Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange by Adam Scovell – Book Review

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“What exactly is Folk Horror? Is it the writing of M.R. James and Alan Garner? Is it the television scripts of Nigel Kneale, John Bowen and David Rudkin, the films of David Gladwell and The Blood On Satan s Claw? Or could it be the paranoid Public Information Films of the 1970s; the Season Of The Witch ; The Advisory Circle reminding us to Mind how you go! ; or perhaps a contemporary story of two hit-men caught unknowingly in a class-saturated ritual of violence? Interest in the ancient, the occult, and the wyrd is on the rise. The furrows of Robin Hardy, Piers Haggard and Michael Reeves have arisen again, as has the Spirit of Dark of Lonely Water, Juganets, cursed Saxon crowns, spaceships hidden under ancient barrows, owls and flowers, time-warping stone circles, wicker men, the goat of Mendes, and malicious stone tapes. Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful And Things Strange charts the summoning of these esoteric arts within the latter half of the twentieth century and beyond, using theories of Psychogeography, Hauntology and Topography to delve into the genre s output in film, television and multimedia as its sacred demon of ungovernableness rises yet again in the twenty-first century.”

It may seem biased that Adam Scovell’s book  be reviewed here as he is part of the Folk Horror Revival cabal but let me state that Adam was invited into the circle because of the high quality of his work and his passion for his interests. Also I won’t review anything I dislike (I am not paid to be a critic so do not do negativity for free) so this book is entirely here on its own merit. So here we go …
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It is a hard line that Adam treads here, producing a work that is suitable both for academic film and cultural studies and a book accessible for those first entering into the sub genre.  And it is an extremely difficult sub genre to define, not is it only extremely sinuous but it is currently evolving into new and different directions. If anyone therefore is qualified to take on this task and to tread that line, it is certainly Adam Scovell. He approaches the subject both with a curiosity and a cunning insight of themes that are at times ineffable. He does not resort to the tact of the usual film / book critic and simply express his opinion but delves to understand the subject under his microscope in great detail and not only catalogue their relevance as art and narrative but also the social, political and anthropological significance.

For all fans and scholars of folk horror and related sub-genres this book is indispensable. Scovell proves himself an excellent writer as the level of research and consideration in this book is impeccable yet it is not at all dry and is a captivating, flowing read for every body interested in the subject matter, not only those involved in academic field studies.
Many examples of folk horror are investigated and discussed (as such beware of spoilers for films and Tv plays you may not have seen yet) and also their relation to akin subjects such as the Urban Wyrd, Hauntology, Backwoods Horror, Ruralism and Southern Gothic.
This book investigates its subject matter with a contagious passion and does extremely well to explain a subject that is nebulous and still evolving. Whilst concentrating mostly on film the book also explores such matter as Public Information Films and the design and music of the Ghost Box label.
As well as being a very worthy addition to Auteur’s film study publication oeuvre it is an essential read for all fans of folk horror and the sinuous other company it keeps.

The one issue which is not down to Scovell, is that the book would certainly benefit from illustration throughout. Something Auteur may consider as I am sure a more visual tome would do well, but for text alone Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange is welcomed as the first book of its type to broach the subject and is highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Folk-Horror-Dreadful-Things-Strange/dp/1911325221

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Review: Hours Dreadful & Things Strange

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Fans of folk horror, hauntology, psychogeography, visionary ruralism, the urban wyrd and other such strange edges will proably be no stranger to the name of Adam Scovell or perhaps his thorough and impressive website Celluloid Wicker Man

Adam is a writer and filmmaker currently based between Liverpool and London He has produced film and art criticism for over twenty publications including The Times and The Guardian, runs the Celluloid Wicker Man website and has had work screened and given lectures at places as esteemed as Cambridge University, The British Museum, The BFI, The Everyman Playhouse, Queen’s University – Belfast, Hackney Picturehouse and Manchester Art Gallery.

Within his first book for film and media publishing house Auteur , Scovell wanders forests and fields to unearth answers to the thorny question  “What is Folk Horror?” It is quite a task for folk horror is not simply a subgenre of horror but is a subgenre of various other genres and subgenres and it is also conversely unique in itself.
The Unholy Trinity of films, Blood on Satan’s Claw, Witchfinder General and The Wicker Man do of course get thorough necessary attention, but this book gives cause for any of the opinion that folk horror is a 3 movie phenomenon, much cause to think again.  Scovell, the creator of Scovell’s Chain – a system of defining elements of folk horror succeeds in outlining and showcasing diverse examples of folk horror and related fields, but does not hammer its legs down with iron stakes in too rigid a definition allowing folk horror to continue to wander myriad paths and remain as an evolving entity.
Kwaidan, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Ballad of Tam Lin,True Detective, Penda’s Fen, Quatermass, Children of the Stones and many many other films, tv shows are given the full (Owl) service and prove that folk horror is not limted to the British Isles as some folk would kid you believe. .

For all fans and scholars of folk horror and related sub-genres this book is indispensable. Scovell proves himself an excellent writer as the level of research and consideration in this book is impeccable yet it is not at all dry and is a captivating, flowing read for every body interested in the subject matter, not only those involved in academic field studies.
Many examples of folk horror are investigated and discussed (as such beware of spoilers for films and Tv plays you may not have seen yet) and also their relation to akin subjects such as the Urban Wyrd, Hauntology, Backwoods Horror, Ruralism and Southern Gothic.
This book investigates its subject matter with a contagious passion and does extremely well to explain a subject that is nebulous and still evolving. Whilst concentrating mostly on film the book also explores such matter as Public Information Films and the design and music of the Ghost Box label.
As well as being a very worthy addition to Auteur’s film study publication ouvre it is an essential read for all fans of folk horror and the sinuous other company it keeps.

Folk Horror Revival looks forward very much to reading further books and watching new films in future from Adam.

Hours Dreadful & Things Strange is available from Amazon and other book stores.

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