Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror

Having proved a big hit on the film festival circuit Kier~La Janisse’s magnus opus is now available to buy. At over 3 hours long, Folk Horror Revival creator Andy Paciorek and Co-founder & project manager Darren Charles were honoured to be part of this fantastic, bewitching award- winning documentary which also features music by our esteemed colleagues Grey Malkin and film footage by John Chadwick. Nestled among a wealth of talent such as the directors Piers Haggard, Robert Eggers & Lawrence Gordon Clark, actors Alice Lowe and Ian Ogilvy, screenwriter Jeremy Dyson and a whole host of horror historians and revivalists including Gail-Nina Anderson, Mark Pilkington, Kat Ellinger, Lindsay Hallam, Ian Cooper and many, many more.

Covering folk horror from numerous different angles and locations across decades, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched is not only one of the most thorough horror media documentaries across the board but specifically is a must-watch for all disciples of the old ways. Kier~La Janisse has poured heart and soul into this epic venture and has created a classic out of a cult. Highly recommended.


It is available to purchase as a stand alone Blu Ray or as part of the impressive Severin Films folk horror box set All the Haunts Be Ours which boasts 20 feature films – including a new 4K scan from the original negative of the long-unavailable EYES OF FIRE – over 70 bonus features, a soundtrack CD, a spoken word album of Arthur Machen’s THE WHITE PEOPLE read by Linda Hayden of Blood on Satan’s Claw with an original score by Timothy Fife, and a book introduced by Folk Horror Revival’s Andy Paciorek, and featuring new writing by Dawn Keetley, Sarah Chavez, Stephen Volk, Dejan Ognjanovic, Stephen Bissette, Mitch Horowitz, alongside archival pieces, all beautifully designed by Luke Insect.



Hurry though as the even more special special edition set The Witches Bundle which also featured a poster, Owl Service plate, Key-rings, an Oracle deck and other goodies has already sold out.

Gather in the harvest at https://severin-films.com/

Delia Derbyshire ~ The Myths and The Legendary Tapes: Film Review

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Back in the infancy of Folk Horror Revival, myself and fellow founding member Darren Charles cut our teeth on the live talk scene on behalf of FHR, delivering a lecture to the Alchemical Landscapes symposium at Girton College, Cambridge Univerity. In those hallowed halls we dedicated our talk to two luminaries of sound – Cambridge town’s own madcap Syd Barrett (as it was on the anniversary of his death that we spoke) and also to Delia Derbyshire, as Girton was the college she attended whilst studying her twin passions of mathematics and music.

But why would a pair of northern folk horror revivalists pay homage to an electronic music pioneer? The answer lies in that peculiar relationship (symbiosis?) between folk horror and hauntology. That and the fact we were both honoured and awed to be invited to speak at the seat of learning that the sculptress of sound once haunted with her presence.

Caroline Catz’s impressive documentary / docu-drama Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes (broadcast as part of the BBC’s Arena arts programming) further illustrates the bond between Derbyshire and her contemporaries and the worlds of folk horror & urban wyrd aesthetics.

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Born in Coventry in 1937, Delia Derbyshire stated that hearing the sound of air raid sirens as a child during the war had a profound effect on her and cemented a lifelong obsession with sound. Hailing from a working class background (which the plum intonations of her speaking voice would hardly suggest), Delia was offered places to study at both Oxford and Cambridge but followed a scholarship at the latter to study mathematics. She combined this course with her love of phonaesthetics and graduated in 1959 with a BA in Maths and Music.

Having taken up a position at the BBC in 1960; in 1962 she was reassigned to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop – a department that some may have considered as punishment but a place where Delia felt a yearning to be. It is her work and time here that provides the main focus of Catz’s documentary.

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Set up in 1957 by Desmond Briscoe and the legendary Daphne Oram (an aural enchantress whose mastery of sonic weirdness was hidden behind features that would not have looked out of place at a Women’s Institute coffee morning) the task of the Radiophonic Workshop was to provide incidental sounds for radio and then television programming. Their task of creating new and different sounds led the workshop, which was based in Maida Vale, London and employed the sonic services of a number of sound wizards and visionaries to various fields of experimentation and the embracing of tape manipulation and Musique Concrete methodology. Oram departed the Workshop to found her own studio in 1959, but Delia would later fill those shoes with great competence and vision. A moment that would mark her place in music history came in 1963 when composer Ron Grainer asked whether she could do anything for a theme tune that was needed for a new BBC series. Providing Delia with a few musical notes and abstract suggestions for sounds including “wind bubbles” and “wind clouds”, she set to work. The TV show was called Doctor Who and for it Delia crafted one of the most infamous, innovative, timeless and enduring television theme tunes ever.

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Catz’s documentary of course captures that seminal moment, but she has a lot more to say about the life, loves, art and depression of Delia Derbyshire. The film is cut between interviews with those who knew and worked with Delia, recordings of her own voice in interviews and dramatised scenes in which Catz herself plays Delia. (I was racking my brain trying to remember where I recognised Caroline Catz from and it turns out that she plays the love interest of Doctor Martin in the eponymous tv show that has seemed to air on British telly since the dawn of time). In my mind now though she will be forever associated to this film which is clearly a work of love as well as of art.

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Caroline Catz as Delia Derbyshire

Catz guides us through the highs and lows of Delia’s life and soundscapes- through a haze of marijuana smoke and acid colours as psychedelia and Delia embraced each other and her depression and alcoholism (which was not considered much of a problem by Delia who seemed to see herself as a hopeful drunk rather than a hopeless one). We surrender to the white noise and are immersed in history and sound under the guiding light of Nick Gillespie’s cinematography. We voyeuristically listen on as seance-like, Delia engages in conversation with the disembodied voices of Mary Wollstonecraft and Ada Lovelace. Yet we are not merely enveloped in the broadcast of ghosts, for working with the 267 tapes belonging to Delia, that were found stored in cereal boxes in an attic after her death in 2001, the artist Cosey Fanni Tutti (possibly most well known for her work in the extreme art-music scene of COUM and Throbbing Gristle alongside Genesis P-Orridge) uses the magical archive to create more manipulation of sound.
It is not just Tutti however that has been inspired by Delia Derbyshire, as without her and the other Radiophonic visionaries the music output of the likes of Caro C, Burial, the Ghostbox oeuvre, Concretism, Broadcast, The Soulless Party and various other trip-hop, vapourwave, hauntological, electronic and film, TV & radio soundscape composers would likely be a different kettle of fish altogether.

Passing away from renal failure early after the turn of the century, Delia Derbyshire would likely be “tickled pink” to know that two decades into the 21st Century that the sound experiments she created as much as 60 years ago would be inspiring and innovating musicians and music now.

Delia Derbyshire: The Myths & The Legendary Tapes is available for free streaming to UK viewers now at ~

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000w6tr/arena-delia-derbyshire-the-myths-and-the-legendary-tapeshttps://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000w6tr/arena-delia-derbyshire-the-myths-and-the-legendary-tapes

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Delia Derbyshire: 1937 -2001

Reviewed by Andy Paciorek

In The Earth: Film Review

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In the 21st Century Folk Horror Revival, several names keep coming to the fore, among those are the partnership of British film director Ben Wheatley and screenwriter Amy Jump. Together they have previously brought us the new wave of folk horror gems Kill List (2011) and A Field in England (2013) as well as the tangentially associated Sightseers (2012) – a darkly humourous film that is akin to Mike Leigh’s classic 1976 BBC play Nuts in May but on PCP. In the years between then and now Wheatley and Jump have ventured into the world of the Urban Wyrd with their adaptation of JG Ballard’s High Rise (2015) as well as working separately on a variety of works.

When rumours began to be whispered around that Wheatley was returning to the old pastures of pastoral terror, the ears of folk horror folk began to prick up. Then the trailer dropped for In The Earth with its flashing psychedelic images, discordant noise, glimpses of folksy woodcut art and a monolith that hearkens back to the cult ‘children’s’ book and TV series of Alan Garner’s The Owl Service. The tag line of the trailer invitites us to go on a Trip with Ben Wheatley and why the Hell not? I’m up for that.
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And so it must be assumed that Mr Wheatley may have a fascination for hallucinogenic mushrooms as they play a part in his alchemical civil war drama A Field in England and play a greater role in In the Earth.
The premise of the film sees Dr Martin Lowery (Joel Fry) venture out from a state of quarantine imposed upon urban areas due to an unspecified viral pandemic to a research facility in a forest in the south west of England. The shadow of the pandemic is not only cast over the health and safety measures Martin must undertake and the scientific research prevalent in such times but it also manifests in the social awkwardness and behaviour of folks who live in conditions of isolation and distance. Martin as such is a non-typical protagonist, he is not some confident self-assured doctor-come-hero of numerous horror and sci-fi films but a quiet, anxious individual. In seeking out his ex-lover and scientific partner Dr Olivia Wendle (Hayley Squires), who is researching the mycorrhizal (symbiotic relationship between fungi and plants) network beneath the forest which has a higher than normal soil fertility, Martin is assigned the trekking assistance of a woodland ranger named Alma (Ellora Torchia). Before setting off into the woods, seeing a large woodcut artwork upon the wall of the cabin recommissioned as a research base, Alma informs Martin about the local lore and belief in a sylvan spirit named Parnag Fegg.

Whilst camping in the woods, the pair are subjected to a nocturnal attack by an unseen assailant. They are not badly hurt but the attacker has stolen their shoes, making an already precarious journey more troubled still. This is darkened further by Martin tearing the sole of his foot open upon sharp terrain. All is not lost however as a bedraggled man Zach who lives and works as an artist in the woods, approaches them and offers them food, drink, shelter and footwear.
he even stitches up Martin’s wound. This rudimentary arboreal operation is one of several scenes where gore and the ‘ouch-factor’ comes into play. As with Kill List, Wheatley and Jump’s ‘Arthurian’ gangster movie (it is much better than that description sounds) violence and injury are graphically depicted in In The Earth.
However as may not be totally unexpected there is more to Zach and his art than may first appear.

After a brutal hallucinogenic nightmare unfolds, Martin and Alma against all odds reach the research camp of Dr Olivia Wendle, whom it transpires her study has progressed beyond soil fertility and is also trying to reach the ‘consciousness’ of the mycorhizzal mat – the spirit of the earth. Though she is attempting to invoke an animistic presence through science (utilising sound and light – which significantly shapes the aesthetic of core sections of the movie) rather than art like Zach, her practices are ritualistic and it becomes apparent that her and Zach are perhaps estranged but are not strangers to each other.

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Sound and image are very important factors of the film as can be seen from the Art and Sound department’s roll call of talent which reads as a folk horror revivalist / hauntologist’s dream – Richard Well’s woodcuts, Julian House’s credits sequence, camera work & cinematography by Nick Gillespie and musical / soundscape composition by Clint Mansell.
One scene that will likely live on in future discussion of Wheatley’s work alongside the culminating ritual of Kill List and the magic mushroom sequence in A Field in England, is the passing of a hazmat suited Alma into a mist of fungal spores. The image of her affixed to a rope is reminiscent of the tent scene in a Field in England and both have a symbolic resonance of an emerging child still attached to the umbilical cord suggesting a birth or rebirth.
It must be noted however that any viewer who may experience seizures when exposed to flashing lights or certain sound wavelengths should proceed with great care if at all, for numerous segments of the film are something of a sonic and stroboscopic assault.

But is it all style over substance? Not quite, but I do feel that the film would have benefited from greater input into the writing from Amy Jump (whose role on this film is given as a Producer credit) and /or a longer period of time taken by Wheatley on the plot development (he only spent 15 days on the script-writing). This is particularly pertinent to the ending which could in my mind have been both stronger and stranger. Part of both Kill List and A Field in England’s strength (though it would annoy some viewers) is the ambiguity. Too much yet oddly maybe not enough is revealed with In the Earth. Much of the plot is quite predictable and follows a familiar enough path. It would have been better perhaps to follow wander lines and go further into the abstract and see where the film would end up.

However this is a film made in strange times under different conditions. It will be noted in future as a work that was seeded, grown and bloomed in the days of the Covid19 plague. It offers further reading potential in that area and it has to be said that it does deliver scenes of both weird (and wyrd) beauty as well as brutality. The characteristics and dynamics of the characters are a bit off the beaten track which is interesting however and Shearsmith is particularly sharp casting. The shows The League of Gentlemen and Inside No 9 display his versatility and his role of Zach is the most interesting in the film, though at times the visuals portraying him are suggestive of The Shining’s Jack Torrence escaping into the wild.

Sundance 2021 Review: IN THE EARTH, Mother Nature Gets Super Freaky

In conclusion, I liked In the Earth and with subsequent viewings I feel my appreciation for it could possibly grow more, but I would have liked more in terms of plot development which prevented me from experiencing love at first sight. But certainly it is an intriguing and welcome addition to both Wheatley’s oeuvre and the folk horror canon. I imagine though that it will be a film that divides audiences.

Reviewed by Andy Paciorek

Reece Dinsdale In Conversation

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Join acclaimed actor Reece Dinsdale for an intimate evening of nattering…

Sunday 3rd November, 8:00pm – 10:30pm

at The Waiting Room
9 Station Road, Eaglescliffe,
Stockton-on-Tees, TS16 0BU
01642 780465

2018 saw the reissue on DVD and Blu-ray of Threads… surely one of the most hard-hitting and frightening TV dramas ever made? Barry Hines’ BAFTA-winning depiction of a Britain struggling to exist in the wake of a cataclysmic nuclear war is shockingly and stunningly realised, with actor Reece Dinsdale gaining deserved plaudits in the role of terrified young father-to-be, Jimmy Kemp.

It was a breakthrough role for Reece, although he’d already enjoyed an acclaimed stage career, and had made an early film appearance alongside Michael Palin and Maggie Smith (and a wayward pig) in Alan Bennett’s A Private Function. Full-on TV fame followed, with 1985 seeing the debut of hugely popular ITV sitcom Home To Roost, in which Reece played the rebellious son of a divorced (and reluctant) father, forging a formidable sitcom double-act with the great John Thaw.

Deliciously eclectic film and TV success continued; he played Guildenstern opposite Timothy Spall’s Rosencrantz in Kenneth Branagh’s big-screen adaptation of Hamlet, and won Best Actor at the Geneva Film Festival for his lead role in ID, playing an undercover police officer dragged into the murky world of football hooliganism. Further TV credits include Spooks, Life on Mars and Silent Witness, and two years in Coronation Street as the ill-fated Joe McIntyre. In recent years, Reece has earned acclaim for his portrayal of Richard III at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, and has also moved behind the camera, directing episodes of BBC1’s drama anthology Moving On. He has also appeared in folk horror favourites Robin Hood and The Storyteller.

In the latest of our regular ‘live chat shows’, Reece will be interviewed onstage by writer, BBC broadcaster, Haunted Generation archivist and self-avowed film and telly geek Bob Fischer.

Tickets available from – https://www.seetickets.com/event/chinwag-reece-dinsdale-in-conversation/the-waiting-room/1413021

Article shared from here

FOLKLORE ON SCREEN: Conference reflection

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Friday 13th 2019 came with the Hunter’s Moon and Scooby Doo and the gang were celebrating 50 years of ghost-busting and so too began the 2 day Folklore On Screen Convention organised by David Clarke, Diane Rodgers and Andrew Robinson of the Centre For Contemporary Legend at Sheffield Hallam University.

Folk Horror Revival were honoured to have a presence there in form of myself founder Andy Paciorek talking about British Dystopia in relation to our side project the Urban Wyrd. Therefore it would be biased for me to pen a review as such but instead I present this as a reflection on what was a fantastic weekend.

The event kicked off with Mikel Koven’s talk Return of The Living Slave: Jordan Peele’s Get Out as a Zombie Film, which gave a very interesting consideration on the subject matter with relation to both traditional magical beliefs and also modern culture.
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Image: Get Out

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Image ; Mikel Koven by Centre for Contemporary Legend

From there we entered into the Monster Mash the first featured panel of the weekend with Matthew Cheeseman’s Dracula’s Fangs talk leading us from the vampire’s dentiture into Derby’s utterly bizarre House of Holes – an adult entertainment crazy golf club and bar. Housed in a haunted building that in a previous incarnation many moons earlier was one of the first theatres to present the stage play adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. From the images of the ‘murder hole’ the surreal, quirkily disturbing  featuring a host of punctured inflatable sex dolls, it would seem the spirit of the vampiric count maybe got a shock sinking his fangs into the necks of these ‘voluptuous’ maidens.
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Photo: Matthew Cheeseman by Diane A. Rodgers

Sneak peek inside adults-only crazy golf course opening in ...

House of Holes. Derby – photo via https://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/

Craig Ian Mann then followed this with Pack Mentality: A Cultural Approach to the Werewolf Film in the 1970s, which as well as reminding me of some films I haven’t seen since I was a child and introducing me to a few unfamiliar ones, brought a smile to my face in seeing the fantastic poster  Werewolves on Wheels (1971) displayed in the presentation. It is not a film that was really in the Oscars running of that year but I do think it deserves more than its 4.3 IMDB rating … well maybe… With its dark age of Aquarius subtext and the presence of a satanic cult, Werewolves on Wheels deserves to be more widely known among the folk horror community too, if only as a peculiar guilty pleasure.

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Image: Werewolves on Wheels

Rebecca Bannon then brought us Ghost of the Past Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Liminality which discussed the haunting of the titular character and director Tim Burton’s aesthetic approach in bringing what was a rather corporeal down and dirty tale of cannibalism to the screen as an opulently Gothic ghostly musical.

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Then followed the parallel panels of the day. As it was unfortunately not possible to see all talks and difficult to choose which to watch, I will give the running list here but can only pass comment on those I saw; but from the engaged and enthusiastic conversations which surrounded the breaks in the event, it would appear that all the talks went down well and touched aspects of different people’s psyches.

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From the birth of a modern mass panic that arose from a strange piece of  to the cursed tales of Crying Boy paintings (which although being rather kitsch in style and with a grisly reputation of misfortune surrounding them I’d rather quite like one) to finding out about a dark artist previously unfamiliar to me but one whose work has intrigued me since and is something I brought away from the conference in my mind and perhaps under my skin.

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Image by Bragolin

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Photo by Centre For Folklore, Myth & Magic

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Image by Peter Booth

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Photo: Momo from Stella Gaynor’s talk

Then the talks ended for the day but not the entertainment as the night treated us to excellent music sets by Hawthonn, Phil Tyler and Sharron Kraus

And also a specially brewed beer for the weekend!!

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Photo by Diane A. Rodgers

The next morning brought the Haunted Generation of which I was delighted to be a part. Talking about nuclear war and the end of the world should perhaps not be so enjoyable but sharing the panel with the founding father of Hookland David Southwell and Fortean Times The Haunted Generation’s Bob Fischer was an absolute pleasure and the talks they both gave were fantastic.
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Photo: Bob Fischer by Centre for Folklore, Myth & Magic

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Photo: David Southwell by Diane A. Rodgers

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Photo: Andy Paciorek by Centre for Folklore, Myth & Magic

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Photo: The Haunted (Re)Generations by Adam Spellicy
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Then followed the Parallel Panels, which again it would’ve been nice to bi-locate like Padre Pio to see all, but between the two lecture halls were discussions on topics ranging from Cat People to the Wickerman to Invisible Women to the Children of the Stones. Devils, Witches, Fairies, Foundlings, Holy Fools and UFOs all put in an appearance in some fantastic talks.

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Photo: Tom Clark – The Devil Made me do it by Centre for Folklore, Myth & Magic

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Photo: Evelyn Koch by Diane A Rodgers
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Photo: Andrew Robinson by Diane A. Rodgers

The convention was rounded off with Helen Wheatley’s Haunted Landscapes: Trauma and Grief in the Contemporary Television Ghost Story which featured some of the beautiful cinematography and aesthetics that accompany modern telly’s tales of haunted places and haunted minds.

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Photo: Helen Wheatley by Diane A. Rodgers

A great weekend filled with intriguing talks, evocative music and some very interesting and fun conversations.

A big Thank You and Congratulations to Centre for Contemporary Legend for hosting a great event and hopefully more to come.

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Photo: Diane A. Rodgers by Paul Dorrington

Urban Wyrd : Spirits of Time and Place

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Now available from Wyrd Harvest Press
Folk Horror Revival – Urban Wyrd: 1. Spirits of Time

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Discover Hauntology, Weird Technology & Transport, Hauntings and much much more in the realms of TV, Film, Literature, Art, Culture , Lore and Life. Travel in time and spaces with Adam Scovell, Stephen Volk, Scarfolk, Julianne Regan, Sebastian Backziewicz, Sara Hannant, The Black Meadow and many other contributors.

And
Folk Horror Revival – UrbanWyrd: 2. Spirits of Place

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Urban Wyrd – Spirits of Place. Discover within its winding streets Psychogeography, Genii Loci, Edgelands, Urban Exploration, Weird Places and many other strange matters within film, TV, music, literature, life and culture. Perambulate in the company of such contributors as Will Self, K.A. Laity, Bob Fischer, Iain Sinclair, Diane A. Rodgers, John Coulthart, Karl Bell and many many more.

Available now from –

https://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?keyWords=urban+wyrd&type=

100% of profits from FHR / Wyrd Harvest Press books sold in our Lulu store is charitably donated at intervals to different environmental, wildlife and community projects undertaken by the Wildlife Trusts.

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In Memoriam: Nicholas Roeg

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Folk Horror Revival would like to extend sincere condolences on the passing of master film maker Nicholas Roeg, who has died at the fruitful age of 90.

Although of all his films only perhaps Puffball (or The Devil’s Eyeball) based on a Fay Weldon novel is folk horror in a purer sense, some of his other work bears an aesthetic and atmosphere befitting of folk horror and touches on several related fields.

Here we will merely mention a handful of these.

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PERFORMANCE (1970)

This collaboration with Donald Cammell (Demon Seed. White of the Eye) follows a fugitive who hides up in the mansion of a reclusive rock star. Though not folk horror, the film touches on dark psychedelia, in the form of a hallucinogenic mushroom trip. A theme that was later expanded upon in movies by different directors such as Shrooms (Paddy Breathnach. 2007) and A Field in England (Ben Wheatley. 2013). As such it broached upon themes of Identity, which has been a concept of some horror movies such as Repulsion (Roman Polanski. 1975) and Symptoms (jose Hamon Larraz. 1974).

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WALKABOUT (1970)
Loosely based on the 1954 novel by James Vance Marshall, Walkabout clearly displays the Landscape and Isolation links of Scovell’s Folk Horror Chain. A haunting, beautiful yet at times brutal film, it follows a pair of schoolchildren as they are accompanied in the vast merciless wilderness of the Australian Outback following the bizarre suicide of their father.

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DON’T LOOK NOW (1973)

Perhaps Roeg’s masterpiece and also a masterpiece of British horror cinema, Don’t Look Now, based upon the short story by Daphne Du Maurier, is a difficult film to categorise. It may to some viewers appear rather slow, but it is not an action horror but a beguiling tale of grief, clairvoyance and murder. After the death of their child a couple visit Venice on a work trip, but their encounter with a pair of sisters, one of whom is psychic, occurring at a time when the city of canals is blighted by a serial killer.

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THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH (1976)

Based on the novel by Walter Tevis, The Man Who Fell to Earth tells the story of Thomas Jerome Newton, an extraterrestrial who comes to earth from a dying world. In a bid to save his drought -ridden world he patents numerous technologically advanced inventions to fund his rescue mission. This however, unsurprisingly, garners the attention of US governmental agencies whom begin to take a keen interest in Newton. Though ostensibly a science fiction or speculative fiction film, The Man Who Fell to Earth has certain features and elements that should be of interest to folk horror revivalists.

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PUFFBALL (2007)

Based on the Fay Weldon novel, Puffball was Roeg’s last feature film and the most purely folk horror of his output. Though not the most atmospheric or beautifully shot of his films, it is worth a watch for its tale of fertility magic and curses, and for its great cast. And again fungus  🍄
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Nicholas Roeg (1928 – 2018)

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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The Sermon – available to view online now.

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The rather wonderful Folk Horror short, The Sermon from director Dean Puckett is now available to view online. This fabulous short film deals with issues that arise from the question of a young woman’s sexuality in a small rural English village. The film is both thought provoking and beautifully shot on 35mm film in deepest darkest Dartmoor. Puckett uses the British landscape to great effect in this near 12 minute masterpiece. Don’t just take my word for it, view the film yourself from the link below.

Director Dean Puckett cut his teeth making documentary films, the most recent of which was released in 2013, Grasp the Nettle highlights the exploits of a group of land rights activists who battle to set up alternative communities in Britain. The Sermon is his second fiction short to have been supported by Creative England and the BFI after the comedy, horror, sci-fi short Circles in 2015. Circles, which was also set in Devon involved paranormal investigators taking their revenge on a group of crop circle hoaxers. The Sermon premiered at the BFI Flare London LGBTQ+ Film Festival on March 24th, 2018 to critical acclaim.

‘On Halloween Strange Sights Are Seen’ – About a Short film by Tea & Morphine

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On 31st October, this Halloween, ‘Tea & Morphine’ will take us on an unusually eerie walk through a small Hertfordshire allotment. In this seven minute video short the viewer is taken on a surreal journey that transforms an everyday allotment into a world of mystery and intrigue as we are introduced to the many weird and wonderfully handcrafted characters who reside among the plots there.

Along the way we encounter sinister sunflowers, pumpkin laden tables and a whole host of quirky scarecrows and oddly imagined effigies, set to the atmospherically whimsical music of The Parlour Trick, the film takes the traditionally English pastime and spins a darkly twisted tale of the unseen going’s on when the inhabitants are left alone to their own devices. With no rigid plot or narrative it is left to the viewer to imagine the storyline as the procession moves dreamily through this surreal landscape.

‘Tricksters and Threats’. Also known as: Scarecrows, Wurzels, Tatter-Men, Mommets, Bugbears ~ Tatty-Bogles cannot help but frighten, as they shamble down country roads with their arms outstretched as if crucified – yet inspiring terror may not be their prime motive, as they simply want to stretch their legs after a long day of solitude standing. The fear generated in human observers may be either amusing or regrettable to them, or it may even go unregistered. It is by their very name and nature to frighten, for they are the Scarecrows erected in fields by farmers to try and protect their crops from the hungry beaks of birds.

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The reasons for their nocturnal animation is somewhat of a mystery, for perhaps not all will rise and leave their plot, but some seem more inclined to come to life at night. Perhaps this is of their own volition or maybe there is some external enchantment at work. It could be that the magic of Witches or perhaps Fay beings animate these rag-bag effigies in order to cause mischief or perform other tasks. Otherwise a Scarecrow could provide an ideal host for a wandering spirit or Demon that possesses no true form of its own. Such strange and shapeless souls are the Brollochan. These uncanny wanderers may visibly consist of at best a mouth and pair of eyes but they can grant mobility to any inanimate object they enter. Should a Tatty-Bogle be thus possessed by a Brollochan, this would be revealed as “Thyself” and “Myself” are said to be the only words it can utter.

Extract on the folklore of scarecrows from – ‘Strange Lands ~ Supernatural Creatures of the Celtic Otherworld’ by Andrew L. Paciorek.

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http://theparlourtrick.com
Music is by The Parlour Trick; a song chosen from ‘A Blessed Unrest’ known “The Halloween album of the year” ~ Douglas Wolk (Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, TIME) Meredith Yayanos; Voice, strings, theremin, percussion & Dan Cantrell; Accordion, bass accordion, pump organ, celeste, glockenspiel, percussion.
https://theparlourtrick.bandcamp.com

‘On Halloween Strange Sights Are Seen’ is being shown Wednesday 31st October 2018 on the Tea & Morphine Facebook Page

https://www.facebook.com/teaandmorphine/
Images © 2018 Tea & Morphine

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