Folk Horror Revival Winter Ghosts 2021: We have Wyrms!

After having to cancel last year’s Winter Ghosts due to our old friend Covid-19 we are pulling out all the stops to ensure this year’s event is a sumptuous feast for the eyes and ears. This year’s event features the usual selection of talks and music as well as some pretty exciting performances, that we’re keeping a little bit under wraps for the time being, as well as a classic film that we will be unveiling in the very near future.

As many of us are based in wyrm country, up in the North East we have chosen a cryptid theme to this year’s event. So, expect to be regaled with tales of dragons, serpents and sea monsters.

Anyway, without further ado, here is our first lineup announcement. We are keeping all the juicy details close to our chests for now, but we wanted to share with you the supremely talented individuals who will be set to entertain you across the weekend of November 27th and 28th.

Speakers

First up on the speaker list is an old friend of Folk Horror Revival, Dr Sarah Caldwell Steele – proprietor of The Ebor Jetworks, Gemologist, jewellery designer and expert in all things Jet. Sarah will be presenting a fascinating new talk for us.

The Shrouded Republic is a performance piece inspired by Rev. Robert Kirk of Aberfoyle author of  “The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies: A Study in Folklore and Psychical Research” and brings together once again the team that were responsible for the rather wonderful Leasungspell. Led by poet and author Bob Beagrie this promises to be a fascinating piece that needs to be seen.

Up next is Dr David. R Rowe or “Doc” for short. Doc Rowe is an archivist and collector, who has been recording and filming cultural tradition and vernacular arts, folklore, song and dance of Britain and Ireland since the 1960s. His collection currently represents the most extensive collection of audio and video material to celebrate the variety and richness of traditional folk culture of these islands. We look forward to revealing more details about his talk.

We are also incredibly proud to announce that Richard Freeman – Cryptozoologist, writer of both fiction  and non-fiction and one of the world’s leading experts on all things Dragon will be joining us to present a talk on what lies behind the dragon legends and is there a possibility that these were more than just folklore?

We are also joined by The Hazelsong Theatre, whose work is rooted in the songs, stories, myth and folklore of the North and the Borderlands and the many cultures that have made the North their home. Hazelsong creates performances which bring together music, storytelling, puppetry and theatre borne of the knowledge that these stories and songs are very much alive. For us they will be presenting a talk on John McKinnell with a vaguely tame wyrm or two in attendance.

Evening Music Lineup

Our evening musical lineup is also very strong and features some of the most interesting performers working within the field today.

Folk Horror Revival are really pleased to be working with one of the brightest new lights in electronic music, Everyday Dust. Everyday Dust is a producer based in Scotland, who uses analogue synthesizers, effects and tape machines to create his own unique narrative-driven music. His most recent album for Castles in Space records, Black Water is a deeply immersive electronic album of sonar explorations which celebrate the ongoing search for the creature at large in Loch Ness. We think you’ll love what could well turn out to be his debut live performance.

https://everydaydust-cis.bandcamp.com/album/black-water

Nathalie Stern and the Noizechoir are local legends in the Newcastle music scene, mixing drones and lush harmonised vocals Nathalie and the choir perform music to invoke elder gods to. Why not have a listen to last year’s Nerves and Skin album by Nathalie, that should give you an idea of what to expect from what is a hotly anticipated set.

https://nathaliesternmusic.bandcamp.com/

Our final musical act are darkwave and industrial legends Attrition, after more than 40 years of producing interesting dark electronic music they remain as strong as ever, continually adapting and honing their sound, the group led by Martin Bowes remain at the cutting edge of modern day electronica and remain as influential on today’s artists as they ever have. We are very excited to see what they have in store for us at Winter Ghosts.

https://attritionuk.bandcamp.com/album/the-alibi

Ok that’s almost it, apart from one more artist, a super-secret film screening that we will be announcing in the not-too-distant future, and the relaxed Sunday lineup that is also coming soon. I hope that has whetted your appetite for this year’s Winter Ghosts. Tickets are available now from our Eventbrite page below priced at a modest £13 for the whole weekend. We hope to see many of you there.

Richard Skelton: Interview and Review

Richard Skelton is an artist, musician and writer from Lancashire in northern England. His work is informed by landscape, evolving from sustained immersion in specific environments and deep, wide-ranging research incorporating ecology and geology, folklore, myth and language. He currently runs Corbel Stone Press with his wife, the Canadian poet, Autumn Richardson.

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Folk Horror Revival’s John Pilgrim recently caught up with Richard to make a few routine enquiries on matters of mutual interest and fascination. The responses set the scene for a reflective review by Foster Neville of Richard’s second novella ‘And Then Gone’.

FHR: Deepening the sensory connection with landscape is a central preoccupation in your work. How has your experience of landscape changed over the years and has it been different for you over the last year or so?

I’ve become increasingly interested in physicality — touch, weight, attrition, decay — and the internally transformative effect of contact. What you might call ‘contagious magic’. I’m also drawn more and more to the non-corporeal analogue of the physical. I’m not conventionally religious, but these lines from Paracelsus say it better than I can:

‘It is opposed to all true philosophy to say that flowers lack their own eternity. They may perish and die here; but they will reappear in the restitution of all things. Nothing has been created out of the Great Mystery which will not inhabit a form beyond the aether.’

As so much else has fallen away in the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to explore my local landscape more than ever before. Being restricted to a particular area has sharpened my focus, and I’ve been making more films and visual works as a result.

FHR: Please can you tell us about Corbel Stone Press – what is its purpose and how has it evolved over the years? Are there any publications or recordings which you would particularly recommend to those of a folk horror persuasion?

We publish books, pamphlets, music, artworks and editions that focus on landscape and the natural world. We’re particularly interested in the folkloric and mythical. ‘Reliquiae’, our biannual journal of prose, poetry and translations, might be of interest because, over the course of the past eight years, we’ve been trying to shed light on the other-than-human, primarily through the lens of world mythology. My previous novella, ‘The Look Away’, and its poetic companion, ‘Dark Hollow Dark’, might also appeal to your readers, as, like ‘And Then Gone’, they both present an immersion in the rural landscape that is far from bucolic.

FHR: You once buried and exhumed a violin. Can you say more about this and what you gained from the experience?

Yes, back in 2014 I interred a violin at Ouseburn, Newcastle, as part of a commission for the AV Festival. It was something I’d done privately before — albeit obliquely documented in my book, ‘Landings’ — and represents my most obvious experiment with contagious magic. I wanted the land to impart itself viscerally on the music that I was to create. It was a ritual surrender to telluric energies; an exchange with the genius loci.

FHR: We live in troubled times. Your work – whether sonic, written or visual – appears to offer a therapeutic aspect. Is this something which you have consciously developed?

It’s probably a truism to say that all artistic endeavour is therapeutic for the artist involved — so much so that for me it’s a compulsion. I feel ill at ease if I’m not working on something. But I don’t think about it beyond that. I try not to reflect on how a work might manifest whilst I’m working on it. In any case, much of what I create often doesn’t see the light of day. The process of creation itself is nearly always private. It’s a continual process, like an underground river that occasionally surfaces here and there.

FHR: What are your current projects and future plans?

I’ve spent much of the past 3 years researching a book that will be published on the summer solstice. It’s called ‘Stranger in the Mask of a Deer’, and it’s a kind of literary seance between the present and the Late-Upper Palaeolithic, some 15,000 years ago. This was the time when the land that became Britain began to emerge from the ice that covered northern Europe. I wanted to think about how humans of that time related to the land, and to plants and animals. It’s full of fear, violence and blood, but also a sense of equality and respect between humans and the other agencies of the natural world. There will also be an accompanying short film, entitled ‘Before Albion’.

Review of ‘And Then Gone’ by Foster Neville

Richard Skelton’s second novella, ‘And Then Gone’, charts the journey of a woman travelling back to her childhood home through a landscape which but for its lack of people would have been familiar to Northumberland poet Basil Bunting. The disaster which prompts this journey is never named but the protagonist’s ‘dense violent dreams/Dreamed with soul and body’ suggest perhaps the aftermath of a war; the woman returning like a ghost ‘to tell the story/Until the dawn command’1. Her special relationship with the emptied landscape is akin to a survivor and also that imagined of bog bodies, with their supposed deep involvement in the cycles of birth, death, harvest and renewal.

“In the country, where one can often see an entire parish from boundary to boundary, one can also often see one’s entire life. It is comforting – and painful”. (Roland Blythe, Divine Landscapes)

Just as the title itself works backwards from the last line, ‘And then gone’, one can profitably examine Richard Skelton’s book in light of its own back matter question: “Are our minds like the land? Bounded.” It is part of the deftness of touch evident in this work that the idea of mind as a narrative and the way such a narrative must break the rules of English sentence construction to communicate itself are allowed to shape this eloquent, poetical little book (205 pages of widely spaced ‘paragraphs’).

A cursory flick through the pages, a sensual pleasure not to be underestimated in this age of diminishing bookshops and physical contact, reveals beneath the thumb short, stanza-like ‘paragraphs’ which immediately made me think of ‘Vägmärken’ by Dag Hammarskjöld with its flashes of an inner history put into words. ‘And then gone’ however, is a work of creative fiction and therefore to be considered much more than a collection of pensèes. The reader, like a pilgrim, follows a path into a layered story which is very much concerned with flesh and spirit. It also has often a strong feel of initiation to it, together with the disorientation of the senses which accompany formal rituals. To understand this is the better to appreciate what comes next.

Picture a zoetrope, the vertical slits allowing only brief glimpses of images to give the illusion of the movement which is the definition of life. Between each slightly different image however, there is blackness, shadow. To slow down the movement of the zoetrope is to become more aware of the resonant space between. ‘And then gone’, as the title demonstrates, draws on the fact that there is no renewal in nature without loss; no light without shade. ‘And then gone’ also points to the erosion of things and how with that erosion come new stimuli. To continue a cinematic, or rather a theatrical analogy, the occasional Italics come across like stage directions: read in the wings and therefore contrasting the bright and thrilling light of the active stage. This is very fitting for a work which despite the fragmentary presentation (ambient sound – and the eerie silences found at old execution places, all manner of light and perfume), maintains dramatic development.

My old university tutor had a party trick, which was to take a copy of any book by Dickens and open it in the middle to show that here was to be found either the peak of action or the most telling point of the whole work. We were all quite convinced until later we discovered Dickens originally published in monthly parts, yet the habit to throw open a book in the middle and see what presents is hard to give up. Page 111 here feels like midway and we find:

His dreams now, full of her, her voice, the shape of her body. The longing of youth, a fire by the waters of adulthood. Revel in it, though it burns the skin.

The writing is never less than poetic. Rather suggestively, instead of the usual roman number IX – i.e. ten minus one – for nine, page 111 is preceded by a chapter/part marker of VIIII; breaking another rule, this time the rule of repeating ‘1’ more than three times being invalid. And this ahead of page 111. More ritual, more disorientation? But what I want to draw attention to here is why this is a particularly good book to read right now, because as of 2020 we have all developed skin hunger: we want the reassurance which comes only from human touch. As a book presented in stages, though leading to disappearance, this particular extract and where it appeared did make me reflect upon that brain surge which occurs at the ages of 14-17, and the connection to the next, higher brain level.

‘And then gone’, in spite of – or perhaps because of – its title is a far-seeing book. But it does not present a conventional way of looking any more than it presents a traditional way of laying out a book, or of organising words into sentences and those sentences into paragraphs. It is too easy to say the work is ‘impressionistic’, and in any case the details are always very clear and I have tried to emphasise that what one senses is less the light than the dark between. Certainly though there is landscape, there are textures. This is from the penultimate page:

The mist is thicker now. Rubbing at the shapes of things. Gathering about her.

And this is from ‘Vägmärken’ again:

“Only the hand that erases can write the true thing”. – Meister Eckhart.

Truth, as I think most of us acknowledge now, is likely to be found at the edges of things. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say it is something we encounter at the edges of things, as to say ‘found’ is to suggest that such a truth could be possessed and somehow carried away from such a point with us (I’m conscious of straying into Damaris Parker-Rhodes territory here, and yet the pilgrim in us all should not be neglected and journeys are no longer the preserve of saints or great visionaries). Whatever our beliefs, we aspire to self-knowledge and to greater knowledge of the world about us; we seek places of revelation (Pendle, Lindisfarne) as we seek enlightenment. Our minds do appear to us a limited territory, to go beyond which means what many term madness. If we therefore can say our minds are bounded by sense, then by playing with that sense we can go beyond our minds to a different consciousness. The temporary dislocation from our normal perceptions and everyday world (close as that is to a working definition of Folk Horror; ) one could argue is an important part of the reading of any work of fiction, as it is of any ritual initiation ceremony.

What is it we encounter, once we move from our comfortable world? Field, hill, forest, river are sketched across with man’s symbols from earlier traditions. And not only his symbols. Were one to note all of the psychic happenings that have been recorded across England, there is not a single natural contour would be without a haunting of some sort. Telepathy has been suggested for that age-old phenomenon of the dying being seen by loved ones, often at great distances. Psychic happenings are all around us, and within us.

‘And then gone’ is available from corbelstonepress.com in paperback for £12.00.

Note:

1. ’Reveille’, Primo Levi, Translated Al Alvarez.

Book Review: Wildwood- Tales Of Terror & Transformation From The Forest, edited by William P. Simmons

The forest is a potent symbol in the human psyche, it represents the primal, beyond civilisation, life giving but also harbouring unseen dangers. In his introduction to this collection of forest themed weird fiction, William P. Simmons notes that it can be treated in three major ways in such tales- as an eerie setting, whereby it’s remoteness allows cover for all manner of horror, a domain where witches, werewolves and demons can hide; that occult forces be born of it and act as the personification of nature, such as satyrs and elementals or that nature itself is a sentient being beyond human understanding. The tales collected here represent all three.
The tales are drawn from the late 19th century & early 20th century. Some are likely to be well known to folk horror fans, such as Arthur Machen’s The White People and MR James’ View From A Hill, both frequently anthologised but always welcome, while others are completely new to me, such as The Dead Valley, by Ralph Adams Cram, an eerie tale of a deadly landscape, high in the Swedish mountains.
The death of Pan is something often quoted, but judging by some of the tales here, he’s very much alive and lurking, Algernon Blackwood’s The Touch of Pan has him as nature personified, way beyond our concepts of good and evil, and he also turns up in Algernon Blackwood’s The Touch of Pan and E.M. Forster’s The Story Of A Panic.
The collection is rounded out with an appendix reprinting an essay on sylvan horrors by the ghost hunter Elliott O’Donnell, who, while not necessarily the most reliable source as a researcher, spins a great yarn. This makes for some eerie entertainment, with accounts of pixies and haunted trees.
This is a great collection of sylvan horror tales, ideal late-night reading, when the wind is whipping branches against your windows…

Review by SJ Lyall

Zine Review: Grimoire Silvanus issue 3

Grimoire Silvanus is a relatively new zine but they’ve put out three issues in around 6 months, which is a pretty commendable work rate. It’s not just quantity either, each issue has been really high quality. Much of their content focusses on interactions with the landscape, and in this new issue we get LB Limbrey on suburban weird, encountering the strange in brownfield and edgeland sites, haunted houses and residual ancient presences in suburban woodland. Gradior Inlustria contributes an article on the joys and trials of visiting lesser known or forgotten stones circles, what they lack in ease of visiting they can make up for in atmosphere and sense of power. In a similar vein, Quisdeus Fortis gives us an account of seeking out carvings of sun goddess on Bidston Hill in the Wirrall. I always particularly enjoy people delving into their local weirdness.

The issue is rounded out by an article on the folklore of freshwater mermaids- often the spirits of drowned women as well as supernatural creatures like the Rusulka of Eastern Europe, an article on the significance of water in tarot and one on making maps to reimagine an area. It also includes a timely reminder that there’s no place for fascists and racists in our cultural space, which is great to see (though sad it needs to be said).
This is all presented on nice, thick paper, with lots of full colour, atmospheric photographs and it looks fantastic.
Another great issue of what’s become one of my favourites of the current crop of folklore zines. Copies can be ordered here.

Review by SJ Lyall

Reviews: Devil’s Advocates, Blood on Satan’s Claw and The Witch.

by Darren Charles

Having previously reviewed John Towlson’s wonderful Candyman monograph from the Devil’s Advocates series from Auteur books, I was delighted to receive another two books from the collection with some serious folk horror credentials. The books in question are David Evans-Powell’s monograph of The Blood on Satan’s Claw and Brandon Grafius’ treatment on The Witch.

The Devil’s Advocates range is aimed at exploring the classics of horror cinema, and the contributors are generally firmly entrenched in that world via careers in academia, journalism or through their own contributions to the literature of horror. What is evident from the very beginning is that those who have been asked to write these books are passionate and knowledgeable about their subject matter and whilst the books have a certain academic quality to the writing they are never overly wordy or impenetrable.

The Blood on Satan’s Claw by David Evans-Powell

Liverpool University Press: Books: The Blood on Satan's Claw

One of the unholy triumvirate of films that are deemed the very cornerstones of the Folk Horror movement, Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) is a supernatural horror movie set in a small rural English village in the 18th century. After the discovery of a sinister looking skull in a freshly ploughed field, a series of bizarre occurrences take place among the village’s young people culminating in a ritual rape and human sacrifice. In recent years the film has become a classic of the Folk Horror genre and David Evans-Powell’s monograph is a thorough and interesting delve into the film’s history, looking at its position within the Folk Horror oeuvre, its relationship to the landscape and nature, and its socio-political message, particularly its relationship to the late 60s and early 70s counterculture.

The book is divided up into series of different sections, the first provides a brief synopsis of the film and an introduction that places the film within the context of the time it was made, and in relation to other films of the time. The next section looks at the film’s production and reception, this introduces the reader to some of the key figures involved in making Blood on Satan’s Claw such a runaway success. There are sub-sections on cinematographer Dick Bush, director Piers Haggard, composer/musician Marc Wilkinson and screenwriter Robert Wynne-Simmons, as well as the film’s production that provide a lot of valuable information about the film’s genesis and how it all came together. The next couple of sections deal with the importance of the landscape and how it is used in the film, as well as looking at nature and the way the setting juxtaposes the simple superstition of the rural setting with that of the rational, enlightened city (London).

Beyond that Evans-Powell delves into ideas about a past the refuses to be forgotten, the concept of “reviving forgotten horrors” to paraphrase the great Patrick Wymark in his role as the judge. This section is interesting and provides some fascinating and detailed discussion of our pagan past. The final section is called Anarchy in the UK and features a fairly in-depth discussion of the film’s relationship to the counter-culture movement of the 60s and 70s, particularly the darker side of that movement with a focus on the Manson murders and English child murderer Mary Bell.

Evans-Powell has written a powerful and fascinating monograph that is very readable. He manages to cram a lot of intriguing detail into such a short book yet it never feels as though the reader is overloaded with information, and it always feels relevant and interesting.

The Witch by Brandon Grafius

The Witch (Devil's Advocates): Amazon.co.uk: Brandon Grafius:  9781800348059: Books

The second of our two books is a monograph based around the Robert Eggars film The Witch. Much like Blood on Satan’s Claw the film has become synonymous with the Folk Horror movement and has achieved a similar status as a classic of the genre. If Blood on Satan’s Claw, The Wicker Man and Witchfinder General are the classic unholy triumvirate, The Witch is one of the titles that fits the bill as their modern equivalent, alongside films like Kill List, November, In the Earth and Midsommar it sits at the forefront of the Folk Horror revival.

Brandon Grafius is a Professor of Biblical studies at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit, and is well noted for his writing on the subject of religion and horror. The book is heavy on facts and Grafius provides some tremendous background information about the time in which the film is set. Eggars himself spent an inordinate amount of time and energy on researching the period in order to bring the film a realness. Grafius does much the same for the study of the film, and after delving into New England’s puritan past and considering the context of the witch trials that took place in the late 17th century, he takes the reader on a whistle stop journey through the realms of literature, cinema and folklore in order to place The Witch within the context of what we call folk horror. The sections on The Witch as folk horror and the folklore associated with the film and witchcraft in general are excellent, well researched and kept me hooked in. These are followed by a section discussing the film’s main characters, that features some interesting analysis of not only the family and their flawed existence but even Black Philip himself.

Much like Evans-Powell’s Blood on Satan’s Claw, The Witch is a well-researched and beautifully written monograph that provides a fascinating and in-depth study of a classic film in around a hundred pages. As with the previously reviewed Candyman it has be said that Auteur have really come up trumps with this wonderful series of short monographs looking at the classics of horror cinema. I have already started to build a list of the other titles in the series that I need to check out.

You can see the full range of Auteur’s Devils Advocates series at the following link: https://www.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/series/series-15364/

Blood on Satan’s Claw by David Evans-Powell is available to buy from Amazon at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Satans-Claw-Devils-Advocates/dp/1800348061

The Witch by Brandon Grafius is available to buy from Amazon at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Witch-Devils-Advocates-Brandon-Grafius/dp/1800348053/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+witch+brandon+grafius&qid=1621965775&s=books&sr=1-1

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.
https://youtu.be/3Lqkfo7IymU

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

Ben Wheatley’s Earthy Liminality

Extensive Ben Wheatley interview by “Lady Limnal” covering his career and new film.

Here at FHR we’ve been fans of Ben Wheatley for many years, having followed his intriguing and varied career path from the pitch dark comedy of Sightseers, the pseudo 70s Wyrd of High Rise, the psychedelic oddness of Field in England and above all the disturbing Urban Wyrd of Kill List.

In this interview for the Liminal Worlds project, Ben discusses his new film In the Earth.

“…when I was a kid we lived by the woods, and I think just the actual physical presence of the woods made a difference to me, and fed into a lot of stuff, and a lot of the things in Kill List are from nightmares that I had as a child, about that very specific place where I was living, Billericay.”

Full interview here
http://www.liminalworlds.org/lady-liminal-takes-a-trip-with-ben-wheatley/

waiting for you: a detectorists zine

A fanzine as beautiful and introspective as the series it lauds, “waiting for you: a detectorists zine”, is a collection of essays, interviews and papers that celebrate, discuss and speculate on the sedate yet moving series created by Mackenzie Crook.

The strange times of lockdown have led to an unexpected (but welcome) boom in small press publications as well as niche “‘zines”. In the past, such publications were very much home produced, photocopied cheap and cheerful labours of love, but print on demand, modern software and emerging virtual communities in the time of pandemic have led to many wonderful creations. “waiting for you…” is no exception to this intriguing trend and is an exquisitely produced A5 volume, printed on high grade paper. A further pleasing touch, is that the pages have a retro eggshell blue tinge, that would doubtless appeal to the detectorist Lance, given his misty-eyed appreciation of older plastics in the series finale – though the zine sadly (fortunately?) does not have “the smell of 70s”.

Amongst the essays David Colohan explores the light and shade of folk horror themes in ‘Phantom Signals’ while David Petts turns a psychogeographical eye on the almost-real landscape of Danebury, the fictional home town of the detectorists. It was also a pleasure to see longtime Folk Horror Revivalist, Jim Peters as a contributor interviewing soundtrack composers Dan Michaelson and Harvey Robinson. Elsewhere in the volume, Mackenzie Crooks lesser known fiction is reviewed by Rosemary Pardoe, while Phil Smith opines on the series symbolism. The zine closes with Carl Taylor’s review of “Landscapes of Detectorists” a collection of essays edited by Innes Keighren and Joanne Norcup.

Lovingly compiled & edited by Cormac Pentecost and topped off with Jane Tomlinsons psychedelic cover art – “waiting for you…” is a must-read for ardent (or casual) fans of the series.

“waiting for you: a detectorists zine”is published by Temporal Boundary Press

(https://temporalboundary.bigcartel.com)

Format: A5, 54pp, paperback

Contributors: David Colohan, David Petts, Jim Peters, Phil Smith, Rosemary Pardoe, Carl Taylor

Art: Jane Tomlinson, Robin Mackenzie, The Moon and the Furrow, P J Richards

Edited by Cormac Pentecost

Zine Review: Weird Walk issue 4

The last couple of years have seen a real surge in the number of zines related to folk horror, folklore, forteana and the just plain weird. While zine culture probably peaked in the 90s but had waned to an extent with the creation of social media, it never died away completely. For many, the convenience of a blog post will never replace the satisfaction of having something you can hold in your hand, read on the bus and pull out a dusty box years later. This will be the first in a semi-regular series of reviews of folk horror related zines.

Weird Walk was probably the first zine of the current crop. It bills itself as a journal of wanderings and wonderings from the British Isles, and as this suggests, much of its content is focussed round getting out into the countryside. In the current issue (#4), we have a route for a weird walk around Glastonbury, an interview with Nick Hayes on land ownership and trespassing in England (as someone who lives in Scotland, where the right to roam is legally enshrined, this was quite an eye opener), some recommended listening for rambling through edgelands (recommended soundtracks for walks feature regularly in WW), and a piece from Stewart Lee on hunting megaliths in Lamorna in Cornwall.

My favourite article is by Zakia Sewell on growing up in Houndslow, the child of a Welsh dad and Carribbean mother, who finds a connection to a mythic Albion of druids and stone circles, away from the more toxic myths of recent times, a vision of who makes a connection can find belonging here, a world away from any kind of blood and soil bullshit.

This is all laid out beautifully in full colour, with plenty of atmospheric photos of dolmens, standing stones and the like, that makes me long for the lifting of lockdown and being able to get out into the countryside. Highly recommended. Copies of this and back issues available via their website at https://www.weirdwalk.co.uk/

Review by SJ Lyall

The Psychic Audio Group

The Psychic Audio Group are a collective of paranormal investigators and music technologists based in Leeds who generate audio based around hauntings, drawing inspiration from Nigel Kneale’s ‘The Stone Tape’ they reconfigured their equipment to generate noise, producing some remarkable psychic feedback when installed at certain haunted locations. Here we review their three recordings thus far released.

Collected Recordings of the Psychic Audio Group, Volume 1

The first release of the Psychic Audio Group, features 11 tracks of suitably wyrd phonics, mixing ambient drones with glitchy off kilter electronics, field recordings and found sounds. I really enjoyed this one, there’s a level of dread filled intensity about the recording that verges on audial assault, and the whole thing has a sinister blackened noise vibe to it. Links to Nigel Kneale’s ‘The Stone Tape’ and EVP just add to the creepiness of the project. I guarantee this will go down a storm with Revivalists everywhere. This is highly recommended for fans of John Carpenter, Haxan Cloak, Burial Hex, Demdike Stare and the Nate Young (Wolf Eyes) and Steven Kenney (Werewolves) project Demons.

https://psychicaudiogroup.bandcamp.com/album/the-collected-recordings-of-the-psychic-audio-group-volume-2-eycheil

Also worth mentioning is the accompanying video, featuring the same sequences of audio as used in the album, but coupled with visuals from the recording sessions.

Sea of Ink

Sea of Ink is a stand alone track recorded during the sessions for their second album. What we get is more of the same glitchy electronic drones and sinister sounding atmospherics as the debut album. A work of creepy excellence.

https://psychicaudiogroup.bandcamp.com/track/sea-of-ink

The Collected Recordings of the Psychic Audio Group, Volume 2: Eycheil

The third release and second full length album from the Psychic Audio Group is an absolute doozy from start to finish. Recorded entirely on location at the Theatre Eycheil in the foothills of the French Pyrenees, with each track concieved in relation to the atmosphere of the site, and boy what an atmosphere it must have as this is off the scale for creepiness.

The album features 7 tracks of more of the same, but once again it excels at what it does. Darkly atmospheric electronic noise that recalls some of the most sinister music ever placed on vinyl. Nighmarish and disquieting, the whole thing has a deeply malefic aura about it. If someone were to ever remake John Hough’s 1973 supernatual tour de force ‘The Legend of Hell House’ these guys should record the soundtrack.

https://psychicaudiogroup.bandcamp.com/album/the-collected-recordings-of-the-psychic-audio-group-volume-2-eycheil