Yule is coming. Folk Horror Revival official books and merchandise

indexAt FHR HQ we don’t like Christmas creeping into November either, but with time for postal delivery to be considered, here for your consideration are some alternative Xmas goodies available to buy for your boofriend or ghoulfriend or to spend your Chrimbo cash on.

Books –

Wyrd Harvest Press the publishing arm of Folk Horror Revival has over a dozen titles available featuring contributions by talents such as Susan Cooper, Ronald Hutton, Shirley Collins, Robin Hardy, Philip Pullman, Kim Newman, Reece Shearsmith and many more

– visit here for more details

All sales profits from Wyrd Harvest Press / Folk Horror Revival after manufacturing and distribution costs are donated seasonally to The Wildlife Trusts.

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Classic white on black Folk Horror Revival t-shirt from Hare & Tabor

£15 + Shipping

https://www.hareandtabor.co.uk/store/p78/Folk_Horror_Revival.html

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There are some sizes left of different FHR limited edition shirts and some Tote bags  – Message Kt on  Facebook or email Kt at folkhorrorrevival@gmail.com  for details

T-shirts  –

~Silver on Antique Cherry Red ~ Rose Gold on Forest Green ~ Silver on Blackberry ~ Witch  Cults – Fire colours on Black~

£10 + £6.00 shipping UK
$12.98 for the shirt, $7.71 for 5-7 working days delivery or $13.31 tracked and signed for 5-7 working days delivery. USA

Tote bags – £6 + £4 shipping UK.

made by Tyrant Design & Print

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Also Available ~  Folk Horror Revival drinking vessels from Midnight Mugs

To purchase these fine cups ~
Contact Steve via the Midnight Mugs Facebook Group

or email at stevie7771@hotmail.co.uk

or buy direct from E-bay by clicking on image of selected mug style below.

£8 each + postage & packaging per item for White mugs.

£9 each + postage & packaging per item for Black mugs.

Postage and Packaging –  £4.00 for up to 4 mugs in UK.
Check with Steve for overseas and quantity shipping costs.

Click on image to select mug style on Ebay –

classic white

classic black

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FHR AF

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In addition to this sartorial wonder, you can find a veritable cornucopia of gifts and other needful things on our Redbubble page. They come in white on black or, surprisingly, black on white.

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Note: Folk Horror Revival is non-profit. After manufacturing and distribution costs all sales profits from T-shirts, tote bags, mugs and Redbubble items go towards funding Folk Horror Revival events and projects.
All sales profits from books after manufacture and distribution costs are donated to charity at seasonal intervals.

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The Human Chimaera: A Sideshow Oddysey

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A number of years ago, I ran away with the Show Folk. Literally I did, getting a taster initially in North Wales I then joined a traveling carnival as it traversed across Asia. It was a strange time that influenced and inspired a fair portion of my later art and writing. But it was not the first time my mind turned to dark carnivalia. I never liked rollercoasters or other rides, never found clowns funny (or frightening) but something about circuses and carnivals especially the sideshows enchanted me.

When I was very young, I received as a present the book Horrors: A History of Horror Movies by Tom Hutchinson and Roy Pickard. Along with Monsters and Vampires by Alan Frank and Usborne’s Mysteries of the Unknown: Monsters, Ghosts and UFOs these books were my childhood bibles. On page 111 of Horrors though was a photograph that beguiled me. It was a still from Tod Browning’s 1932 classic movie Freaks. Upon reading underneath it, I was informed that the people in the photograph looked in reality as they appeared. I then visited a sideshow tent at I cannot remember where on some childhood daytrip, but although for the money only saw some photographs, some flea-bitten anomalous taxidermy and a few indistinct things floating in dirty jam-jars, I felt a weird sense of homecoming or something.. Upon getting my first ever book token as a gift I then purchased The World’s Most Fantastic Freaks by Mike Parker.My curiosity was stirred further but so also was my compassion – these were not monsters but people, intriguing exceptional people.

In years to come I read more books, watched documentaries and movies that featured real life people with teratological features or other profound physical differences. Films such as the afore-mentioned Freaks, but also The Mutations, The Sentinel, Chained For Life, The Other, even the Time Bandits. No matter how brief the appearance was, it intrigued me. Some of the films and books displayed compassion whilst others were perhaps more exploitative. Freaks and geeks captivated me. One night in a student bar, The Enigma, a man tattooed head to foot like a jigsaw puzzle, who was a former member of The Jim Rose Circus Sideshow whom I’d seen perform at a theatre the night before and who also starred in the X Files carnivalia episode Humbug,  asked whether he could sit at our table. I was thrilled at that happen-chance

Later in life after my own days on the midway and having viewed the great Channel 4 tv show Cast Offs and the amazing HBO serial Carnivale, my mind turned again to something I had mulled over for years – writing and illustrating my own book about these very special people. With the encouragement of actor Mat Fraser, author Karl Shuker, artist Madame Talbot and John Robinson the ringleader of Sideshow World, all my years of admittedly voyeuristic curiosity took form in the pages of The Human Chimaera: Sideshow Prodigies and Other Exceptional People. It to date was my most difficult book to create, I wanted to show empathy and compassion but no condescension in my words, yet I wanted to render their portrait with regard to the fantastic nature of their stage names or curious features of their lives. In my own, apparently ‘dark’ style I wanted to pay tribute to the sideshow banners that intrigue and captivate but yet stay true to the subjects’ actual likenesses. I think / hope I got the balance right.

~ Andy Paciorek

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Image may contain: 2 peopleContaining over 100 original pen & ink portraits alongside biographic text, The Human Chimaera is an indispensable guide to the greatest stars of the circus sideshows and dime museums.
Includes a foreword by John Robinson of Sideshow World.

Available now in a choice of three cover formats from ~ http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/5567832-the-human-chimaera

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Folklore Thursday: Earth Movers – The Foawr

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Foawr Also known as: Stone-Throwing Giants, Fooar.
Upheavals in and on the earth that led to the creation of many immense and intriguing land formations and features were often accredited to the actions of Giants.
Many Giants in Britain and Ireland displayed a propensity for throwing stones, yet the Manx Foawr were absolutely notorious for heaving boulders around. They would throw rocks at humans, at ships, at each other and they would throw rocks just for the sake of throwing rocks. It seems however that the males of the species were more inclined towards trouble-making and stone-lobbing than the females. The masculine Foawr were despised by human farmers, not only for their rock-hurling but also for their other habit of ravishing cattle. It has been considered that the Foawr may be of the same lineage as the Celtic demonic race the Fomorii and some at least were said to be the children of the haggard storm-goddess, the Cailleach Bheur.

Text and image © Andy Paciorek
abridged and amended from the book
Strange Lands: A Field Guide to the Celtic Otherworld
View Strange Lands by Andrew L. Paciorek

The Viewing Circle

Folk Horror Revival

Viewing Circle

Viewing guide (October 2018)

Welcome to the FHR Viewing Circle – a bit like a book club but with no books and you don’t actually get to meet the other members. Click on the link below, sit back and watch and then come back to this thread and add your thoughts and comments below and join in the discussion……

The idea behind the Viewing Circle was to post links to some folk horror viewing (accessible on-line) with a brief introduction listing original release/broadcast dates, notable actors, directors and composers, a brief synopsis and the occasional review from its original release. The hope was that like with a Bookclub those folk horror revivalists who watched the suggested viewing would then discuss it adding their own thoughts or questions to the original FHR Viewing Club thread.

It was decided to pilot this idea in the month of October in the run-up to Halloween alternating between Film and TV programmes every 2-3 days. If this proved successful the Viewing Circle could possibly continue with the potential for some exclusive viewings of new works in the future.

What follows is the introduction section for each of the FHR Viewing Circle recommendations from October 2018.

1 – Our first Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is episode 4 of Series 2 of `Shadows’

`Shadows’ was a British Supernatural television anthology series produced by Thames Television for ITV between 1975 and 1978. Extending over three seasons, it featured ghost and horror dramas for children.

Guest actors included John Nettleton, Gareth Thomas, Jenny Agutter, Pauline Quirke, Brian Glover, June Brown, Rachel Herbert, Jacqueline Pearce and Gwyneth Strong. The series was also notable for reviving the character of Mr. Stabs who first appeared in Ace of Wands.

Notable writers for the series included J. B. Priestley, Fay Weldon, Penelope Lively and PJ Hammond.

This episode – Dark Encounter – was written by Susan Cooper and stars Alex Scott, Shelagh Fraser (who played Aunt Beru in Star Wars), Brian Glover, Hugh Morton, Margot Field, Carolyn Courage, and Graham Kennedy. It was first aired on 18th August 1978.

`A middle-aged Londoner returns to the remote village that sheltered him as a child from the London blitz. He realizes that he’s afraid of the woods around the village, but can’t remember why.’

2 – Our second Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is `The Juniper Tree’ – A Dark Tale of Witchcraft & Mysticism.

`The Juniper Tree’ is a 1990 Icelandic fantasy art house drama film directed and written by Nietzchka Keene. Based on the fairy tale “The Juniper Tree” collected by the Brothers Grimm, it stars a small cast of five actors, Björk, Bryndis Petra Bragadóttir, Guðrún Gísladóttir, Valdimar Örn Flygenring and Geirlaug Sunna Þormar.

Margit and her older sister, Katla, flee their homeland in Iceland after their mother is killed for practicing witchcraft. Needing a place to stay, Katla casts a spell over a young farmer named Jóhann which makes him fall in love with her, ensuring the wellbeing of herself and Margit. Jóhann’s son, Jóhas, sees through Katla’s plan and pleads for his father to make her go away. To help Jóhas in his struggle, Margit’s mother appears to Margit in visions and provides a magic amulet of protection for the boy. Will Jóhas be able to rid his family of Katla or will she continue to control them with her witchcraft?

`The Juniper Tree’ was shot in Iceland with an extraordinarily small budget in the summer of 1986, but because of financial problems later on in the editing room, it was not released until 1990, when it competed for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The film was shot in black and white to highlight its dramatic content and as a resource to place the story in the Middle Ages. Some scenes were filmed in the Seljalandsfoss, Iceland.

3 – Our third Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is `The Beast’ – a classic episode from `West Country Tales’

Shown in the early 80s by the BBC `West Country Tales’ was a rural Tales of the Unexpected. The twist was that the stories were apparently based on letters collected by the producer recounting real life experiences.

The most memorable was `The Beast’ which aired on 1st March 1982. `A city dweller returns to the Cornish farmhouse of his youth, only to find that the current occupants are being stalked by a strange creature.’

Most of the cast and indeed the director (Kevin Crooks) seemed to have worked solely on `West Country Tales’ but Milton Reid who played the Beast had an interesting career appearing in `The Spy who loved me’, `Dr.Phibes rises again’, `The Return of the Pink Panther, `The Goodies’ and `Cannon and Ball’ as well as an uncredited role in Folk Horror classic `Blood on Satan’s Claw’.

The Narrator for all episodes was Jack Watson who in his 45 year career appeared in `Sky’, `The Changes’, `Arthur of the Britons’, `The Gorgon’ and `Peeping Tom’ as well as countless war films such as `North Sea Hijack’, `Wild Geese’, `The Devil’s Brigade’ and `The Hill’.

4 – Our forth Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is `Psychomania’ ( AKA The Death Wheelers).

“A stone cold classic with a great cast and superb soundtrack.” – J.Peters

A gang of young people call themselves the Living Dead. They terrorize the population from their small town. After an agreement with the devil, if they kill themselves firmly believing in it, they will survive and gain eternal life. Following their leader, they commit suicide one after the other, but things don’t necessarily turn out as expected……what’s not to love?!

Released in1973 it was George Sanders last film (He had previously won an Academy Award for his role in All About Eve and was the voice of the malevolent man-hating tiger Shere Khan in Disney’s The Jungle Book.) and also featured the late great Beryl Reid as well as Bill Pertwee (of Dad’s Army fame) and Robert Hardy. The soundtrack was by John Cameron who had previously worked with Donovan as well as writing the masterful `Kes’ soundtrack. An interview with John as well as a review of the soundtrack can be found in `Harvest Hymns’ from FHR publishing wing `Wyrd Harvest Press’.

It wasn’t critically well received at the time but has since become a cult classic and has seen fans of the film making pilgrimages to Walton-on-Thames to hunt down the filming locations.

5 – Our fifth Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is `Moondial’ – the complete series.

`Moondial’ was a six-part serial made for children by the BBC and transmitted in 1988. The series was written by Helen Cresswell, who also wrote the 1987 novel on which the series was based

Regarded as a nostalgic favourite by followers of 1980s BBC children’s drama, `Moondial’ employs extensive location filming (in the grounds of Belton House in Lincolnshire) and fantastical, dreamlike imagery. It also boosts an evocative soundtrack and memorable titles scene.

“Teenager Minty expects to spend a quiet holiday near historical Belton House with her mother’s godmother, “Aunt” Mary. However, soon after leaving Minty, her mother is involved in an accident and lies comatose in the hospital. Distraught, Minty begins wandering the Belton grounds. When she touches the sun-dial/moon-dial in the garden, she is transported through time. First to the late 19th century where she meets Tom, a sickly and abused servant. Second to the 18th century where she meets Sarah, a mysterious cloaked child who is in danger. Can Minty find a way to help these ghosts of the past?”

It included in its cast the late great Arthur Hewlett and Jacqueline Pearce – who sadly passed away just last month.

Arthur Hewlett (12 March 1907– 25 February 1997)

He is best remembered for his roles on television, including Quatermass and the Pit, The Avengers, The Saint, The Changes, Blake’s 7, Doctor Who (in the serials State of Decay and Terror of the Vervoids) and The Black Adder

Jacqueline Pearce (20 December 1943 – 3 September 2018)

Jacqueline was best known as the villain Servalan in the British science fiction TV series Blake’s 7. Of interest to this group she also starred in The Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile, which were filmed simultaneously on the same location and both released in 1966.

Sit back, turn down the lights and prepared to be taken back to 1988 when a nation of school children were entranced by this wonderful tale……

6 – Our sixth Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is `The Devil’s Widow’.

Released in 1970 `The Devil’s Widow’ was based on ancient Scottish folk song, The Ballad of Tam Lin. It starred Ava Gardner and Ian McShane as well as featuring the talents of Stephanie Beecham Sinead Cusack, Joanna Lumley and Madeline Smith and was Planet of the Apes regular Roddy McDowall’s only directorial credit The film had original music by Stanley Myers (responsible for some classic horror soundtracks for House of Whipcord, Frightmare, House of Mortal Sin) and a musical version of the original poem recorded by Pentangle.

“McDowall builds a broodingly enigmatic sense of menace out of stray allusions and apparitions that hover without ever really being explained or over-exploited: the snatches of [Robert] Burns intimating the presence of diabolic machinations; the girl terrified by her own unspoken Tarot prophecies; the dialogue that rings like blank verse, as though it had been used over and over again. Above all, though, this menace is effective chiefly because it is rhymed with a mounting sense of quiet decorum, as though reality, the world of the ordinary, everyday banality, were suddenly present to Tom for the first time.”
— Tom Milne, Monthly Film Bulletin, June 1977

7 – Our seventh Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is `The Flypaper’

This was the first episode in series 3 of `Tales of the Unexpected’ and was first aired on 9th August 1980. Adapted from a story by unappreciated English writer Elizabeth Taylor, `The Flypaper’ is as usual introduced by Roald Dahl, who wryly admits that the story is so effectively grim, that he wishes he had written it. It features the not inconsiderable acting talents of Stephanie Cole (Talking Heads, Waiting for God, Doc Martin) and Alfred Burke (Children of the Damned, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – his final film role)

`The police are dragging the marshes for a missing school-girl and a sinister man is approaching other young girls. Young Sylvia is on a bus on the way home from school when a friendly old man begins to talk to her. A woman steps in to help and brings her to her caravan home to call for the police…….’

“A lean, paranoid and gently merciless tale that will affect you and stick with you for a very, very long time.” – Chris Alexander

(It would be interesting to read your thoughts on this as a piece of `Folk Horror’ so please come back and leave comments in the thread below.)

8 – Our eighth Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is `The Coming’ (aka “Burned At The Stake”)

Released in 1981 the version online is an old VHS print…so picture quality may be a bit dark in many night scenes…..but it all adds to the atmosphere and harks back to the days of bootleg videos of hard to get hold of horror films.

In 1692 a young girl in Salem, Massachusetts, accuses several residents of being witches, and they are burned at the stake. In 1980 a young woman who is a descendant of the accuser believes she is being terrorized by the ghost of the father of the women who were burned as witches.

The cast for this film is made up of various character actors who had extensive careers on American TV but are not noted for any particularly well-known movies except for Susan Swift who appeared in Audrey Rose and Halloween: The cures of Micheal Myers. It was directed by Bert Ira Gordon (Mr B.I.G) who was a major name in the giant monster B-movies of the 50’s and 60’s responsible for such classics as The Amazing Colossal Man, Village of the Giants and Earth Vs The Spider

Its theatrical release was both scattered and limited and it was through a slot as a CBS Late Night Movie in 1988 that The Coming attained its biggest audience and its reputation started to grow.

9 – Our ninth Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is `The Exorcism’

First broadcast on 7th November 1972 `The Exorcism’ was the first episode of BBC2 series `Dead of Night’

Dead of Night ran for a single series in the autumn of 1972. Of its seven 50-minute episodes, only three—”The Exorcism”, “Return Flight”, and “A Woman Sobbing”—are known to exist today in the BBC’s archives.These were released together on DVD by the British Film Institute in 2015, with the scripts for the missing episodes of the series included as PDF files on the disc. The Stone Tape (1972) was conceived and made as an episode of this anthology series, but was removed from it before being transmitted and shown as a standalone television play instead.

It features a moving performance by Anna Crooper (1938 – 2007) who made a name for herself as a character actor in various TV crime dramas such as Poirot, Ruth Rendell Mysteries, Midsomer Murders and Miss Marple but is perhaps best known in this group for her role in 1970’s Play for Today `Robin Redbreast’. This episode also featured Edward Petherbridge who you may know from the 1961 TV version of the Ben Jonson play `The Alchemist’, 1975’s The Ash Tree or more recently `Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.

Perhaps the biggest name of this very limited cast was Clive Swift. A great British actor born in 1936 he has starred in The Stalls of Barchester, Death Line (1972 the movie), Nigel Kneale’s Beast, Twice in Doctor Who, Tales of the Unexpected, Excalibur and TV series Shadows that featured earlier in suggested viewing for the FHR Viewing Circle. He is however probably best known as long suffering Richard in `Keeping Up Appearances’

`Two couples are having a dinner party in their country cottage (this is of course the 1970s) when strange events begin to hamper their middle-class evening. The Exorcism has a number of wonderful moments as well as some entertaining period features. While the atmosphere becomes more and more suspenseful as the cottage seems to become possessed, it is still extremely difficult for one to ignore and not get distracted by Clive Swift and Sylvia Kay’s hyper-1970s clothing. Swift also brings to mind his role as Dr. Black in two of the BBC Ghost stories, making the series feel part of a natural family…’ Adam Scovell (2013)

Arcadia Review and Interview

Arcadia, Directed by Paul Wright – Review by John Pilgrim

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If you could understand. You would take my hand.
And I would spread so far, just like Arcadia.
{Psychic TV}

 

Arcadia, an idyllic image of life in the countryside, a pastoral paradise and the home of Pan, the half-goat, half-man god of Greek mythology who revels in rustic music and the company of wood nymphs.

 

The film Arcadia which, following its cinematic release, is now available in a splendid DVD package from the British Film Institute, is both consonant and dissonant with such associations as it transports the viewer into a strange world of forgotten customs, folk rituals and hidden practices from the last hundred years of British history.  For while many of the bucolic images are indeed delightful, a number of the scenes in this remarkable film surface darker currents and traditions in Albion’s recent past.

 

The publicity for Arcadia proudly promotes the film as offering ‘a visceral sensory journey through the seasons, exploring the beauty, magic and madness of our changing relationship with both the land and each other’.  This is an apt précis and Arcadia’s viscerality is indeed undeniable, with joyful scenes of dancing and naked pastoral celebration contrasting starkly with disturbing footage of fox hunting and other blood sports. Also central to the film’s sensory impact is a powerful score by Adrian Utley (Portishead) and Will Gregory (Goldfrapp) which provides dynamism and coherence to the myriad of images that are skillfully woven together by Paul Wright. Arcadia is by various turns naturalistic, dream-like and the stuff of nightmares.  Snippets of odd dialogue and disturbing images punctuate the film, disrupting the stream of cinematic consciousness, prompting the viewer to reflect on how our environment and peculiar traditions have come to shape our everyday reality in today’s Britain.

 

While focusing primarily on scenes of a pastoral nature – many of which are quite extraordinary – the film progresses on to depict British life in more contemporary urban settings. The contrast is marked and may jar for some, the viewer is implicitly challenged to reflect on whether the less desirable aspects of British rural life continue to the present day, simply manifesting themselves in new guises.

 

There is much in Arcadia that will intrigue those who are fascinated by the folk horror genre and open to exploring neighbouring cultural fields. Arcadia offers the opportunity to re-visit and reflect on Albion’s peculiar traditions. FHR was fortunate to have opportunity to pose a couple of questions to Paul Wright, Director, and to Adam Scovell, film-maker and author of Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange, who worked on the archive research.

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FHR: Arcadia unearths a myriad of forgotten customs, delights and horrors from the celluloid history of the British countryside. Which of these made the greatest impression on you? And what do you hope viewers might learn or reflect on, particularly in the social context in which we now find ourselves?

 

PW: Rather than merely showing the chocolate box version of the countryside that is often seen, I was a lot more interested in exploring the more unusual, hidden or forgotten versions of the land. The contrasts of darkness and light, beautiful and horrific, picturesque and the disturbing, along with feeling that different truths were emerging, like ghosts from the past, was integral to the film from the start. On a personal level it was this stranger footage I connected most with.

 

Watching some of the folk customs especially was something of a breakthrough as a lot of the material had this wild, complex energy of being both extremely appealing yet terrifying at the same time. Seeing parallels between some of these rituals and more modern day equivalents was also an exciting part of the process. It was always the idea to leave some space for the audience when viewing the film.

 

The main themes we were interested in exploring were how we connect with the land, how we connect with each other, and what changes there have been between these over the years. It was always the idea that the piece would work as an emotive, sensory experience rather than an intellectual one.

 

Something that became impossible to ignore, and was present one way or another in most of the films in the archive, was the huge inequality in Britain both then and now and how that too has taken on different guises over the years but has, ultimately, remained. It felt right that this became one of the main themes running through the film.

 

AS: The most interesting and exciting footage I watched for the film was definitely a little short M.R. James adaptation made by a local film society in the fifties. I’m not sure how much of it was used in the final film but it was very interesting in itself as it was Whistle And I’ll Come To You and it seemed to foreshadow some of the visual choices of Jonathan Miller’s 1968 version for the BBC.

 

The most horrifying thing taken from the footage was more of an accumulation of watching lots of various different blood sports. There’s so much archive material gleaned from aristocrats’ home movies and obviously one of the chief things they recorded in their day-to-day life was a variety of fox hunting, hare coursing, and various different animal management from the gentry’s farming enterprises. It was a slow, building violence, that started to seep into me every day and solidified for me the frustrating dynamic still virulent today in regards to the countryside being the playground for the rich and their violent habits, even when illegal or endangering species and other wildlife.

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FHR: How did you go about choosing the material?

 

PW: There was a lot of viewing of material, mainly of the BFI archive and later the regional archives. Pretty early on I sketched a rough structure based around the four seasons. Each season had some themes and buzzwords on what may be useful to look out for and hopefully would give the piece some sort of a narrative and progression throughout.

 

From there it was myself and Adam Scovell watching a lot of footage and marking down any moment, image or sound that was interesting or could be useful down the line. This was a pretty painstaking process, there must have been thousands of notes, but ultimately rewarding to be able to explore such rich material and of course having those moments where you knew you had found something that would be great in the film we were trying to make.

 

It was then about myself and Michael Aaglund, the editor, assembling these various highlights and starting to play around with them on the timeline, still using the rough structure of seasons as a starting place but also being open enough to let the footage itself inspire new ideas. It became a pretty organic process at this stage.

 

AS: I simply worked from Paul’s detailed list of words and themes. Sometimes there would be something that just stuck out simply because it was so odd (a small documentary on a pub that started serving garden snails, for example, which certainly wouldn’t have ticked anything specific on Paul’s list of themes), but mostly it was following Paul’s lead and figuring what would work best for his vision of Arcadia.

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www.bfi.org.uk/whats-on/bfi-film-releases/arcadia

Phantasms of the Floating World: Tales of Ghostly Japan

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‘Frolic in Brine: Goblins Be Thine.’

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The 1964 movie Kwaidan (Ghost Stories), directed by Masaki Kobayashi, as well as being a beautiful and atmospheric piece of cinema, is curious in the sense that it is a Japanese movie based on an English book of short stories translating Japanese folk tales. The translator of these tales was Lafcadio Hearn, a man of travel and words.

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Born of Irish and Greek parentage in the Ionian Islands in 1850, Hearn grew up in Ireland under the care of his great-aunt following the tumultuous breakup of his parent’s marriage. The re-stationing of his surgeon-major father to Suez (where he died of malaria) and the internment of his mother in an insane asylum in Corfu meant that young Lafcadio never really knew his parents. His great-aunt, however, was intent that the child should have good schooling and also learning from an interesting life. So time was spent between her Irish home and another residence in Wales. His great-aunt was a devout Catholic and keen that Lafcadio’s education led him on a theological path, yet tales of mythology inspired the boy more than the Bible. He was enrolled at a Catholic state school in France and then at the Catholic College at Ushaw in County Durham, England. It was there that Hearn suffered an eye injury in a sporting accident. Partially blinded and mildly disfigured, Hearn became very self-conscious of his eye and preferred to be photographed in profile so that it could not be seen.

Via London, Hearn moved to the USA and became a journalist in Cincinatti, concentrating mainly on murder reports but also whenever possible outlining the plight of the poor. In 1874 Hearn married Alethea Foley, a young woman of African-American descent. This was not only contrary to much of the racial attitudes commonly held at the time but also shamefully illegal at the time. So the marriage was cited as the reason for his dismissal from the newspaper, but it has been suggested that they were irked by Hearn’s tone on matters regarding social and religious issues (he had grown estranged from his Catholic education). He did find work with another press, but his marriage lasted only three years.

Hearn then moved to New Orleans, where he lived and worked as a journalist for several years. It is at this time that his mind turned again to nuances of culture and folklore and as such created several books on Creole culture and cuisine. Following that, he lived in the West Indies, writing a book there about the life of a slave.

In 1890 he moved to Japan, a place that more than any other sealed his place in literary history. Working there as a teacher, Japan carved a place deep in his heart. He converted to Buddhism, became known locally as Koizumi Yakumo and married Koizumi Setsu, the daughter of a Samurai family, who in turn bore him four children. Furthermore, he wrote numerous books on Japanese culture and folklore, including Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894), Japanese Fairy Tales (1898), In Ghostly Japan (1899), Shadowings (1900) and, most famously, Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1903). Lafcadio Hearn died aged 54 of heart failure and was buried in Tokyo in 1904; his legacy lives on, however, with his writings, because through his work old tales of ghostly Japan were brought to the West. Through the media of film, Japanese Horror would continue to weave a strange web.

Notably, the 1964 movie Kwaidan bears the strongest association to Hearn. The movie is divided into four parts: ‘The Woman of the Snow’ and ‘Hoichi the Earless’ are both featured in the book Kwaidan: Stories and Strange Things (a beautiful and peculiar collection that diverts from folklore into studies of insects for its final part), but the other cinematic episodes of Kwaidan, ‘The Black Hair’ and ‘In a Cup of Tea’ are taken from Hearn’s Shadowings and Kottō: Being Japanese Curios, With Sundry Cobwebs (1902), respectively.

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‘The Woman of the Snow’ tells the folk tale of a father and son who take refuge from a wild winter storm only to be visited in the night by Yuki-onna, a beautiful but deadly female personification of winter. In ‘Hoichi the Earless’, a blind musician is called before a strange court to play ballads of ancient sea battles. It is feared, however, that his audience may be more than they seem, and in order to protect himself from any maleficence they may cast towards him, he is tattooed head to foot with a protective Buddhist sutra. ‘The Black Hair’ relates the tale of a swordsman who abandons his wife in favour of another but returns home years later to find his first wife forgiving and welcoming of him, or so he thinks. The final tale in the film, ‘In a Cup of Tea’, is the strange story of a writer who keeps seeing faces in, as the title reveals, a cup of tea.

Kwaidan was not the only movie to share the ghost tales (kaidan) of the Heian, Edo and Meiji periods of Japanese history. Historical horrors of Japan have a visual heritage in the Hell Scrolls of the Heian period (8th to 12th century) and in the more phantasmagorical examples of Ukiyo-e (‘pictures of the floating world’), the vibrant woodblock prints and paintings of the 17th to 19th centuries. Ghost stories would feature in illustrated books called kusazoshi (‘grass tales’). Masters such as Utagawa Hiroshige, Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Kunisada and Tsukioka Yoshitoshi all created works of a spectral narrative, but perhaps the grand master of floating world horror was the visionary artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi, whose oeuvre was as prolific as it was fantastic.

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In film, such horrors of the Japanese landscape and imagination were also presented in movies such as Kenzi Mizoguchi’s 1954 classic Ugetsu Monogatari (Tales of Moonlight and Rain), based on Ueda Akinari’s 1776 book collection of folk tales of the same name, and Kaneto Shindo’s Onibaba (1964) and Kuroneko (1968). Onibaba (Demon Hag) is a strange and sinister folk horror tale of two women (one old and the other young) who live in a remote hut during the 14th century civil war and eke out an existence by stealing the possessions of dead and dying soldiers. If it is their own actions that cause the soldier to be in such a state, then so be it. However, the lives of the women are thrown into turmoil when a samurai wearing a hannya (demon mask) appears in a local swamp.

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Shindo’s later film Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko (A Black Cat in a Bamboo Grove)—often shortened to Kuroneko—is a tale of revenge as two women who are raped and killed by samurai return to claim vengeance. Mizoguchi’s and Shindo’s movies are beautifully shot as well as being creepily atmospheric historical dramas.

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Perhaps lesser known but certainly worthy of a wider audience is Masahiro Sinoda’s 1975 Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita (Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees). This bizarre movie is based on a short story by Ango Sakaguchi. It is not an ancient folk tale but certainly has the feeling of such, as it is a rural murder ballad of a mountain man who rids himself of numerous wives but becomes besotted and slave to the demands of his eighth wife, who may be even more bloodthirsty than he.

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Also popular in this Japanese subgenre of historical folk horror are various cinematic adaptations of Yotsuya Kaidan, a kabuki play written in 1825 by Tsuruya Nanboku IV. Although there are variations on the tale as seen through the eyes of different directors, the basic storyline relates to a young woman, Oiwa, whose husband, Iemon, is coveted by another woman, Oume. Oume sends Oiwa a face cream that is actually a poison, causing her to become disfigured. Horrified by his wife’s appearance, the shallow Iemon arranges for his wife to be raped, so that he can claim a divorce on the grounds of her ‘unfaithfulness’. The would-be rapist, however, takes pity on her and does not rape her. However, he alerts Oiwa to her facial deformity, of which she has been unaware. In her hysteria Oiwa accidentally kills herself with a sword. The death, therefore, gives Iemon opportunity to marry Oume. But just because Oiwa is dead is no reason to assume that she will let the marriage continue peacefully. Movies based on this tale include Nobuo Nakagawa’s 1959 Tôkaidô Yotsuya Kaidan (The Ghost of Yotsuya) and Tai Kato’s 1961 Kaidan Oiwa no Borei (Ghost Story of Oiwa’s Spirit).

Although eclipsed often by Japan’s kaiju eiga (‘monster films’, a popular science fiction / horror sub-genre that has continued from the 1930s to recent years, many of which feature daikaiju—giant abominations such as Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidora), demons and ghosts have never wandered too far from Japanese expressions of the imagination. In Japanese mythology and folklore yōkai are entities whose general name comes from the words for ‘weird’ and ‘otherworldly’. There are, however, many strange and wonderful forms of yōkai that range from ghosts of the dead to devils and include such peculiar abominations as the flesh-eating kappas who are turtle-like humanoids that live in lakes and have a hollow basin on the crowns of their heads; tanuki, which are racoon-dogs with colossal testicles; karakasa, which are sentient old parasols; and tengu, which are bird-headed goblin men. Oni are demons that often try to seize the souls of dying people or corrupt them during their lives. They can vary quite considerably in appearance and have been depicted in various forms in manga and anime, the popular Japanese comic books and animations, as well as in Saiyūki, a great television series of the late 1970s based on the 16th-century Chinese novel, A Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. Saiyūki is much better known in the West by the name of its main character, Monkey.

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Of all the yōkai, perhaps it is the yurei who have had the longest-lasting influence on Japanese horror both at home and abroad. yurei are the ghosts of people who have died a sudden violent death or in a state of considerable negative emotion such as hatred, sorrow or a lust for revenge or who have been denied proper funerary rites, thus binding them to this world, or at least until the cause of their haunting is properly negated. There are numerous types of yurei, such as zakishi-warashi, which are the mischievous ghosts of children; funayurei, which are the souls of those who died out at sea; and jikininki, which are ghosts that feed on the corpses of the recently deceased. Of all the yurei, it is the onryō, the vengeful ghosts, which are most familiar to fans of horror films—and not only Japanese horror films, as some of the films have been remade by Hollywood.

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Onryō walk the Earth to seek retribution for wrongs that were committed to them in life, and in cinema at least their hunger for revenge may be so strong that it is inflicted upon anyone unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, rather than just the person or persons directly responsible for causing them suffering. However, the dynamic of the storytelling is changed from the spirit being a sorrowful victim lashing out in emotional pain from beyond the grave to an indiscriminate monster if being revived for the sake of sequels. There is a tradition of describing onryō as predominantly female, dressed in a white kimono or robe (the colour of the dead), long black hanging hair (in old Japanese tradition, women would wear their pinned up, but it would be loosened following death) and generally floating above the ground or at least having their feet unseen.

Oiwa was an onryō, a particularly recognisable one due to her disfigured eye, as was the wife of the swordsman in ‘The Black Hair’ and the two women of Kuroneko. Though Yukki-onna fits the physical description of an onryō, the story of her earthly demise is not known though some consider that she is the spirit of one who died in the snow. Other theories place her more as an embodiment of wild winter or possibly a snow goddess.

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The cinematic representation of Yuki-onna certainly draws some comparison to the onryō that were to follow. Of these in recent times none have had a greater impact than Sadako Yamamura. Sadako first appeared in Ringu, the first book of Koji Suzuki’s Ringu trilogy and in the subsequent 1995 television adaptation and the more famous 1998 cinematic film directed by Hideo Nakata.

Unlike the onryō films of previous generations, Ringu is set in contemporary times and has the subplot of a curse that is spread like a virus with the watching of a mysterious videotape. Following viewing the tape, the victim has seven days to live unless they copy the tape and show it to someone else, thus transferring the curse. It is discovered that the curse originated with the death of a well-known psychic, Shizuko, who committed suicide after a claim that she had faked her powers. It becomes evident that her daughter Sadako has no need for fraudulence and is feared and loathed by her father. However, in seeking a cure for the curse, it is discovered that Sadako vanished whilst still little more than a child.

An excellent creepy character of horror fiction, Sadako (like Count Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster before her) has alas been watered down by numerous sequels, American remakes (Sadako now renamed Samara Morgan—Samara actually being a nice name for its similarity to samsara, a word used in Buddhism and other Eastern religions in reference to the cycles of death and rebirth and sometimes used to indicate earthly suffering, although I don’t know whether the similarity is intentional or not) and a large host of other onryō movies to follow in its wake such as Ju-on: the Grudge and Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait. Some of these other onryō films are not bad, but few come close to the cold eeriness of Ringu, which resurrected the Japanese horror film industry for a new generation.

Other films utilising the vengeful ghost theme created not only in Japan but also in other Asian countries such as South Korea and Thailand as well as American remakes of Asian horrors vary in quality. That is not to say onryō films are the only recent examples of a Japanese resurgence in horror, for there are diverse examples of tales of terror that shine brightly from the Land of the Rising Sun. These include the cyberpunk body-horror Tetsuo (Tetsuo: The Iron Man, 1989); Odishon (Audition, 1999), a powerful, unsettling tale of a man seeking a new wife; the pre-Hunger Games story of schoolchildren pitched against each other and forced to become merciless killers, Batoru Rowaiaru (Battle Royale, 2000); the surreal horror Uzamaki (Spiral, 2000); and Imprint (2006), an episode of the television anthology series Masters of Horror in whch a search for a missing young woman turns into a grotesque nightmare. However, it is probably through the modern revisiting of the past folk tale theme of vengeful ghosts explored in Ringu, that horror again was given was given a new lease of life in ghostly Japan.

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Essay by Andy Paciorek.
From the book
Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies (second edition)
Available now from – http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/andypaciorek

Sources.
Specters, Ghosts and Sorcerors in Ukiyo-e

Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art 

The Toho Studios Story: A History and Complete Filmography

By Stuart Galbraith IV. Scarecrow Press, 2008

Ghosts and the Japanese: Cultural Experiences in Japanese Death Legends

By Michiko Iwasaka & Barre Toelken. Utah State University Press, 1994

Wandering Ghost: The Odyssey of Lafcadio Hearn

By Jonathan Cott. Kodansha International, 1992

Lafcadio Hearn and the Vision of Japan

by Carl Dawson. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992

Horror!: 301 Films to See Before a Zombie Sucks Out Your Eyeballs!

By Marriott James & Kim Newman. Carlton Books, 2010

☕ ☀ Folk Horror Revival Mugs ☀ ☕

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Folk Horror Revival and Midnight Mugs are happy to present a range of rather remarkable beverage utensils

To purchase these fine cups ~
Contact Steve via the Midnight Mugs Facebook Group

or email at stevie7771@hotmail.co.uk

or buy direct from E-bay on the links next to image

£8 each + postage & packaging per item for White mugs.

£9 each + postage & packaging per item for Black mugs.

Postage and Packaging –  £4.00 for up to 4 mugs in UK.

Check with Steve for overseas and quantity shipping costs.

 

classic white

Classic Folk Horror Revival : White Mug – https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/362481284075

classic black

Classic Folk Horror Revival : Black Mug – https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/362481285009

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Folk Horror Revival: Olde Style White Mug – https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/362351620172

FHR AF

Folk Horror Revival: Against Fascism Black Mug –  https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/362481289073

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With regard to the Folk Horror Revival Against Fascism design.
Folk Horror Revival ideally wanted to remain as apolitical as possible, but following threats and abuse received by a friend and associate  from individuals who were trying to appropriate her work and project name for xenophobic nationalistic purposes, in support to her we have decided to nail our flag to the mast and state our clear and solid opposition to ideologies, actions and individuals who express bigotry and hate towards others because of their race, religion, culture, gender, sexuality, physical health and identity.  Folk Horror Revival is Against Fascism!!
Folk Horror Revival is in support of celebrating the folklore, folk custom and costumes of all cultures – not  labeling such as  ‘horror’ or for exploitative cause but to display our appreciation of  and interest in different  cultural aesthetic expression and for educational and inspirational purposes.
Some of those who supported our stance have also expressed an interest in us producing merchandise sporting the Folk Horror Revival Against Fascism , so we have made mugs available – the sales proceeds of which will be put back into producing further Folk Horror Revival events and projects.

Note:

Sales profits from our books are charitably donated to the Wildlife Trusts.

Sales profits from other FHR merchandise go towards funding further live events and projects, not into our pockets.

 

#Folklore Thursday: Folk Magic – Horse Whisperers

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Horse-Whisperers were far more common in the times when horses were more widely utilised for transportation, agriculture and industry. Some horses more than others are loath to be ridden and strongly resist being tamed. It is in these circumstances that Horse-Whisperers would come into their own. They were so named because they were believed able to calm and train wild horses by whispering into their ears (the Horseman’s Word). There have been suggestions that concoctions of certain aromatic herbs may have also been utilised in the soothing of equine temper and nervousness. Whatever their true methods, it could not be disputed that the Horse-Whisperers generally had an excellent and impressive record of breaking beasts. Onlookers and clients would often conclude that supernatural powers were afoot, a supposition that Horse Whisperers did little to dispel and may even have encouraged. Not just anyone could become a Horse-Whisperer however, for they guarded their prowess with the utmost secrecy. Elaborate Masonic-style initiation was the only way into the ranks in Scotland, and women were never made privy to the Horseman’s Word. Rumours spread that the introductory rites and the deliverance of knowledge involved the presence of the Devil himself. The form of Horse-Whisperers known as Toad-Men heightened this sinister notion further. Their name was derived from their habit of carrying the skeleton of a Toad around in a pouch, apparently as a magical device.

Image and text. © Andy Paciorek. Adapted from the book Strange Lands: A Field Guide to the Celtic Otherworld

View Strange Lands by Andrew L. Paciorek

Let’s Summon Demons

Let’s Summon Demons – folk horror theatre in old London Town – by Jim Peters

“Is it wise to ask the questions you always wanted to ask?
Let’s Summon Demons is a semi-immersive folk horror play in the round. It examines our attitudes to ritual, to revenge and to the uprising of female power. Can community lead to mob mentality? What are ghosts and demons and do they come from below or from within? If you stare into the abyss, can you come back?
Join our coven for one night to encounter comedy, folk horror and – perhaps – some demons.”

I am not big on immersive theatre and felt quite nervous walking up the narrow stair of the Old Red Lion Theatre however the minute I walked into the venue I felt very much at home. The air was thick with the heady scent of incense resin; the lighting was low and the haunting strains of `The Fiend Discovered’ from `The Blood on Satan’s Claw’ soundtrack greeted my ears – I felt that I was among my people.

The intimate setting was perfect for this production with the semi-circle tiers of wooden benches carrying echoes of Victorian Operating Theatres. Before the performance begun we were initiated as a part of the evening’s entertainment with learning lines from an ancient sounding song, generating a communal drone, having our measures taken and some of us (it felt like we were definitely an `us’) being selected to be guardians of summoning spells. I say `before the performance’ but this was all really very much a part of the show.

The scene was set – we had been invited to stay at an isolated guest house in the wilds of Wales that had once belonged to our host Rowan’s grandmother – Maggie. Through a series of light hearted conversations with the audience Rowan (a reference to Rowan Morrison from The Wicker Man possibly?) fills in the back story nicely and we find out that Maggie always thought the house haunted and in fact had a creepy experience one night alone in the house. We are gathered here to help mark the first year anniversary of the death of Rowan’s husband Allister’s (that other famous Allister – Mr Crowley – will give you a clue as to how this is likely to end up) and it also transpires that all the assembled (the audience) are witches, seers, cunning folk or occultists of some description…oh and we are all women!

This first act is charmingly presented by Katy Schutte with a thoroughly engaging and quirky style that puts the audience at ease whilst drawing them in and making them laugh – there is quite a lot of laughter in the early part of the performance as fortunes are told usingTasseography (the forgotten art of fortune telling using biscuits) and well informed comments on the nature of the dark arts are perfectly pitched and delivered. Then comes the second act…….

I won’t ruin your future enjoyment of `Let’s Summon Demons’ (although as with` The Wicker Man’ the title does give away a fair part of the plot) but I will say that it gets very dark very quickly in more ways than one. Suddenly the lights drop and we find ourselves part of a ritual that takes several unexpected turns and all joking is well and truly forgotten. It almost felt like we had gone from relaxed jovial participation into a descent that was so steep that we became unwilling observers gripping onto our seats as the sinister side of Rowan’s sisterhood was played out before us. With some neat call-backs (you really need to pay attention as even when being seemingly offhand and informal Katy is drip feeding us clues) and some very clever lighting tricks a violent and twisted tale unfolds – with the arrival of an unexpected guest who acts as a catalyst for the downward spiral. (Christian Walker played by Edmund Fargher)

As previously mentioned the venue was a perfect match for the feel of the piece with its intimate, communal atmosphere and wooden floor which became an otherworldy canvas with the use of some very smart projections. Katy controlled the room expertly flipping from chummy to obsession bordering on possession and with good use made of some fantastic music that feeling of isolation, ritual and the paranoia of a skewed moral belief was always in the air….waiting for the Fiend to be discovered.
A dark descent into the moral maze of mob mentality and its justification for extreme polemic and behaviour……a witch hunt carried out by witches.

Folk Horror Revival was fortunate enough to be able to question Katy about her production (and herself) and find out a bit about the inspiration for `Let’s Summon Demons’

Folk Horror Revival – Firstly can you tell us a little about yourself – your background, how you ended up acting and writing and who has influenced you?

Katy Schutte – I studied Drama then fell hard into the cult of long form improvisation. So hard that I studied in Chicago, wrote a book about improv and that’s mostly what I do. I spent a few years on the stand-up circuit too but prefer to do full shows and I love to collaborate.

In comedy, I’ve always loved Bill Bailey, but I also adore writer/performers Tina Fey, Phoebe Waller Bridge and Rachel Bloom among others. For this show I was very inspired/influenced by Liam Gavin’s movie A Dark Song. It’s amazing.

FHR – Do you consider your work to fit into the Folk Horror genre and if so what is it about it that you feel fits that label?

KS – I was in a training coven in my early 20s, so it definitely influenced my real life! I’m quite Jungian in my beliefs though.

My current show is folk horror as there’s a strong Wiccan vein running through it, we actually enact a ritual and there’s also a social and religious commentary which is strong in my favourite folk horror movies.

I was researching witchcraft when I first came across the Wicker Man and it is so well pitched, accurate in terms of pagan ritual and belief and also scary and beautiful. There are a lot of elements that are not overtly called out or explained and I love that too.

FHR – Can you give an outline of the content and of what your show is about?

KS – The crux of my show is to address the a post-#metoo climate. Are we witch-hunting men? Should we? What does that mean? It’s set in a haunted Bed and Breakfast where Rowan – a practicing wiccan – has invited her female friends to join in a ritual marking her husband’s death one year after the fact.

FHR – Do you have a particular process (ritualistic or preparatory) when you are writing a show? Any way in which you get yourself in `the zone’ or work up ideas?

KS – Every show is different and there’s no one clear process. I certainly made sure I magickally protected the people collaborating on this one! Improv and just plain writing a first draft are useful ways to get started. A visit to Salem was inspiring too and my director John Henry Falle was amazing; especially getting me clear on the Lore of my show.

FHR – So what is next?

KS – I’m going on a three month walk through New Zealand, so although I have a lot of ideas, I’ll be letting them stew while I put one foot in front of the other…

FHR – And finally do you have any particular shows that have left an impression on you (not necessarily Folk Horror) – and can you say a few brief words about it/them?

KS – There is a company called Curious Directive that combine science fiction with science. Their show Pioneer was stunning and I’ve loved other works I’ve seen by them since. It’s powerful, makes you ask questions and beautifully conceived.

I think it is fair to say that there will be many folk who have been lucky enough to have seen Katy in `Let’s Summon Demons’ who would include it in their list of shows that have left an impression on them. Witty, twisted, sharply written and well informed if `Let’s Summon Demons’ comes around again we will be sure to let you know and I highly recommend you make sure you get a ticket.

( http://www.katyschutte.co.uk/ )

The Dark Masters Trilogy, A Review

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The Dark Masters Trilogy comprise of a trio of novellas from acclaimed horror writer Stephen Volk, a member of the select group of Welsh writers alongside Arthur Machen, whose work is held in the highest esteem within horror circles. Volk is most famous for his scriptwriting work on Ken Russell’s Gothic, and above all else the BBC drama Ghostwatch.

The Dark Masters Trilogy brings together three novellas, Whitstable, Leytonstone and Netherwood as a trio of dark tales of fiction constructed around a quartet of celebrated horror and occult figures from the 20th Century’s cultural past. Hammer legend Peter Cushing takes the lead role in Whitstable, a juvenile Alfred Hitchcock in Leytonstone and we get a twofer in Netherwood with both horror novelist Dennis Wheatley and Occultist Aleister Crowley squaring up to one another.

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Whitstable is up first. This is a story about the darker side of the 1970s that takes place in Peter Cushing’s beloved Whitstable in the period directly after the death of his much cherished wife, Helen. The story itself features some wonderfully written characters, and an interesting and well developed plot, however the real genius here is Volk’s touching portrayal of Cushing at this most difficult time in his life. The whole novella revolves around his incredible portrait of the horror legend as a broken man, the loss of his soul mate had rendered him a physical and mental wreck until a chance encounter with a young boy who mistakes him for the character he portrays on screen, the vampire hunter Dr Van Helsing. This leads to Cushing undertaking the role of investigator, delving into a crime that has been committed against the young boy, and saving himself at the same time.

Leytonstone is a story based on the childhood of Alfred Hitchcock that examines the roots of his fascination with crime and punishment, the two factors that form the basis for much of his cinematic output. The story begins with the young Hitchcock incarcerated in a police cell for a crime he did not commit. His Father had him locked up for a night to teach him a lesson. This inspires the young Fred as he was known to further investigate these ideas of crime and punishment with severe repercussions for those involved.  Once again this is beautifully written, Volk once again highlighting his incredible turn of phrase and attention to detail, as well as his incredible knack for writing wholly believable characters. Despite much of this story being fictional you feel as though you are delving into the mind of the real Hitchcock, such is Stephen Volk’s incredible talent for writing character.

Netherwood is the final entry in the trilogy. Volk imagines a meeting between two of the most important figures in the Twentieth Century occult world, Dennis Wheatley and Aleister Crowley. Once again Stephen Volk has created a truly believable work of fiction by rooting it in facts. An aging Crowley requests the presence of Wheatley at Netherwood, the guest house in Hastings that was to be Crowley’s last resort. A visibly sick and dying Crowley requests Wheatleys assistance to complete one one final magickal working before his death. The interplay between the two men who never actually met in real life is excellent and you really do get the sense that this is exactly how these events would have  played out had they actually happened. This is of course Stephen Volk’s greatest achievement, his characters are so well researched and developed that he almost instinctively knows how they would behave in almost any scenario. A rare commodity indeed and one that should be cherished.

The Dark Masters Trilogy is a triumph, a beautifully written volume that takes the Twentieth Century’s most infamous practitioners of horror and the dark arts and places them into new scenarios. Stephen Volk has written three fictional tales, that are so believable as to be future urban legends, such is the power of his writing, the great attention to detail, and his knowledge of the history of horror and the occult. You simply can’t imagine these stories having the same impact in anyone else’s hands. Each tale having its roots in fact provides a strong base for Volk’s writing, whether this is Cushing’s sad loss, Hitchcock’s incarceration, or Crowley’s final days at Netherwood.

As many of you will already be aware, Stephen Volk is a visionary writer in the field of horror and these novellas are a very strong addition to an already richly acclaimed career. I simply cannot recommend these tales highly enough.

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The Dark Masters Trilogy is published by PS Publishing and is available to order from their website now at the link below.

https://www.pspublishing.co.uk/the-dark-masters-trilogy–hardcover-by-stephen-volk-4696-p.asp