread of where it come from and I suppose it adds a different way of seeing or looking at things, maybe if I had studied classical music I wouldn’t approach it in the same way as slashing its face with a guitar line.

FHR: It’s really wonderful that you’ve come to classical music via an alternative route to most other people.                                                                                                                          

EC: Yeah, I’m glad you’ve said that… I feel like you can bring in your influences and look at things slightly different. Being Scottish and not having classic training kind of adds a level of being the underdog, which is quite fun.

FHR: But also it means you’re using probably different influences to those who have come from a classical background. You may have classical influences but some of you influences are coming from the psychedelic and acid folk bands you’re listening to.

EC: I think the one common thread with all of these projects is storytelling. The ability to tell a story in different form.  I’m actually inspired more by what I call real artists, painters, architects, film directors and producers and art curated shows. I’m more inspired by that than musicians generally. Although I am inspired by classical musicians, when I see someone walk in with a cello, I get really excited, the same kind of excitement I used to get when I was learning how to record on a Tascam tape machine, kind of, what can I do here?

FHR: I wanted to ask a question in relation to Opera North and particularly the film music project. I was really interested to see you’re following in the footsteps of some pretty amazing artists; Matthew Bourne, Jóhann Jóhannsson and Hildur Gudnadottir to mention but a few. How does it feel to be in such company?

EC: I love all their work. I mean, Johann’s work, which was vastly collaborative with Hildur, particularly over the five years prior to his death is an absolute constant. Johann would be a great collaborator, that’s what I take from his work. This idea that collaboration is being in the room constantly, that’s what it was in bands, jamming. For me, it’s different in this world and I enjoy it much more. You’re working on something on your own for ages and you get it to 80%, somewhere that’s really close, and it’s that last 20%, you just don’t know, you’re bringing in someone, Johann would work with Hildur and then that piece would just transform into something else. Was it Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe? He’d worked with this incredible vocalist on the Arrival soundtrack and that soundtrack is, I think the best soundtrack of the last decade. I don’t know if you know the film or if you know the soundtrack, just listen to the soundtrack alone, it’s brilliant.

FHR: I think it’s the same with all of his soundtracks, I regularly just stick one on while I am working or something…actually it’s often distracting, and I end up listening to the music and not doing any work.

EC: We’re going to be quite geeky now, have you watched his First and Last Men? Watch it, and listen to the soundtrack, it’s fantastic. Hildur’s on there and Robert and another Icelandic bass player. I think you’ll really enjoy that, but anyway…

FHR: Now we’ve got a basic idea about you and your work, how did this project come about?

EC: They commissioned me to help tell this story. It was one of the last silent films, as you know, but it came at a time where it fell between the cracks, because the talkies were coming and people felt it was old hat, but now on reflection its beautifully put together. The artistry was quite cutting edge, so I see it as a kind of requiem for a dying art form. Off it goes and another art form replaces it. So, I kind of wanted to touch on that as this sub narrative of what is going on, as well as this sense of the fear of the other, for them it’s the wind, but I think it’s deeper than that, I think it’s fear of native Americans, Indians… and fear of isolation, loneliness, fear of mental and physical abuse. It touches on some very insular and dark themes, and the Mojave Desert wind is this prominent fighting force. Growing up on an island, just to answer your question, surrounded by wind, I felt some kind of connection. In the winter months from the end of September through to Feb it’s isolating and the weather dictates the terms of what happens that day.

So, they came to me, and I watched it…I muted the sound, because several people have done stuff, and I just muted the sound on YouTube and watched it and thought OK yeah, I’d be honoured  to do it, but I’d like to set an ambitious manifesto. To just make the whole score out of the human voice, predominantly. So, all the electronic elements you hear, this kind of sound design, this distortion, these sub layers are actually made out of the… I think it was 12 singers voices. I did a pre-recording with them, it’s going to be 18 when we work on stage live but I’ve also got some recordings already and I manipulated them and I put them through a tape and I processed them in an interesting way and also my own voice. To my left here I have tape machines and microphones and so all these layers come out of the human, and everyone is so harmonically rich and different. I just thought that would be interesting, I’ve since added a few subtle additional layers, there’s a bit of woodwind, but for them most just the voice, but they don’t sing all the way through. This is what I noticed, other people who have approached the score, it was just kind of wall-to-wall music. Just back-to-back, what makes modern scores quite interesting, Johann in particular whilst we’re on the subject, is the use of silence and space, but in a silent film that’s harder to utilize because you’ve got no sound design, you’ve got no foley, you’ve got no sound effects. So, when you’re silent, you’re just silent again so I think people have just filled it with music, and so I’ve tried to turn that on its head…and go. There are three or four themes that happen throughout, and the rest is my own made sound design and using the wind of the Mojave Desert, processing it in a particular way and combining it with the women of the Opera North, of the chorus and doing some things that make it sound interesting to my ear. I’ve gone slightly mad.

I had these large fans and I put a valve on them so I could control the speed and I was blasting them at the piano with a speaker and I created a wind tunnel in the studio, and all of a sudden I started to distort it and I thought, interesting, now it sounds like the wind, now it sounds like the other, now it sounds really scary, now there’s something I can’t control. And the reason I got it, I was reading that when they did the film, they got loads of huge aeronautic propellers that would whip up this storm and I thought that must have been terrifyingly loud, that must have been full on. So that’s what I’ve done in the studio, made a wind tunnel. I’ve tried to imbue that into the score. So, actually  thinking about it, talking to you about it for the first time, it might be closer to how it felt making the film. We’ll never know, but that’s how it feels. I can imagine that noise, the fake wind, because wind doesn’t have a sound, wind only makes noise when it rubs up against an object. So, that’s when I was looking at the science and that’s how I’ve approached it. So, what I mean by all this rambling is that I’ve tried to make sound design. Not foley, but sound design, so it’s got something so then I can cut it and have silence that feels like…ah I can have a break. So, it’s not just wall to wall music and the Opera North aren’t just singing from start to end because that would be too much, I think.

FHR: The decision to use the female voices in place of music, where did that idea come from?

EC: I just think the human voice is so harmonically rich, as I touched on, also the kind of Theatre of Voice as, what’s his name the composer, I forget his name. I started at 4 this morning on five different things.

[He is referring to Paul Hillier, the English composer, conductor and baritone who worked with Jóhan Jóhannsson on several of his later works.]

In fact, that heavily inspired the Arrival score, and I thought it would be interesting to not use a string quartet, to not use a big timpani drum, like everybody would. I thought I’m going to strip all of that out and just use the voice, and I guess it will either work or it won’t, but I guess the idea is just, it feels like it humanizes it a bit more to me. It kind of makes it feel more experimental as well and it makes it more challenging. I like to set parameters, or barriers, they’re not set in stone. I made them I can break them, it’s nice to do that. You know when you’re faced with a blank canvas, it’s no wonder people have writers block when they have every digital instrument on the planet at their disposal. I just use one synth, I love really learning one instrument, it’s a joy for me and using it in a way that maybe it shouldn’t be used or hasn’t been used or isn’t how it’s supposed to be used, then you get something interesting. And so, I knew I could take the voice and put it through other things, other processing. So, putting the voice through the filter of a synthesizer, suddenly sounds like a synthesizer but it’s not it’s still the voice. The sound source is organic, and I think that comes from me using predominantly, or I have used in my solo work a lot of field recordings, a lot of found sound and using found sound in a way that sounds familiar, but also kind of interesting and different. I guess that’s why, it probably came from there.

FHR: It says in your profile that you have an interest in the relationship between landscape and psychology. I guess we can say these things are intrinsically linked in this film and it’s pretty powerful stuff. Looking back and thinking this was made in 1928 and the themes and ideas are quite powerful and strong?

EC: I think the ending was changed, what actually happens in the end was supposed to be that she walks off into the wind, never to be seen again. Instead, she falls in love, and it’s like you’ll do let’s run off together. So American, so kind of… we can’t leave them with an unknown. To a modern audience now, we’d expect that question mark of this powerful woman…she leaves all the men in her life behind her and goes, I don’t need that, but they read it as she walks off and ultimately passes. All because she couldn’t deal with it. So, they said no because she was a producer, remind me her name…

FHR: Oh it’s Lillian Gish.

EC: She worked really hard to produce, put it together, fight to get the finance, to then have it pushed back at the end. The ending isn’t Hollywood enough. For then, the film to really not make a splash as it should have done. I think one review had said this film is ridiculous, the hats would have blown off their heads. They just wanted to hear talking and were fed up of that medium. Actually, we look at it now and think wow! With what they had at the time in 1929 or 1928…brilliant.

FHR: Yeah, it looks astonishing when you consider the year it was made. If you look at the silent films of that era and consider they didn’t have the budgets they have today. We can marvel at the creativity of the set designers and film makers responsible for the likes of Metropolis or Haxan and ask ourselves how they did it.

EC: Maybe, that’s another reason. They were limited in their technical ability and resources. I wanted to kind of do the same and kind of like limit, not just shove an orchestra on let’s not do a Zimmer-esque score, let’s think about it more. That would be more pleasing on the ear I think, I think an audience would probably have liked, and may have expected me to do a string quartet piece with piano and voice. When they asked me I just kind of said I will do it, but not in the way you probably think I’m going to do it. They were really open to just “you do whatever you want” but maybe as a tip of the hat to the limiting of resources, I’ve tried to limit my set of screwdrivers and tools.

Thanks very much to Erland Cooper for his time and for chatting to us. Just to round things up, the performance is going on a mini tour starting at the Sage, Gateshead on February 24th, RNCM Manchester on 25th February and closes at the Howard Assembly Room, Leeds on 26 February.

You can check out the trailer for The Wind on YouTube from the link below.

Tickets for the Manchester show are available here:

Tickets for the final performance in Leeds are available from:

‘The Hellebore Guide to Occult Britain and Northern Ireland ‘ and ‘The Atlas of Dark Destinations’ ~ Book Reviews

The Hellebore Guide is produced by the same team that created the very popular Hellebore zine that has blossomed in the recent renaissance of indie specialist-interest zines and the revival of attention to occulture and folklore. They have taken their sphere of interest and distinctive design aesthetic forward into book format with this very handy and beguiling gazetteer of British ritual, weird-lore and magical creativity. In the introduction specific attention is brought to the 2 books that this guide could most oft be compared to, the Readers Digest Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain and Westwood & Simpson’s The Lore of The Land. The inspiration and similarities are worn on the sleeve but as Pérez Cuervo informs us, there is a difference that carries the themes forward and makes this work a useful companion to those other books mentioned. In addition to covering numerous sites of folklore, occult practice and strange history, this book also points us to places that inspired or in some instances were used as filming locations for numerous cult /horror novels, films and TV shows. Fans of M.R. James, Derek Jarman, Witchfinder General, The Owl Service and many other such creators and creations will find notes of interest therein. This richly illustrated book will fit handily into a backpack for onsite visits. One point that readers may raise is that due to size restraints certain localities or topics may not be covered in the greatest of detail but within its 316 pages a lot of ground is trekked. The book therefore can inspire further personal research and does offer scope for further volumes.

The Atlas of Dark Destinations however is not a book as easily taken out on location unless you have huge pockets as this is more of a weighty coffee-table book – lusciously illustrated but also incredibly informative. Again, as with The Hellebore Guide, the book cannot contain everywhere and everything but does cover considerable distance across the globe. As some countries are perhaps underrepresented there is again potential perhaps for a further volume. Hohenhaus, in his introduction, explains his reasoning for some omissions; he holds no truck with the visitation of living slums as tourist destinations nor does he favour notable suicide sites such as Japan’s legendary Aokigahara Forest. Serial Killer haunts and other singular murder sites are not represented but there is certainly no shortage of death behind the book’s dark cover. Sites of Genocide and wartime suffering are extremely well covered, with a lot of the book being taken up by sites of military and political intrigue. (Which upon showing the work to my 95 year old father, who was in internment and forced labour across Europe during WW2 and isn’t much of a reader generally gained a second review of the Atlas as being “A very good book”).  

In addition to well known places covered within the book such as Chernobyl, Auschwitz, Hiroshima and 911 Ground Zero there are notable cemeteries, ossuaries, catacombs, penitentiaries, ghost towns and areas of natural wonder featured and some less familiar intriguing sites such as  such as the ornate Milano Cimitero Monumentale necropolis, the Bali Trunyan Burial site and the Darvaza Hell Mouth (a 250 foot wide, 65 foot deep crater in Turkmenistan where an inferno fuelled by natural gas reserves has burned unabated for over 50 years.) Less obviously Fortean in subject-matter than The Hellebore Guide, and perhaps too heavily martial-politically focused for some readers of this magazine, The Atlas is nevertheless actually very readable and fascinating (in many instances particularly in provoking contemplation of humankind’s inhumanity towards each other.)

Both books could also be inspirational to fiction-writers as well as Fortean travellers, for use in setting location and back-story of their tales. Both books are designed to be dipped into rather than be read cover to cover and whether out on the road or in the comfort of my own arm-chair I can see myself delving into both titles for many years to come. 

The Hellebore Guide to Occult Britain and Northern Ireland
Edited by Maria J. Pérez Cuervo
Hellebore Books 2021
Pb. 316 pp. illus. index. £18.75. ISBN. 9781399906968
https://helleborezine.bigcartel.com/products
Atlas of Dark Destinations: Explore the World of Dark Tourism
Peter Hohenhaus
Laurence King Publishing. 2021
Hb. 352 pp. illus. index. £25.00. ISBN. ‎9781913947194
https://www.laurenceking.com/product/atlas-of-dark-destinations/

Reviewed by Andy Paciorek


Archive 81: an Urban Wyrd Review

Archive 81 is a 2022 Netflix series developed by Rebecca Sonnenshine based upon the podcast of the same name created by Daniel Powell and Marc Sollinger (which I have not listened to as of yet, so cannot compare in this article).

Its premise follows the recruitment of Dan Turner (Mamadoudou Athie) as an electronic media conservator tasked with restoring fire-damaged videotapes shot by missing film maker Melody Pendras (Dina Shihabi).

The show encompasses numerous elements of the Urban Wyrd. Apparently the term Urban Wyrd has caused confusion amongst some people, so it may be worthwhile to briefly explain the concept again here.
The Urban Wyrd designation was created and first contemplated by author & film-maker Adam Scovell on his Celluloid Wickerman website and was developed /investigated further in the pair of multi-contributor Folk Horror Revival: Urban Wyrd books published by Wyrd Harvest Press.
The Urban Wyrd is not ‘folk horror in a city’ though elements may sometimes be shared, and it was in reference and relationship to folk horror that the discussion first arose.

Urban Wyrd is not a genre, but a mode that relates to the incidence of the Uncanny, the Weird and the Eerie with specific relationship to the built-up environment, particular buildings, liminal edge-lands (such as motorway motels, service stations and sometimes suburbia) and/or to technology (including analogue and outdated forms).

The Urban Wyrd is frequently to be found where concepts such as Hauntology and Psychogeography occur on film, literature, music and art (both in the original academic remit of these subjects and in the development of their pop-cultural aesthetic).
The Urban Wyrd mode may therefore be applicable to narratives and/or imagery featuring haunted houses, uncanny urban geography & architecture (including transport stations and underpasses etc.) as well as haunted media (photography, digital, video etc) and also to supernatural, folkloric and/or occult excursions/infiltration into the modern world. Psychological relationships to the environment or technology may also be a factor. Concepts of time are also frequently a consideration.

(As with Folk Horror), ambience, aesthetic and that certain ineffable something that you may struggle to verbalise but know when you see, hear or feel it may also be apparent in items featuring modes of Urban Wyrd.
The concept of the Urban Wyrd is not a strict label or manifesto but more-so a feature or features that can be used to associate different films or media that share these similar themes, aesthetics or elements. Although it can be a topic for academic study, the designation of Urban Wyrd can and should be more widely and generally used as a handy way for people who like one film or book or song or artwork using the motifs described to find others featuring them that they may also enjoy.
Many of these elements just mentioned can be found in Archive 81.

Without giving too many spoilers away, a resume of Article 81 follows.
Dan is employed by a company named LMG to go to a remote complex to repair and restore a quantity of damaged video tapes filmed by Melody Pendras – a young woman who went missing in the 1990s following a fire at the Visser building, an apartment block built on the foundations (and history) of a former mansion belonging to the enigmatic Vos family. Melody is drawn there on a tip-off that her birth mother who abandoned her as a baby was a resident there. Family history plays a role within this drama which follows several different narratives apparently separated by time but united by people and place. As Dan delves further into his work he discovers a link to his own family and realises his task is far more than just being a regular job.

The show flits between found-footage and several story-lines occurring at different periods of time and also dream-narratives. The footage itself and its strange qualities is reminiscent of Koji Suzuki’s ‘Ringu’ (adapted to film in 1998 by Hideo Nakata and remade in 2002 by Gore Verbinski as ‘The Ring’) and whilst being quite a creature in its own right, Archive 81 wears its inspirations and influences on its sleeve. Rather than being derivative though a further meta narrative is added to the mix giving another layer for viewers and fans to mull over. We see references to movies as diverse as ‘Solaris’, ‘Night of the Living Dead’, ‘Ministry of Fear’ and even ‘The Secret of Nimh’. Stephen King’s 1977 novel ‘The Shining’ is referenced and similarities can be drawn between the show and Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 cinematic reworking of King’s book. The Visser Apartment/ Vos Mansion bears similarity with ‘The Shining”s Overlook hotel with its winding corridors, dark history, art-deco soirees and the feeling that the building is haunted not simply by the people that died there but by its own brooding character. Association can also be drawn to Ira Levin’s 1967 novel / Roman Polanski’s 1968 film ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ with its mysterious apartment neighbours and occult ritual occurrences. Indeed there are elements of Polanski’s other Apartment Trilogy films ‘Repulsion’ (1965) and ‘The Tenant’ (1976) to be found in Archive 81’s make-up also.

There are also non-film associations that can be found in Archive 81 which will be of interest to those curious in the different aspects of the Urban Wyrd mode and also in wider aspects of the occult and paranormal outside of fiction.
The inclusion of Spirit Photography and Psychic Art works on both an aesthetic and narrative level. The name of the art group as Spirit Receivers and the examples of much the art shown seems strongly to allude to the book ‘World Receivers‘ which details the works of Georgiana Houghton. Hilma Af Klint and Emma Kunz – three artists of the 20th Century whose paintings were conducted through spiritual mediumship. (Another good book on that subject is Not Without My Ghosts and for Spirit Photography an excellent book is The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult).

In reference to pop-Hauntology (ie. that form associated to examples of popular culture as explored by Mark Fisher rather than the original political-philosophy form devised by Jacques Derrida) Archive 81 features strongly there both in aesthetic and topics covered. The attention to analogue technology, the literal ghost in the machine and genii loci – spirits of place; brings to mind ‘Ringu’ as mentioned previously, but also Nigel Kneale and Peter Sasdy’s 1972 TV play ‘The Stone Tape’ and the Electronic Voice Phenomenon {EVP} experimental studies pioneered by Friedrich Jürgenson, Hans Bender and Konstantin Raudive) have a strong hauntological quality as does the element of the movement of time that occurs within the unfolding tale. This is continued in the sound design brilliantly crafted by composer Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow (one of the geniuses behind the Excellent Trip-Hop outfit Portishead). The combination of atmospheric music, drone and other aural invocations and evocations helps to induce a sense of unsettling perception – almost to the verge of inducing anxiety in the viewer (I myself have found myself ear-worming the prayer-song); this attention to sound likens Archive 81 to other films with significant Urban Wyrd content such as ‘Sinister’ and ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ (which also share the themes of uncanny elements within the actual media of film and video), and also to the works of David Lynch. The stilted slow dialogue also is reminiscent of the cinema of David Lynch and some of Stanley Kubrick’s work (‘The Shining’ and ‘Eyes Wide Shut’) however at times it does heighten the awareness of it being acted and therein lies a question as to how well the show was cast. There is another point however that lots of viewers have seemed to take issue with and that is the season’s finale. Again without giving away Spoilers, I personally don’t have a problem if that is how the show ends totally, although I do have a question /issue as to one of the character’s actions which culminated in that conclusion. The ending however does allow potential for the narrative to resume and develop further if Netflix decide to green light another season.

All in all, I enjoyed the series, it ticked numerous other interest boxes of mine and I was impressed by its techniques aimed to unsettle. Aesthetically I liked it, though for some of the special effects I personally would have opted for a more Less is More approach and it has inspired me to give the original Podcast a listen.

Reviewed by Andy Paciorek

Yellowjackets: Season 1 Review

The premise of the Showtime series Yellowjackets following the 1996 stranding of a team of female high-school football (soccer) players, their coaches and one of the coach’s 2 teenage sons following a plane crash in a remote Canadian forest and the ensuing tribalism, primal instinct and desperate endeavour to survive, echoes tales such as William Golding’s 1954 novel ‘The Lord of The Flies’ (adapted to film in 1963, 1975 and 1990), the TV show ‘Lost’ (2004 -2010), the book and TV series ‘The Terror’ (adapted from Dan Simmons’ 2007 book in 2018) which was based on the true 1845 case of the disappearance of the ships HMS Terror and HMS Erebus in the Canadian Northwest Passage and the 1993 film ‘Alive’ directed by Frank Marshall which was based upon the true-life 1972 airplane crash that left members of the Uruguayan Old Christians Rugby Union Team stranded in the snow of the Andes for 72 days, (in which time cannibalism of those who did not survive the crash and aftermath was resorted to as a tragic but necessary means of survival).
Add to the mix, the female coming of age drama of offbeat teen films such as ‘Heathers’ or ‘The Craft’ and that gives the basic gist of Yellowjackets.
It is seasoned however with aesthetic and cult/occult elements of folk horror and also crime thriller action as the story also picks up in the present day following the lives of several of the survivors and how they are still haunted by the 19 horrific months they spent in the wilderness.

The narrative of the show flits between different periods of time in the main characters’ lives – before the crash – during their wilderness time – and 25 years later – so we see some of the roles played both by teen/young adult and middle aged actresses. This provides for good drama as we see the evolution of their inter-personal relationships which in adulthood here are as complex as their adolescent times – more-so because of what the weird feral period they shared and the strange experiences they have lived through. Experiences which are teased out slowly with a lot of speculation and anticipation inspired within the viewing community.

In the adult casting there is good interaction between some actresses familiar to the horror/ weird genres with Juliette Lewis cast as Nat (an off-off the wagon substance abuser who as played by Sophie Thatcher was an alternative teenager who despite their mutual love of football, was left-field to the other girls), Christina Ricci as Misty ( acted by Sammi Hanratty as a teen, another girl on the social fringes who desperately wants to fit in but as the story develops we discover alarming facets of her character) and Melanie Lynskey (perhaps known best in this community for her childhood role as Pauline Parker in Peter Jackson’s 1994 ‘Heavenly Creatures’, a retelling of a true murder case whereby childhood innocence was lost forever) as Shauna who both in adulthood and as a youth (played by Sophie Nelisse) has a complex relationship with sex and loyalty. The other adult survivor we encounter mostly in Season 1 is Taissa (played by Tawny Cypress and Jasmin Savoy Brown) a strong-willed character who has made a success in her life, both in law practice and then as a senate candidate; however her life is more haunted than she may project.

Melanie Lynskey as Shauna in YELLOWJACKETS, “F Sharp”. Photo credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME.

Other characters also lay paths of intrigue – Ben the only adult male and team coach to survive the crash, Van, Laura Lee – a born-again Christian and the enigmatic and mystical Lottie. I will not drop major spoilers but we are left curious wondering to how the fates of these characters will play out (there apparently being 5 seasons of the show planned, there is much to be revealed in time).

Juliette Lewis as Natalie in YELLOWJACKETS, “F Sharp”. Photo credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME.

But there is another element to Yellowjackets and that is the presence of folk horror motifs. Following the discovery of an old seemingly-abandoned cabin in the woods, things begin to take an even stranger turn than the nightmare of being trapped miles from anywhere with an encroaching hard season and limited supplies, from having to pull dead friends, colleagues and in one instance a parent from the wreckage site of a plane crash and bury them. The cabin has a history and a mystery. A supernatural presence is in play, but is it real or the imaginative manifestation of traumatised, stressed minds? Was it there inherent, in the cabin – in the woods, or brought to the site by one or more of the team? Whatever it was did it stay there or did it follow the eventual survivors back to ‘civilisation’?

From the opening scenes of the very first episode we encounter a girl being hunted down in the snow, we see a fireside rite of fur-clothed and masked figures. We are led to believe that ritual cannibalism occurs (we are led to believe certain things throughout the series however only for the paths we are following to change direction) but certainly a new (or old?) religion starts to fall upon the survivors’ camp and tribute paid to gods of dirt and sky. A religion reluctant to stay in the woods perhaps. And who is the figure named by fans as the Antler Queen? The season leads us to believe it is a certain member of the team, but can we be sure that we have not been led on a path with branches and chicanes?
And then there is the symbol. A mysterious sigil that seems to have predated the team’s descent into the forest but has followed them out of it, appearing on a postcard involved in a blackmail plot that several members.

I enjoyed the show and its genre-bending style and look forward to season 2.

Review by Andy Paciorek

Happy New Year + New Merchandise

Happy New Year to all Revivalists – Hope it is a good one.

To mark the dawn of 2022 – here are two new designs at our online RedBubble merchandise store –

Available on various items and garments in various colours and cuts.

Browse all our available designs -> here …

🌣 Solstice 2021 🌣 ~ Charity Donation and Book Discount

Solstice Greetings. Charity Donation and Book Discount🌞

To mark the longest night FHR and Wyrd Harvest Press have again charitably donated sales profits from our books to a Wildlife Trusts project selected by followers of this group in a poll. Thank you to those who took the time to vote and especially those who have bought our books. This time the project selected was Kent Wildlife Trusts Restoring the Chough: Rare Crow Appeal and we are very happy to have donated £700 to this worthy cause. I’m sure they will be chuffed … chough… chuff … I will get my coat 😛 You can donate to the Wildlife Trusts Appeals directly at https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/appeals And you can continue to support them whilst treating yourself to some great books featuring a host of folk horror and urban wyrd luminaries both past and present.

To mark the Solstice, there is a 10% DISCOUNT on all our books (this does not affect the amount the charity receives) just add code COZY10 at checkout at https://www.lulu.com/spotlight/andypaciorek The offer is valid until the end of Christmas Eve. Thank You, Have fun, Stay safe and the Very Best Season’s Greetings


Lamb: Film Review

I must confess that I watched Valdimar Jóhannsson’s Lamb (Dýrið) whilst having a goblet or two of Absinthe, but had I viewed it tea-total, I don’t think it would have been any less strange!!
I don’t want to give away too much of the film but the basic premise is that a farming couple, Maria and Ingvar (played by Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason) living on a remote sheep-holding in Iceland discover that one of their animals has given birth to a very peculiar offspring. They develop a deep attachment to this progeny and it becomes like a child of their own. This strange scene of domestic bliss is strained by the arrival of Pétur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) the brother of Ingvar and, so it would seem, a previous lover of Maria, (or at the very least someone who would very much like that to be the case). But it transpires that he is not the only visitor to the isolated farm.

Lamb is slow to the point of being glacial. That is not a problem for me as I really like slow-burn movies and here it really suits both the plot and the setting. The desolate beauty of the Icelandic landscape seems to lend itself to atmospheric, introspective drama and the photography in the film is bleakly beautiful.

As with other A24 films that dwell in ‘folk horroresque’ fields, I can see that Lamb may prove to be a ‘Marmite’ movie that would provoke a divisive response between viewers ( I myself am of the camp that loves the current output of Robert Eggers but have little regard for the films of Ari Aster, which are very popular with some; but one person’s poison is another person’s meat.)
Regarding Lamb I could see why some viewers would not like it, but I personally thought it was an unusual tale delivered well, with hints of a fairy-tale like narrative to it. It is worth noting though for viewers who have a sensitivity to animal death in film, that there are two animal deaths depicted in the film, one of which, the first has a specific narrative role but the latter is arguably unnecessary but serves as one of the film’s actual few ‘horror’ moments. For the most part Lamb does not play out as a ‘horror’ film as such but as a domestic drama (albeit it a very strange one) but its conclusion returns it firmly into a horror fold.

Reviewed by Andy Paciorek



Antlers : Film Review

Antlers (2021), directed by Scott Cooper and based on the short story ‘The Quiet Boy’ by Nick Antosca, has in its promotion highlighted the production role of Guillermo del Toro, to whose films Antlers shares some similarities but shows some differences. Like a number of del Toro’s movies the principal backstory concentrates on children growing up in difficult circumstances, but the delivery here is darker and more desolate than del Toro’s presentations. That for me personally is not a problem, I like bleak movies. Another difference is that even though there is potential there for it, Antlers does not really share del Toro’s sympathy for monsters. Again personally I have no problem with that, but had the film been longer I would have liked to have seen more indication of the character of Frank Weaver (Scott Haze) and his relationship with his children prior to the strange and brutal circumstances that befell them.

Frank Weaver, a single father following the death of his wife, supports his family by brewing and selling Methamphetamine in a town in Oregon that has been beset by social and economic difficulties (actually filmed in beautiful British Columbia). Whilst in an abandoned mine that he uses as a lab, he encounters a very strange and very dangerous creature. His colleague and his son Aiden (Sawyer Jones) are both also attacked, his drug partner being killed outright. Following the assault, Frank and Aiden begin to sicken and grow increasingly feral. Locked into a room, they are cared for by another son Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas) who brings food to them, which in the case of the father often consists of roadkill. Dealing with being a young home carer to his father and sibling in the weirdest and direst of circumstances, as well as coping with the grief of losing his mother, has a noticeable effect on the child. He is overly thin and his clothing is threadbare. Small, quiet, insular, poor and unconventional, Lucas is sadly the target of bullying. This concerns his new teacher Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) who has returned to the town where she grew up, sharing her childhood home with her brother Paul Meadows (Jesse Plemons) following the death of her father. A victim of childhood abuse herself at the hands of her father (her mother dying whilst Julia and Paul were still children) upon seeing the character and condition of Lucas as well as his grisly drawings, fears that the boy may be a victim of abuse at home. The school principal (Amy Madigan) pops around the child’s home to assess the situation and that is when hell breaks loose.

The delivery of the film situates itself between a slow-burn social realism horror and a more mainstream creature-feature, which doesn’t in this instance for me completely work. The horror SFX are fairly visceral and delivered well enough but they seem somehow a bit out of place. I would have preferred more of the gore and violence to have been implied rather than shown, but the literal nature of the beast in this film is bloody so a proportion of viewers may have felt that to remove this component would dull the film. Again, because of treading two stylistic paths it could perhaps be felt that not enough characterisation was given to certain roles, situations and backstories. The amount of attention given to Julia and Paul’s own childhood trauma and grief feels perhaps underrepresented but film has a limited timescale generally and the time allocated for the overall narrative is enough where Antlers is concerned; if this film were any longer it would be too long. This is not because it is a bad film that I wanted to end as soon as possible, but because the horror aspect of it that dominated the final third played out following familiar tropes in a more conventional horror film manner and in that sense did not offer anything really that has not been seen before.


Because the story is based on the lore of the Wendigo of some Native North American peoples, but has been made by predominantly non-native creators and cast there is the risk of potential exploitation / appropriation and of colonial-hangover misrepresentations of the ‘Other’. Although some viewers / readers may feel generally weary and wary of sociopolitical considerations in film-making and reviews, if as a creative you are inspired to write about and film an aspect of another culture, whether for fiction or documentary purposes, I believe there is a duty of being sensitive, respectful and factually correct. (Personally as an artist who frequently works with the folklore and legends of varied cultures, I don’t believe that non-sacred lore is necessarily off-limits to representation by someone of a different society or ethnicity nor that mythic representation should be racially segregated at all, but I do believe that it is important that appropriate attention is given to the beliefs and considerations of other people and that no exploitation occurs.)

I watched Antlers with my girlfriend Erin, who has Mi’kmaq ancestry and who holds an interest in Wendigo mythology, and I was curious to see what her opinion of the film would be. There is the matter that the main protagonists are all white, with the only First Nation character, Warren Stokes (Graham Greene) seemingly only being there to give exposition to the police and school teacher regarding Wendigo lore upon seeing the child’s drawings and the medicine protection put up in the tunnel meth lab. The main family in this film could have been Native American, but if them alone, a risk there would be a negative representation as the family were socially troubled and the father (though perhaps by necessity to provide for his family) was a criminal. To have all the cast Native American could’ve been a possibility but that would remove the discovery and shock element of the supernatural invading regular life for the Wendigo concept would likely have already been familiar to all concerned. However, due to the relevance of native belief to the film’s core it would have been good to see a stronger First Nation role and presence. Although the Wendigo is a spirit, it is not a sacred figure as such so the film does not demonise a god or religious tenet. The Wendigo myth though is more than just a fireside bogey man story for it represents a Taboo – a forbidden practice – namely that of cannibalism. In times of famine some Native American tribes would hold a ceremony to remind and warn of the prohibition and spiritual danger of anthropophagy.

For Erin, the meteorological setting of the film was brought into question, for winter is seen more as the time of starvation and would have befit the film better. Set at the dirty end of autumn, Jack o’ Lanterns still on display rather than Christmas decorations, there is a chill in the air and damp a plenty, which does certainly add to the bleak atmosphere, but a wintry setting would perhaps represent desperate hunger more. The social realist aspect of the plight of the afflicted family with Lucas’ emaciated condition and desperation to find food for his increasingly ravenous family does symbolically relate to the myth as perhaps does the father’s production of methamphetamine- a drug that can diminish appetite replacing it with a craving addiction and in the cases of prolonged addiction lead to the emaciation of the user as if they were being devoured from inside by a possessing spirit.

Wendigo by Andy Paciorek from Spirits of the Season: Portraits of the Winter Otherworld by Dr Bob Curran & Andy Paciorek

The physical appearance of the Wendigo is a debated point. Warren Stokes’ description of it in the film does state that it can take different forms. This applies also according to the old lore. In some cases it humanoid but very wizened and gaunt, in other tales it is seen as a gigantic figure and in others more animal than man. The antlers which give the film its name and one of the strongest individualistic representations of the Wendigo are not always to be found in the older myths. For Erin and many though, the antlers are an integral factor in the form and nature of the Wendigo. Its representation in the film is done well enough and the final transformation from human form into that of the monster is a distinctive element of the movie, though I myself am undecided whther it revealed too much and that less would be more or whether it is needed for the film to make a distinctive stamp on the cinematic genre.

In conclusion, I think I liked Antlers but did not love it. Further viewings may endear it to me more or possibly leave me colder. It promised more than it delivered, that there was something not quite fulfilling about it but perhaps that is the way it should be, like a Wendigo hunger that cannot be satiated and always a craving for more.

Review by Andy Paciorek & Erin Sorrey