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The latest commission in Opera North’s FILMusic series is Erland Cooper’s new live score for the classic 1928 silent film The Wind. Cooper has composed his predominantly vocal score for the women of the Chorus of Opera North. Folk Horror Revival were lucky enough to catch up with Erland just a few weeks before the tour kicked off in Gateshead to learn a little bit more about the project.
FHR: First off, thanks for agreeing to the interview. I suppose the first thing I really want to ask you is a bit about yourself and your musical history? Your bio states that you’ve worked in a variety of different fields of music, so if you could tell us a bit about that?
EC: Yes, it’s quite a diverse background probably, but I suppose on reflection… joining the dots back it all makes perfect sense. I grew up in the North of Scotland and folk music was quite accessible. That’s pretty much the mainstay of an island, passing troubadours would come in and out, great fiddle players, Aly Bain, accordionists…you know, all sorts of brilliant finger pickers and things like that. I kind of had this guilty pleasure of enjoying that while my mates were playing football. I was sneaking in to the town hall to listen to Phil Cunningham and Ali Bain.
So, when I got to London, I still had a real kind of interest in two things – one, recording studios, how I’d read about residential studios, and I just turned up and found one and knocked on the door. It was Ridge Farm studio, they recorded everything from Queen to…you know, Bohemian Rhapsody was recorded there. Big, big records, big, big songs, and I thought I want to see one of these residential studios. I knocked on the door and it creaked open like in a vampire film and this guy came out with jet black hair and a white strip across his fringe and I said Oh hello my name is Erland, I’m from Orkney, would it be possible to see the studio? He swore and said “fucking hell, you’re from Orkney, you better come in”. I think he thought I’d travelled that day from Orkney. This guy introduces me to the producer Youth, who’s starting a folk label, Youth’s a big producer who’s produced loads of hits. Anyway, Youth introduces me to Simon Tong, Simon was the guitarist in a band called The Verve, and then Simon and I started writing together, we both had a love for psychedelic folk, acid folk, traditional folk. Not just someone with an acoustic guitar that they call folk music, we’re talking Bert Jansch all the way through to obviously Sandy Denny, and Jackson C Frank, but even further back Cecil Sharp, Ralph Vaughan Williams collecting these folk songs and transcribing them. So we both had this big love of that, and we just hit it off, Simon and I, and every week I’d go to his house and we’d write songs. To cut a long story short, Youth was doing a folk night and Damon Albarn was there. My first gig in London, my first gig, I get thrust up on stage in some bohemian club in Notting hill completely out of my depth, out of my comfort zone, looking out and seeing some of my idols as a boy. I get up and play these really earnest folk songs and I last… two minutes. It’s a loud din and then silence and they start again.
Anyway, a month later and we’re in Damon’s studio and we’re cutting a debut album, which took folk songs, much like Fairport Convention were doing, and other bands, Pentangle. Just twisting them up and before we knew it, it was out in the world. We did three records with that band. Then I did another project called The Magnetic North, which was really centred on place, Skelmsdale, Orkney, and that had more traditional orchestration.
So, I was starting to get a real interest in classical elements of working within shoegaze and psychedelia. So, if you look at it, over those 10-15 years, kind of psychedelic rock band to slightly more sophisticated indie band, and then because I’m not classically trained, I am constantly learning. I’m up early every day studying myself, but writing, I feel like I’m just getting warmed up, you know. I get to write these 8 or 20 notes and give it to a violinist like Daniel Pioro and he makes them sound incredible, it’s like a joy. I didn’t intend to be a solo artist, that has just happened. And now I’m commissioned to compose music, so that’s what I do. So that’s the thread of where it come from and I suppose it adds a different way of seeing or looking at things, maybe if I had studied classical music I wouldn’t approach it in the same way as slashing its face with a guitar line.
FHR: It’s really wonderful that you’ve come to classical music via an alternative route to most other people.
EC: Yeah, I’m glad you’ve said that… I feel like you can bring in your influences and look at things slightly different. Being Scottish and not having classic training kind of adds a level of being the underdog, which is quite fun.
FHR: But also it means you’re using probably different influences to those who have come from a classical background. You may have classical influences but some of you influences are coming from the psychedelic and acid folk bands you’re listening to.
EC: I think the one common thread with all of these projects is storytelling. The ability to tell a story in different form. I’m actually inspired more by what I call real artists, painters, architects, film directors and producers and art curated shows. I’m more inspired by that than musicians generally. Although I am inspired by classical musicians, when I see someone walk in with a cello, I get really excited, the same kind of excitement I used to get when I was learning how to record on a Tascam tape machine, kind of, what can I do here?
FHR: I wanted to ask a question in relation to Opera North and particularly the film music project. I was really interested to see you’re following in the footsteps of some pretty amazing artists; Matthew Bourne, Jóhann Jóhannsson and Hildur Gudnadottir to mention but a few. How does it feel to be in such company?
EC: I love all their work. I mean, Johann’s work, which was vastly collaborative with Hildur, particularly over the five years prior to his death is an absolute constant. Johann would be a great collaborator, that’s what I take from his work. This idea that collaboration is being in the room constantly, that’s what it was in bands, jamming. For me, it’s different in this world and I enjoy it much more. You’re working on something on your own for ages and you get it to 80%, somewhere that’s really close, and it’s that last 20%, you just don’t know, you’re bringing in someone, Johann would work with Hildur and then that piece would just transform into something else. Was it Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe? He’d worked with this incredible vocalist on the Arrival soundtrack and that soundtrack is, I think the best soundtrack of the last decade. I don’t know if you know the film or if you know the soundtrack, just listen to the soundtrack alone, it’s brilliant.
FHR: I think it’s the same with all of his soundtracks, I regularly just stick one on while I am working or something…actually it’s often distracting, and I end up listening to the music and not doing any work.
EC: We’re going to be quite geeky now, have you watched his First and Last Men? Watch it, and listen to the soundtrack, it’s fantastic. Hildur’s on there and Robert and another Icelandic bass player. I think you’ll really enjoy that, but anyway…
FHR: Now we’ve got a basic idea about you and your work, how did this project come about?
EC: They commissioned me to help tell this story. It was one of the last silent films, as you know, but it came at a time where it fell between the cracks, because the talkies were coming and people felt it was old hat, but now on reflection its beautifully put together. The artistry was quite cutting edge, so I see it as a kind of requiem for a dying art form. Off it goes and another art form replaces it. So, I kind of wanted to touch on that as this sub narrative of what is going on, as well as this sense of the fear of the other, for them it’s the wind, but I think it’s deeper than that, I think it’s fear of native Americans, Indians… and fear of isolation, loneliness, fear of mental and physical abuse. It touches on some very insular and dark themes, and the Mojave Desert wind is this prominent fighting force. Growing up on an island, just to answer your question, surrounded by wind, I felt some kind of connection. In the winter months from the end of September through to Feb it’s isolating and the weather dictates the terms of what happens that day.
So, they came to me, and I watched it…I muted the sound, because several people have done stuff, and I just muted the sound on YouTube and watched it and thought OK yeah, I’d be honoured to do it, but I’d like to set an ambitious manifesto. To just make the whole score out of the human voice, predominantly. So, all the electronic elements you hear, this kind of sound design, this distortion, these sub layers are actually made out of the… I think it was 12 singers voices. I did a pre-recording with them, it’s going to be 18 when we work on stage live but I’ve also got some recordings already and I manipulated them and I put them through a tape and I processed them in an interesting way and also my own voice. To my left here I have tape machines and microphones and so all these layers come out of the human, and everyone is so harmonically rich and different. I just thought that would be interesting, I’ve since added a few subtle additional layers, there’s a bit of woodwind, but for them most just the voice, but they don’t sing all the way through. This is what I noticed, other people who have approached the score, it was just kind of wall-to-wall music. Just back-to-back, what makes modern scores quite interesting, Johann in particular whilst we’re on the subject, is the use of silence and space, but in a silent film that’s harder to utilize because you’ve got no sound design, you’ve got no foley, you’ve got no sound effects. So, when you’re silent, you’re just silent again so I think people have just filled it with music, and so I’ve tried to turn that on its head…and go. There are three or four themes that happen throughout, and the rest is my own made sound design and using the wind of the Mojave Desert, processing it in a particular way and combining it with the women of the Opera North, of the chorus and doing some things that make it sound interesting to my ear. I’ve gone slightly mad.
I had these large fans and I put a valve on them so I could control the speed and I was blasting them at the piano with a speaker and I created a wind tunnel in the studio, and all of a sudden I started to distort it and I thought, interesting, now it sounds like the wind, now it sounds like the other, now it sounds really scary, now there’s something I can’t control. And the reason I got it, I was reading that when they did the film, they got loads of huge aeronautic propellers that would whip up this storm and I thought that must have been terrifyingly loud, that must have been full on. So that’s what I’ve done in the studio, made a wind tunnel. I’ve tried to imbue that into the score. So, actually thinking about it, talking to you about it for the first time, it might be closer to how it felt making the film. We’ll never know, but that’s how it feels. I can imagine that noise, the fake wind, because wind doesn’t have a sound, wind only makes noise when it rubs up against an object. So, that’s when I was looking at the science and that’s how I’ve approached it. So, what I mean by all this rambling is that I’ve tried to make sound design. Not foley, but sound design, so it’s got something so then I can cut it and have silence that feels like…ah I can have a break. So, it’s not just wall to wall music and the Opera North aren’t just singing from start to end because that would be too much, I think.
FHR: The decision to use the female voices in place of music, where did that idea come from?
EC: I just think the human voice is so harmonically rich, as I touched on, also the kind of Theatre of Voice as, what’s his name the composer, I forget his name. I started at 4 this morning on five different things.
[He is referring to Paul Hillier, the English composer, conductor and baritone who worked with Jóhan Jóhannsson on several of his later works.]
In fact, that heavily inspired the Arrival score, and I thought it would be interesting to not use a string quartet, to not use a big timpani drum, like everybody would. I thought I’m going to strip all of that out and just use the voice, and I guess it will either work or it won’t, but I guess the idea is just, it feels like it humanizes it a bit more to me. It kind of makes it feel more experimental as well and it makes it more challenging. I like to set parameters, or barriers, they’re not set in stone. I made them I can break them, it’s nice to do that. You know when you’re faced with a blank canvas, it’s no wonder people have writers block when they have every digital instrument on the planet at their disposal. I just use one synth, I love really learning one instrument, it’s a joy for me and using it in a way that maybe it shouldn’t be used or hasn’t been used or isn’t how it’s supposed to be used, then you get something interesting. And so, I knew I could take the voice and put it through other things, other processing. So, putting the voice through the filter of a synthesizer, suddenly sounds like a synthesizer but it’s not it’s still the voice. The sound source is organic, and I think that comes from me using predominantly, or I have used in my solo work a lot of field recordings, a lot of found sound and using found sound in a way that sounds familiar, but also kind of interesting and different. I guess that’s why, it probably came from there.
FHR: It says in your profile that you have an interest in the relationship between landscape and psychology. I guess we can say these things are intrinsically linked in this film and it’s pretty powerful stuff. Looking back and thinking this was made in 1928 and the themes and ideas are quite powerful and strong?
EC: I think the ending was changed, what actually happens in the end was supposed to be that she walks off into the wind, never to be seen again. Instead, she falls in love, and it’s like you’ll do let’s run off together. So American, so kind of… we can’t leave them with an unknown. To a modern audience now, we’d expect that question mark of this powerful woman…she leaves all the men in her life behind her and goes, I don’t need that, but they read it as she walks off and ultimately passes. All because she couldn’t deal with it. So, they said no because she was a producer, remind me her name…
FHR: Oh it’s Lillian Gish.
EC: She worked really hard to produce, put it together, fight to get the finance, to then have it pushed back at the end. The ending isn’t Hollywood enough. For then, the film to really not make a splash as it should have done. I think one review had said this film is ridiculous, the hats would have blown off their heads. They just wanted to hear talking and were fed up of that medium. Actually, we look at it now and think wow! With what they had at the time in 1929 or 1928…brilliant.
FHR: Yeah, it looks astonishing when you consider the year it was made. If you look at the silent films of that era and consider they didn’t have the budgets they have today. We can marvel at the creativity of the set designers and film makers responsible for the likes of Metropolis or Haxan and ask ourselves how they did it.
EC: Maybe, that’s another reason. They were limited in their technical ability and resources. I wanted to kind of do the same and kind of like limit, not just shove an orchestra on let’s not do a Zimmer-esque score, let’s think about it more. That would be more pleasing on the ear I think, I think an audience would probably have liked, and may have expected me to do a string quartet piece with piano and voice. When they asked me I just kind of said I will do it, but not in the way you probably think I’m going to do it. They were really open to just “you do whatever you want” but maybe as a tip of the hat to the limiting of resources, I’ve tried to limit my set of screwdrivers and tools.
Thanks very much to Erland Cooper for his time and for chatting to us. Just to round things up, the performance is going on a mini tour starting at the Sage, Gateshead on February 24th, RNCM Manchester on 25th February and closes at the Howard Assembly Room, Leeds on 26 February.
You can check out the trailer for The Wind on YouTube from the link below.
Tickets for the Manchester show are available here:
Tickets for the final performance in Leeds are available from:
The Hellebore Guide is produced by the same team that created the very popular Hellebore zine that has blossomed in the recent renaissance of indie specialist-interest zines and the revival of attention to occulture and folklore. They have taken their sphere of interest and distinctive design aesthetic forward into book format with this very handy and beguiling gazetteer of British ritual, weird-lore and magical creativity. In the introduction specific attention is brought to the 2 books that this guide could most oft be compared to, the Readers Digest Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain and Westwood & Simpson’s The Lore of The Land. The inspiration and similarities are worn on the sleeve but as Pérez Cuervo informs us, there is a difference that carries the themes forward and makes this work a useful companion to those other books mentioned. In addition to covering numerous sites of folklore, occult practice and strange history, this book also points us to places that inspired or in some instances were used as filming locations for numerous cult /horror novels, films and TV shows. Fans of M.R. James, Derek Jarman, Witchfinder General, The Owl Service and many other such creators and creations will find notes of interest therein. This richly illustrated book will fit handily into a backpack for onsite visits. One point that readers may raise is that due to size restraints certain localities or topics may not be covered in the greatest of detail but within its 316 pages a lot of ground is trekked. The book therefore can inspire further personal research and does offer scope for further volumes.
The Atlas of Dark Destinations however is not a book as easily taken out on location unless you have huge pockets as this is more of a weighty coffee-table book – lusciously illustrated but also incredibly informative. Again, as with The Hellebore Guide, the book cannot contain everywhere and everything but does cover considerable distance across the globe. As some countries are perhaps underrepresented there is again potential perhaps for a further volume. Hohenhaus, in his introduction, explains his reasoning for some omissions; he holds no truck with the visitation of living slums as tourist destinations nor does he favour notable suicide sites such as Japan’s legendary Aokigahara Forest. Serial Killer haunts and other singular murder sites are not represented but there is certainly no shortage of death behind the book’s dark cover. Sites of Genocide and wartime suffering are extremely well covered, with a lot of the book being taken up by sites of military and political intrigue. (Which upon showing the work to my 95 year old father, who was in internment and forced labour across Europe during WW2 and isn’t much of a reader generally gained a second review of the Atlas as being “A very good book”).
In addition to well known places covered within the book such as Chernobyl, Auschwitz, Hiroshima and 911 Ground Zero there are notable cemeteries, ossuaries, catacombs, penitentiaries, ghost towns and areas of natural wonder featured and some less familiar intriguing sites such as such as the ornate Milano Cimitero Monumentale necropolis, the Bali Trunyan Burial site and the Darvaza Hell Mouth (a 250 foot wide, 65 foot deep crater in Turkmenistan where an inferno fuelled by natural gas reserves has burned unabated for over 50 years.) Less obviously Fortean in subject-matter than The Hellebore Guide, and perhaps too heavily martial-politically focused for some readers of this magazine, The Atlas is nevertheless actually very readable and fascinating (in many instances particularly in provoking contemplation of humankind’s inhumanity towards each other.)
Both books could also be inspirational to fiction-writers as well as Fortean travellers, for use in setting location and back-story of their tales. Both books are designed to be dipped into rather than be read cover to cover and whether out on the road or in the comfort of my own arm-chair I can see myself delving into both titles for many years to come.
The premise of the Showtime series Yellowjackets following the 1996 stranding of a team of female high-school football (soccer) players, their coaches and one of the coach’s 2 teenage sons following a plane crash in a remote Canadian forest and the ensuing tribalism, primal instinct and desperate endeavour to survive, echoes tales such as William Golding’s 1954 novel ‘The Lord of The Flies’ (adapted to film in 1963, 1975 and 1990), the TV show ‘Lost’ (2004 -2010), the book and TV series ‘The Terror’ (adapted from Dan Simmons’ 2007 book in 2018) which was based on the true 1845 case of the disappearance of the ships HMS Terror and HMS Erebus in the Canadian Northwest Passage and the 1993 film ‘Alive’ directed by Frank Marshall which was based upon the true-life 1972 airplane crash that left members of the Uruguayan Old Christians Rugby Union Team stranded in the snow of the Andes for 72 days, (in which time cannibalism of those who did not survive the crash and aftermath was resorted to as a tragic but necessary means of survival). Add to the mix, the female coming of age drama of offbeat teen films such as ‘Heathers’ or ‘The Craft’ and that gives the basic gist of Yellowjackets. It is seasoned however with aesthetic and cult/occult elements of folk horror and also crime thriller action as the story also picks up in the present day following the lives of several of the survivors and how they are still haunted by the 19 horrific months they spent in the wilderness.
The narrative of the show flits between different periods of time in the main characters’ lives – before the crash – during their wilderness time – and 25 years later – so we see some of the roles played both by teen/young adult and middle aged actresses. This provides for good drama as we see the evolution of their inter-personal relationships which in adulthood here are as complex as their adolescent times – more-so because of what the weird feral period they shared and the strange experiences they have lived through. Experiences which are teased out slowly with a lot of speculation and anticipation inspired within the viewing community.
In the adult casting there is good interaction between some actresses familiar to the horror/ weird genres with Juliette Lewis cast as Nat (an off-off the wagon substance abuser who as played by Sophie Thatcher was an alternative teenager who despite their mutual love of football, was left-field to the other girls), Christina Ricci as Misty ( acted by Sammi Hanratty as a teen, another girl on the social fringes who desperately wants to fit in but as the story develops we discover alarming facets of her character) and Melanie Lynskey (perhaps known best in this community for her childhood role as Pauline Parker in Peter Jackson’s 1994 ‘Heavenly Creatures’, a retelling of a true murder case whereby childhood innocence was lost forever) as Shauna who both in adulthood and as a youth (played by Sophie Nelisse) has a complex relationship with sex and loyalty. The other adult survivor we encounter mostly in Season 1 is Taissa (played by Tawny Cypress and Jasmin Savoy Brown) a strong-willed character who has made a success in her life, both in law practice and then as a senate candidate; however her life is more haunted than she may project.
Other characters also lay paths of intrigue – Ben the only adult male and team coach to survive the crash, Van, Laura Lee – a born-again Christian and the enigmatic and mystical Lottie. I will not drop major spoilers but we are left curious wondering to how the fates of these characters will play out (there apparently being 5 seasons of the show planned, there is much to be revealed in time).
But there is another element to Yellowjackets and that is the presence of folk horror motifs. Following the discovery of an old seemingly-abandoned cabin in the woods, things begin to take an even stranger turn than the nightmare of being trapped miles from anywhere with an encroaching hard season and limited supplies, from having to pull dead friends, colleagues and in one instance a parent from the wreckage site of a plane crash and bury them. The cabin has a history and a mystery. A supernatural presence is in play, but is it real or the imaginative manifestation of traumatised, stressed minds? Was it there inherent, in the cabin – in the woods, or brought to the site by one or more of the team? Whatever it was did it stay there or did it follow the eventual survivors back to ‘civilisation’?
From the opening scenes of the very first episode we encounter a girl being hunted down in the snow, we see a fireside rite of fur-clothed and masked figures. We are led to believe that ritual cannibalism occurs (we are led to believe certain things throughout the series however only for the paths we are following to change direction) but certainly a new (or old?) religion starts to fall upon the survivors’ camp and tribute paid to gods of dirt and sky. A religion reluctant to stay in the woods perhaps. And who is the figure named by fans as the Antler Queen? The season leads us to believe it is a certain member of the team, but can we be sure that we have not been led on a path with branches and chicanes? And then there is the symbol. A mysterious sigil that seems to have predated the team’s descent into the forest but has followed them out of it, appearing on a postcard involved in a blackmail plot that several members.
I enjoyed the show and its genre-bending style and look forward to season 2.
I must confess that I watched Valdimar Jóhannsson’s Lamb (Dýrið) whilst having a goblet or two of Absinthe, but had I viewed it tea-total, I don’t think it would have been any less strange!! I don’t want to give away too much of the film but the basic premise is that a farming couple, Maria and Ingvar (played by Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason) living on a remote sheep-holding in Iceland discover that one of their animals has given birth to a very peculiar offspring. They develop a deep attachment to this progeny and it becomes like a child of their own. This strange scene of domestic bliss is strained by the arrival of Pétur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) the brother of Ingvar and, so it would seem, a previous lover of Maria, (or at the very least someone who would very much like that to be the case). But it transpires that he is not the only visitor to the isolated farm.
Lamb is slow to the point of being glacial. That is not a problem for me as I really like slow-burn movies and here it really suits both the plot and the setting. The desolate beauty of the Icelandic landscape seems to lend itself to atmospheric, introspective drama and the photography in the film is bleakly beautiful.
As with other A24 films that dwell in ‘folk horroresque’ fields, I can see that Lamb may prove to be a ‘Marmite’ movie that would provoke a divisive response between viewers ( I myself am of the camp that loves the current output of Robert Eggers but have little regard for the films of Ari Aster, which are very popular with some; but one person’s poison is another person’s meat.) Regarding Lamb I could see why some viewers would not like it, but I personally thought it was an unusual tale delivered well, with hints of a fairy-tale like narrative to it. It is worth noting though for viewers who have a sensitivity to animal death in film, that there are two animal deaths depicted in the film, one of which, the first has a specific narrative role but the latter is arguably unnecessary but serves as one of the film’s actual few ‘horror’ moments. For the most part Lamb does not play out as a ‘horror’ film as such but as a domestic drama (albeit it a very strange one) but its conclusion returns it firmly into a horror fold.
Antlers (2021), directed by Scott Cooper and based on the short story ‘The Quiet Boy’ by Nick Antosca, has in its promotion highlighted the production role of Guillermo del Toro, to whose films Antlers shares some similarities but shows some differences. Like a number of del Toro’s movies the principal backstory concentrates on children growing up in difficult circumstances, but the delivery here is darker and more desolate than del Toro’s presentations. That for me personally is not a problem, I like bleak movies. Another difference is that even though there is potential there for it, Antlers does not really share del Toro’s sympathy for monsters. Again personally I have no problem with that, but had the film been longer I would have liked to have seen more indication of the character of Frank Weaver (Scott Haze) and his relationship with his children prior to the strange and brutal circumstances that befell them.
Frank Weaver, a single father following the death of his wife, supports his family by brewing and selling Methamphetamine in a town in Oregon that has been beset by social and economic difficulties (actually filmed in beautiful British Columbia). Whilst in an abandoned mine that he uses as a lab, he encounters a very strange and very dangerous creature. His colleague and his son Aiden (Sawyer Jones) are both also attacked, his drug partner being killed outright. Following the assault, Frank and Aiden begin to sicken and grow increasingly feral. Locked into a room, they are cared for by another son Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas) who brings food to them, which in the case of the father often consists of roadkill. Dealing with being a young home carer to his father and sibling in the weirdest and direst of circumstances, as well as coping with the grief of losing his mother, has a noticeable effect on the child. He is overly thin and his clothing is threadbare. Small, quiet, insular, poor and unconventional, Lucas is sadly the target of bullying. This concerns his new teacher Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) who has returned to the town where she grew up, sharing her childhood home with her brother Paul Meadows (Jesse Plemons) following the death of her father. A victim of childhood abuse herself at the hands of her father (her mother dying whilst Julia and Paul were still children) upon seeing the character and condition of Lucas as well as his grisly drawings, fears that the boy may be a victim of abuse at home. The school principal (Amy Madigan) pops around the child’s home to assess the situation and that is when hell breaks loose.
The delivery of the film situates itself between a slow-burn social realism horror and a more mainstream creature-feature, which doesn’t in this instance for me completely work. The horror SFX are fairly visceral and delivered well enough but they seem somehow a bit out of place. I would have preferred more of the gore and violence to have been implied rather than shown, but the literal nature of the beast in this film is bloody so a proportion of viewers may have felt that to remove this component would dull the film. Again, because of treading two stylistic paths it could perhaps be felt that not enough characterisation was given to certain roles, situations and backstories. The amount of attention given to Julia and Paul’s own childhood trauma and grief feels perhaps underrepresented but film has a limited timescale generally and the time allocated for the overall narrative is enough where Antlers is concerned; if this film were any longer it would be too long. This is not because it is a bad film that I wanted to end as soon as possible, but because the horror aspect of it that dominated the final third played out following familiar tropes in a more conventional horror film manner and in that sense did not offer anything really that has not been seen before.
Because the story is based on the lore of the Wendigo of some Native North American peoples, but has been made by predominantly non-native creators and cast there is the risk of potential exploitation / appropriation and of colonial-hangover misrepresentations of the ‘Other’. Although some viewers / readers may feel generally weary and wary of sociopolitical considerations in film-making and reviews, if as a creative you are inspired to write about and film an aspect of another culture, whether for fiction or documentary purposes, I believe there is a duty of being sensitive, respectful and factually correct. (Personally as an artist who frequently works with the folklore and legends of varied cultures, I don’t believe that non-sacred lore is necessarily off-limits to representation by someone of a different society or ethnicity nor that mythic representation should be racially segregated at all, but I do believe that it is important that appropriate attention is given to the beliefs and considerations of other people and that no exploitation occurs.)
I watched Antlers with my girlfriend Erin, who has Mi’kmaq ancestry and who holds an interest in Wendigo mythology, and I was curious to see what her opinion of the film would be. There is the matter that the main protagonists are all white, with the only First Nation character, Warren Stokes (Graham Greene) seemingly only being there to give exposition to the police and school teacher regarding Wendigo lore upon seeing the child’s drawings and the medicine protection put up in the tunnel meth lab. The main family in this film could have been Native American, but if them alone, a risk there would be a negative representation as the family were socially troubled and the father (though perhaps by necessity to provide for his family) was a criminal. To have all the cast Native American could’ve been a possibility but that would remove the discovery and shock element of the supernatural invading regular life for the Wendigo concept would likely have already been familiar to all concerned. However, due to the relevance of native belief to the film’s core it would have been good to see a stronger First Nation role and presence. Although the Wendigo is a spirit, it is not a sacred figure as such so the film does not demonise a god or religious tenet. The Wendigo myth though is more than just a fireside bogey man story for it represents a Taboo – a forbidden practice – namely that of cannibalism. In times of famine some Native American tribes would hold a ceremony to remind and warn of the prohibition and spiritual danger of anthropophagy.
For Erin, the meteorological setting of the film was brought into question, for winter is seen more as the time of starvation and would have befit the film better. Set at the dirty end of autumn, Jack o’ Lanterns still on display rather than Christmas decorations, there is a chill in the air and damp a plenty, which does certainly add to the bleak atmosphere, but a wintry setting would perhaps represent desperate hunger more. The social realist aspect of the plight of the afflicted family with Lucas’ emaciated condition and desperation to find food for his increasingly ravenous family does symbolically relate to the myth as perhaps does the father’s production of methamphetamine- a drug that can diminish appetite replacing it with a craving addiction and in the cases of prolonged addiction lead to the emaciation of the user as if they were being devoured from inside by a possessing spirit.
The physical appearance of the Wendigo is a debated point. Warren Stokes’ description of it in the film does state that it can take different forms. This applies also according to the old lore. In some cases it humanoid but very wizened and gaunt, in other tales it is seen as a gigantic figure and in others more animal than man. The antlers which give the film its name and one of the strongest individualistic representations of the Wendigo are not always to be found in the older myths. For Erin and many though, the antlers are an integral factor in the form and nature of the Wendigo. Its representation in the film is done well enough and the final transformation from human form into that of the monster is a distinctive element of the movie, though I myself am undecided whther it revealed too much and that less would be more or whether it is needed for the film to make a distinctive stamp on the cinematic genre.
In conclusion, I think I liked Antlers but did not love it. Further viewings may endear it to me more or possibly leave me colder. It promised more than it delivered, that there was something not quite fulfilling about it but perhaps that is the way it should be, like a Wendigo hunger that cannot be satiated and always a craving for more.
Sarah Caldwell Steele – Proprietor of The Ebor Jetworks, Gemologist, Jewellery Designer and expert in all things Jet from its chemistry, through its history to its folklore
Dr Rowe – Folk lore expert. Dr ‘Doc’ Rowe has been documenting British Cultural tradition for nearly sixty years using video, film and photography as well as audio. His unique collection of contemporary and historical material on the traditional culture of the British Isles and Ireland is now housed in Whitby. The strength of the collection lies in its ongoing ‘serial’ fieldwork and regular contact with communities where individual events flourish – hence the material is at once wide-ranging, first hand and constantly updated. A long-term council member of the Folklore Society and Oral History Society, he regularly broadcasts on aspects of folklore and tradition he has also written a number of books and his photographs are regularly published. A teacher, photographer, broadcaster and performer, one major inspiration stems from working with Charles Parker in Radio documentary from the early sixties and in later theatre productions. . As well as a number of one-man exhibitions, he joined artists Alan Kane and Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller in a British Council travelling exhibition ‘Folk Archive: Contemporary Popular Art from the UK’ [2005 and still touring internationally]; he contributed to ‘British Folk Art’ [Tate Britain, 2014] and, more recently, ‘Lore – the Living Archive’ is an Arts Council funded travelling exhibition that curated material from the archive alongside contemporary artists who drew creative inspiration from the archive itself. www.docrowe.org.uk
Shrouded Republic – A performance piece inspired by Rev. Robert Kirk of Aberfoyle author of “The Secret Commonwealth: A Study in Folklore and Psychical Research.” Project Lono is a collaborative collective of musicians and poets experimenting with audio scapes that blend verse, storytelling, song, music and live and recorded sound effects. The Shrouded Republic has been created by Bob Beagrie, Sara Dennis, Kev Howard, Peter Lagan, John Dunleavy and SJ Forth. https://projectlono.bandcamp.com/album/the-shrouded-republic-the-whole-trip
Richard Freeman – Herpetologist, Cryptozoologist and leading expert all things Dragon.
Richard Freeman is a former zookeeper who has worked with over 400 species of animal and has a special interest in crocodiles. He is a full-time cryptozoologist and is the Zoological Director of The Centre for Fortean Zoology, the world’s only professional organization dedicated to searching for unknown species. He has searched for cryptids n five continents and has investigated creatures such as the yeti, the Tasmanian wolf, the orang-pendek, the giant anaconda, the Mongolian deathworm the almasty, the ninki-nanka, the gul and many others. He is currently planing a series of trips in search of giant,man-eating crocodiles. He has lectured widely on cryptozoology at venues such as The Natural History Museum and the Grant Museum of Zoology. He has written a number of books on cryptozoology and folklore as well as horror fiction. His interest in strange creatures stems from a love of classic Doctor Who.
Hazelsong Theatre – Talk on John McKinnell with attendant, vaguely tame Wyrm or two. Tales of Wyrms and Dragons have woven their way through the folklore of the North of England and of the borders for generations. Drawing upon a multitude of sources Andy Bates and Linda Richardson will explore these stories and their origins and will track them to their roots in Norse, Anglo Saxon and Celtic literature and iconography Andy and Linda will be accompanied in their presentation by an imposing and unpredictable Wyrm of significant sinuousness.Andy Bates is an archaeologist, a craftsman, a musician, a puppet maker, a writer and performer. He has walked the hills of Northumberland, its fields and its river valleys for decades. He has listened to the voices of wind and water telling their stories and those of folk long gone and those still vital. He has delved into its earth and has witnessed its cradling of the bones of the ancestors. He dug at the Bowl Hole. For Andy and for the troupe, rock cut spirals and waterfalls are songs waiting to be sung.https://bamburghbones.org/projects/hazelsong/
Chris Lambert of The Soulless Party. A solo piece from the wordsmith and wanderer of The Black Meadow. A mystical place that lies within the wilds of Yorkshire. Author of the Wyrd Kalendar, Chris will fright and delight with his dramatic and immersive storytelling. Chris is part of the soundscape collective The Soulless Party which also features Kev Oyston. https://thesoullessparty.bandcamp.com/ https://wyrdkalendar.blogspot.com/
Nathalie Stern. Of Swedish origin but now living in Newcastle, Nathalie served her apprenticeship in guitar-based bands such as Candysuck and Lake Me, before looking to traditional Swedish folk roots and more experimental sounds for her debut solo album ‘Firetales’ in 2010. https://nathaliesternmusic.bandcamp.com/music
ATTRITION are pioneers in a darker electronica…Carving out a unique slice of the creative underground for over two decades, fueled by a succession of critically acclaimed albums…selling over 50,000 to date…the band has toured all Europe and North America, Mexico and Asia, appeared at major festivals and had their music included on a number of film soundtracks…. Formed in 1980 by Martin Bowes and Julia Waller in Coventry, England, influenced by a mix of punk ideology and experimental art aesthetics, they emerged as part of the early ’80’s UK Industrial scene alongside contemporaries Test Department, Coil, Legendary Pink dots, In The Nursery, Portion Control et al. Their music is an undefinable marriage of dark and light…of futures and pasts…probing unexplored sonic landscapes with an eclectic marriage of experimental and traditional sound, of electronics and acoustics, of male and female….https://attritionuk.bandcamp.com/
It might be spooky season now, but you can write and publish horror all year round! Tune in to the Lulu learn what makes a great horror story and tips for getting started in the genre from Andy Paciorek, author, illustrator and founder of Folk Horror Revival, Urban Wyrd Project, Northumbria Ghost Lore Society & Wyrd Harvest Press .
In this session, Andy will share his tips, tricks and treats for writing and publishing harrowing horror stories.
This event is the opening night and meet and greet of the artists of Wyrms and Other Beasties Art Exhibiton of FHR Winter Ghosts 2021 Symposium. The date is SATURDAY, 30 OCTOBER 2021 FROM 19:00-23:45. It is being held at Flowergate Hall, Whitby, United Kingdom. The exhibition runs up until November 28th.
In search of Wyrms and other Beasties! This the opening night and meet and greet the artists of the selling art exhibition associated with our FHR Winter Ghosts 2021 Symposium We Have Wyrms! There also maybe the odd admin lurking about too!We would love to see you.
Please may I introduce Cobweb Mehers, artist and FHR admin. Cobweb lives in a little house at the edge of the world with his wife Kt and their cats Tiamat and Baal. He claims to have been sculpting and painting for as long as he can remember, but it’s been longer than that. For many years he concentrated on creating artifacts based around mythical and historical themes for @eolithdesigns. His sculptures inspired by prehistoric art were sold in conjunction with the British Museum’s Ice Age art exhibition in 2013 and included a recreation of The Swimming Reindeer especially created for the event. His work has also appeared in the Severin Films horror anthology, The Theatre Bizarre, and he continues to work with Finnish director Lauri Löytökoski. Cobweb’s involvement with the Folk Horror Revival movement over the past few years has taken his more recent work down a different path. He returned to painting and started work on a new collection called Beyond the fields we know, which is inspired by the history, folklore, and landscape of the North Pennines. In 2019 these 13 paintings made up his first solo exhibition. He likes to immerse himself in the strange and beautiful world on his doorstep, spending cold nights and sunny days wandering the North Pennines in the company of fairies, witches, and lost gods. Many of his pieces begin life using the technique of automatic drawing to bypass the rational and form a more instinctive relationship with the landscape. These initial raw responses to the places visited are then expanded upon with a mixture of traditional and digital painting. He hopes to capture and recreate those rare glimpses of the world at the edges of our vision and beyond the fields we know.
Next we have our 3D artist, have you seen her Witch Hares? Jane Barnett was taught to embroider by her grandmother, and has been stitching and making art since she was a little girl. Her interest in mythology, magic and folklore led to her taking a degree in anthropology and art, and ever since she has combined all of these interests together. After a career working as an education officer in museums and galleries, Jane became a tattoo studio owner and artist. Ill health unfortunately meant she could not continue on this path, but gave her instead, the time and opportunity to concentrate on her own art practice. Jane has sold her work in galleries in Brittany and Wales (were she formally lived), and internationally, but is now back in her home territory of Yorkshire working under the title of Brigante Textile Arts. Jane hopes that textiles and fibre arts will eventually be recognized as a valid medium for artistic expression. She is also passionate about recycling, and tries to make art from second hand or found materials, including floorboards. For this reason, she can often be found hanging around charity shops, skips, beaches, in woods or abandoned buildings. Her favourite place to be however, is on the moors…..usually accompanied by her partner and dogs. Her favourite things include a good full moon, storms and the smell of wood smoke.
Next we have for your delectation the scarily talented Laura Jeacock! Laura Jeacock is a trained scientist, but left academia in 2018 to focus her energies on creating art. Her work to date includes devotional paintings of Deity, as well as witchcraft and nature inspired pieces of artwork. She likes to work with pencil, pen and ink, watercolours and acrylics – from illustrative to realistic, and usually incorporates some magical, pagan or spiritual element. Nature is her muse! Her art has been published in academic journals dedicated to Goddess studies, as well as in Nature journal. She has previously exhibited her work at the Season’s of the Witch exhibition, alongside fellow witch artists, in Edinburgh and Alloa. She is one of the founding members of the art collective Oak and Ash and Thorn, who create art from a shared deep feeling for the themes of nature and magic, and are working towards their second online exhibition. She currently lives in Edinburgh, with her partner and menagerie of familiars. When she not creating she can be found out in the wilds of Scotland, practicing yoga, or buried in an esoteric book. You can find her lurking in various corners of the internet – here is a good place to start: https://linktr.ee/laura.jeacock
We now would like to introduce you to the amazing Valerie Herron, who is contributing all the way from the USA!!! Valerie Herron is a Pacific Northwest-based illustrator of the mythological, the macabre, and the absurd. She received her BFA in Illustration at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, OR. Valerie has created art for numerous publications, including The Steel Clan Saga by T. Thorn Coyle, Night Walk by Aeryn Rudel, as well as two Lovecraft anthologies – The Book of Starry Wisdom and The Book of the Three Gates – by Strix Publishing. Valerie has created art and content for multiple entertainment media enterprises such as RiffTrax, Faerieworlds, Privateer Press, and Pacific NorthWEIRD. Outside of her creative practice she spends her time listening to music and podcasts, being out in nature, playing with her animals, writing, reading, gaming, and exploring a myriad of sorcerous activities. Please go and give her art page some FHR love – The Art of Valerie Herron.
Skulls and Sheets (Kelda Sproston) is a teacher by day and hobby artist at night. She has been entranced by the Welsh festive mumming tradition of the Mari Lwyd. The mari lwyd (grey mare) is a symbol of transition and has a huge impact in her life. Through using inspirations from nature, artwork or patterns the mari lwyd is able to display a message of hope all year now. Kelda creates her pictures using either watercolours or digitally.
(My apologies for missing Kelda in the first submission of this post- Paul.)
Lastly we have Debra Snow. In her own words. I am primarily a landscape oil painter based in Whitby, North Yorkshire, although I also produce drawings in metalpoint, charcoal and pen and ink. My paintings are usually intricate or decorative, are sensitive to mood and light, reflecting my feelings towards what I am painting.I love nature and ecology and have a keen interest in preserving species and environment, this interest leads me to other areas; the science of the natural world, folklore, poetry and literature. I like the human element in these interests, the stories and knowledge that people share. I do not profess to be any kind of expert in these fields, more that they spark my interest and allow me to imagine stories and feelings surrounding the subject. I like my imagination to go off on its own, without worrying too much about specific details, I want my paintings to go on and tell their own story.
Whisht! Lads, haad yor gobs,An' Aa'll tell ye 'boot the wyrms ...
On the weekend of 27th & 28th November 2021 Folk Horror Revival are proud to present Winter Ghosts 2021 ~ a veritable feast of Cryptid inspired wonders at Whitby North Yorkshire. On Saturday 27th 2021 the Metropolitan Ballroom (The Met) will present a fantastic mixture of Talks and Live Music. Whilst on Sunday 28th 2021, there will be session of story-telling in the Flowergate Hall which will also be hosting a phenomenal Folk Horror Revival otherworldly cryptid Art Exhibition at the time …
In the first of several posts let us introduce you to the wealth of talent that will delight your senses …
A T T R I T I O N
“Inside a cage of sound, Cold waves of electronics are juxtaposed against voices that seep through cracks in the walls of machinery and wires. Lyrics dart out in bullets from soundscapes peppered in sharp vocals and sound bites. A viola plays in the distance, giving life to this inorganic mass… Such is the imagery that spawns Attrition, who, with its marriage of the classic and modern, has brought to music the equivalent of a surrealist painting. From its earlier sparse and stark soundscapes, to a more expansive palette of orchestral work, Attrition has successfully melded several genres into one. The music flows – from gothic to industrial to experimental to classical – so smoothly, they might as well be making their own category. With more than twenty albums of constant variety, and an ever-expanding sound, they remain one of music’s darker and fascinating lights.” Akane
ATTRITION are pioneers in a darker electronica. Formed in 1980 in Coventry, England, influenced by a mix of punk ideology and experimental art aesthetics, they emerged as part of the early ’80’s UK Industrial scene alongside contemporaries Coil, Test Department, Legendary Pink Dots, In The Nursery, Portion Control et al. Founder Martin Bowes has steered the band through a 40 year career, fuelled by a succession of critically acclaimed albums…
The band has regularly toured Europe, North America and South America, Russia and Asia, appeared at major festivals and had their music included on a number of TV and film soundtracks….
Through their career Attrition have worked with musicians as diverse as Wolfgang Flur, psychedelic veterans The Legendary Pink Dot’s , punk legend TV Smith to Franck Dematteis of the Paris Opera.
Attrition’s music has featured on countless releases – from 1984’s “Bullshit detector 3” on Crass records to the hugely successful “Animal liberation” album alongside Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Smiths, Nina Hagen & Lene Lovich etc…
Their song “Acid Tongue” featured on KTEL’s Industrial story CD – a who’s who of industrial music with Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Ministry, Nitzer Ebb, Neubauten et al…
In Germany Orkus magazine’s Best of the 90’s collection featured their darkwave classic “A girl called harmony”… Martin’s increasing studio production work at his studio, The Cage, has included mixes for The Damage Manual (Martin Atkins, Jah Wobble, Geordie Walker, Chris Connelly et al…), Die Form, In the Nursery, Black tape for a Blue girl, Mona Mur/En Esch and mastering for countless bands and labels… He contributes synths and vocals on a song on the last Pigface album, is the narrators voice on US horror series, “C for Chaos”, has written the score to US horror film G.H.O.S.T from Mutantville productions … Their most recent album, Millions of the Mouthless Dead (inspired by Martin’s grandfathers experiences on the Western Front in 1917) includes collaborations with Anni Hogan (known for her work with Marc Almond through the 80’s) and the legendary Wolfgang Flur (ex-Kraftwerk)…
ATTRITION toured in the UK, Italy, New Zealand, Transylvania, Canada and Japan in 2018/19, and are currently working on an all new album for release later in 2021: The Black Maria. Meanwhile setting up shows around the world in support of it…
“Attrition have always been a nexus of industrial fury, gothic drama, ambient structural finesse and classical chamber orchestrations. Stunning in scope, character and intellect, Martin Bowes has been a paragon of true creative prowess, holding in two hands the past and future of music, and smashing them together with a calculated and charismatic menace. Bowes builds his dark industrial music with all the compassion and attention to detail of a classical musician…”
Dr ‘Doc’ Rowe has been documenting British Cultural tradition for nearly sixty years using video, film and photography as well as audio. His unique collection of contemporary and historical material on the traditional culture of the British Isles and Ireland is now housed in Whitby. The strength of the collection lies in its ongoing ‘serial’ fieldwork and regular contact with communities where individual events flourish – hence the material is at once wide-ranging, first hand and constantly updated. A long-term council member of the Folklore Society and Oral History Society, he regularly broadcasts on aspects of folklore and tradition he has also written a number of books and his photographs are regularly published. A teacher, photographer, broadcaster and performer, one major inspiration stems from working with Charles Parker in Radio documentary from the early sixties and in later theatre productions. . As well as a number of one-man exhibitions, he joined artists Alan Kane and Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller in a British Council travelling exhibition ‘Folk Archive: Contemporary Popular Art from the UK’ [2005 and still touring internationally]; he contributed to ‘British Folk Art’ [Tate Britain, 2014] and, more recently, ‘Lore – the Living Archive’ is an Arts Council funded travelling exhibition that curated material from the archive alongside contemporary artists who drew creative inspiration from the archive itself. www.docrowe.org.uk
‘Wyrms and Dragons of the Northlands’
By Andy Bates and Linda Richardson of Hazelsong Theatre
Tales of wyrms and dragons have woven their through the folklore of the North of England and of the Borders for generations. Drawing upon a multitude of sources, Andy Bates and Linda Richardson will explore these stories and their origins and will track them to their roots in Norse, Anglo Saxon and Celtic literature and iconography.
Andy and Linda will be accompanied in their presentation by an imposing and unpredictable wyrm of significant sinuousness.
Andy Bates is an archaeologist, a craftsman, a puppet maker and a performer. Linda Richardson is an artist, a costume maker, a performer and a writer. Together they are half of Hazelsong Theatre, whose work is rooted in the songs, stories, myth and folklore of the North and the Borderlands. The troupe creates performances which bring together storytelling, music, puppetry, theatre and ritual and all borne of the knowledge that these stories and songs are vital and very much alive. Hazelsong is working at the edge of the village, where the human world meets the wild and the imaginal, and where there is so much at stake.
Chris Lambert of The Soulless Party presents:
March of the Meadow Hags
“I bit into a pear once and tasted nothing but blood and gristle.” (from a conversation with an old man by Stanley Coulton.)
An audio visual and musical experience in which one of the strangest and darkest chapters in the history of the Black Meadow is explored.
Stay out of the mist…
Chris Lambert has been writing since 1991, creating plays for Tilt, Voice, Workswell Productions and his own company Exiled Theatre. He won the 2012 Reading playwright competition, Off the Block. Since then he has turned his hand to short stories and is completely stuck on his novel. Chris is part of The Soulless Party and has been working with Yorkshire musician Kev Oyston on the Black Meadow project inspired by the strange folk tales surrounding the North York Moors. He is founder member of experimental Mummer troupe The Mummers and the Pappers who have made appearances at two Delaware Road festivals. He has curated two albums “Songs from the Black Meadow” and “Wyrd Kalendar” for Mega Dodo that include tracks by The Hare and the Moon, Tir Na Nog, The Rowan Amber Mill, Alison O’Donnell, Concretism and Keith Seatman. He has had the pleasure of being Master of Ceremonies for Folk Horror Revival at the British Museum, Edinburgh and Whitby Winter Ghosts and for Mega Dodo and Fruits de La Mer at Séance at Syds. Chris is also a secondary school Drama and Film Teacher and occasionally dabbles in sound art.
Published works by Chris Lambert include: “Tales from the Black Meadow”, “The Black Meadow Archive – Volume 1”, “Christmas on the Black Meadow”, Songs from the Black Meadow” and “The Comic Mystery Plays” published by Exiled. His selection of short stories “Wyrd Kalendar” (illustrated by Andy Paciorek) is published by Wyrd Harvest Press. The plays “Ship of Fools”, “The Simple Process of Alchemy”, “Ugga (A play about a boy with a paper bag on his head)” and “Loving Chopin” are all published by Stagescripts. His short stories “First Step” and “Treehouse” have been published in “The Dead Files” anthologies volumes IV and V; “The Catalogue” and “Pilot” in “Tales of the Damned”; “The Eight Words” in “Dark Spirits”; “The Patient” and “The Most Precious Possession” in The Ghastling.