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

Vanishing Faces

Duo Joanne and Andrew Walker have been busy over the last twelve months with three separate releases to tempt Revivalists.

Foretold E.P.

First up was the Foretold E.P. which was released in April . I was lucky enough to receive a physical copy of the limited edition CD, one of only 78 copies released. The album is beautifully packaged, featuring some lovely artwork from Joanna herself. As you can see from the photograph below it is obviously designed to fit perfectly with the stories of the songs, which is something I really love about it. Alongside the fantastic cover art we are treated to some really nice little extras, stickers, a badge and a tarot card, the Ace of Wands in my case. This is a great card to receive in this instance as it represents creativity, passion and enthusiasm, all things that are abundant in this release.

This, their debut release is also sonically very good, and features 5 tracks of glitchy electronic folk infused with their love of traditional British folklore and the esoteric. The mix of traditional and modern instrumentation works really well and one can’t help but hear the influence of the likes of Current 93 rising to the fore every now and again, however it must be noted that they do possess enough of their own sound to keep it from turning into a pastiche. Overall, Foretold is an excellent debut release and one the duo can be very proud of.

Two Songs for the Summer Solstice

This was a two track single released to coincide with the Summer Solstice, on 20th June. Both tracks were heavily inspired by previous solstice celebrations that took place at Stonehenge and Avebury, and were a reaction to the current situation with regards to the Covid-19 lockdown, and the fact those sites were not accessible during the 2020 solstice.

‘To the Day’ represents the duo’s fond remembrance of past solstices, whilst Midsummer’s Dream entwines their own song with the fairy’s poem from the beginning of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Both tracks take the listener down a tangled acid folk drenched pathway that winds its way through the British countryside. This is a perfect midsummer release.

Wolf Moon E.P.

Released at the death of 2020, Wolf Man is a three track E.P. that the duo began composing under the wolf moon, the first full moon of 2020.

Opener, ‘Wolf Moon’ is a spoken word track that again mixes traditional instrumentation and modern technology, perfectly capturing the mood of the piece. This is followed up by ‘Cold Moon’ an instrumental with its feets firmly planted in ambient electronics. Beautiful and atmospheric, the track is perfect for laid back listening sessions. The final track is a remix of ‘Wolf Moon’ by Grey, it’s a fascinating amalagamation of drum and bass and ambient electronica that works really well. The band themselves have labelled the track ‘dub folk horror’ and who am I to argue?

All of their work can be heard and bought from their bandcamp page at:

https://vanishingfaces.bandcamp.com/

Charity Donation: Winter Solstice 2020

❄🌞Winter Solstice Greetings 🌞❄

To mark the occasion Folk Horror Revival / Wyrd Harvest Press / Urban Wyrd Project have again charitably donated sales profits from our books to a Wildlife Trusts project voted for by some members of this group.This time around we are happy to grant The Scottish Wildlife Trusts £800 to help with their Beaver reintroduction project. Thank you to all who voted and especially Thank You to those who have bought our books. Not only have you purchased works by and featuring some of the greatest contributors to folk horror, urban wyrd and other associated fields, you have helped to benefit wildlife conservation work.
Very Best Wishes.

To buy our books – https://www.lulu.com/spotlight/andypaciorek

To donate directly to the Wildlife Trusts

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/donate-appeal

Beavers, mammals animals antique illustration

Wyrd Kalendar – Vampire Night

“Tonight is Vampire Night. In Romania the Strigoii or Vampires are said to leave their graves to seek out their former homes and victims. So hang out your garlic, put out your crosses… for the vampires are prowling and they’re looking for you. Be safe. And, if you can’t be safe, then dance, dance to these Vampire tunes. Happy Vampire Night!” – The Kalendar Host

With tunes from the likes of The Upsetters, Soft Cell, Gene Page, Rupert Lally, Bauhaus, Vampire Sound Incorporated, The Hues Corporation, Francois de Roubaix, Rob Zombie, Cobra Verde, Tangerine Dream, Gorillaz, Emil Richards, Beth Orton, Jonathan Elias, Radiohead, Gerard McCann, Tito and Tarantula, David Whitaker, Hot Blood, Jace Everett, Dirty Pretty Things, Barenakedladies, Jason Segel, Michael Vickers, Nouvelle Vague, Ministry, Michael Rubini and Denny Jaeger.

Black Weekend : FHR Books And Merchandise Dicounts

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𝔹𝕝𝕒𝕔𝕜 𝔽𝕣𝕚𝕕𝕒𝕪 ~ Sale on at the Folk Horror Revival Red Bubble store between 20% and 60% Discount – just use code DEALS2020 this weekend (28 – 30 November 2020) at checkout at ~
https://www.redbubble.com/people/folkhorrorrev/shop

There’s a huge discount of 30% off all #FolkHorror Revival/ @UrbanWyrd books

at @Luludotcom Just add discount code BFCM30 at checkout https://lulu.com/spotlight/andypaciorek
Offer ends Nov 30th

100% of Book sales profits donated to projects by the @WildlifeTrusts

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