Once you know what to look for, you realize that folk horror things are all around you. Sometimes in unexpected places.
Like, in a Public Safety Advertisement.
Or an insurance commercial.
It might not be a surprise to find folk horror motifs in the music of Kate Bush
Ms. Sid was surprised to find them in the Pro-Wrestling world.
Remember how context is everything? And how sweet things may not be as benign as they seem?
Folk Horror narratives are always looking to the past via traditions or occurrences in order to effect the present and future and to make things “like they were in the olden days.” As time has passed, the olden days have moved up. This passage of time has created a shift in Folk Horror to a new genre….Urban wyrd
Urban Wyrd is about small communities, strange coincidences, odd ceremonies, strangers dealing with the consequences of not minding their own business, but it is set in a urban or suburban landscape. There are many films that fall in this category, with the added delight of being much more varied in the culture and language of the setting. They may still be set in the past, but they are not bucolic in tone.
Urban Wyrd and recent Folk Horror forrays have also brought the sense of nostalgia up to date. Now the 1980s are considered “the golden days of yore.” Streaming media services have made a much wider range of films and shows available to very large audiences. Several shows have been especially notable.
“Black Spot” is a visually rich and compelling tale set in the current day in the mountains of France. ( Yes, they have rural mountains in France). Although the tale takes place in the woods, it is centered around a community that was established for modern production lines and communication technologies. Over time, the economic status of the community has changed and people are struggling which, of course, primes them for some spooky stuff. This was originally filmed in French, but has excellent dubbing for several languages.
Really Really Big Spoilers Ahead
Another excellent series on Netflix is “Dark”.
This show is deceptively simple looking- but you really need a flow chart to keep track of the intertwining lines of plot and circumstance. It is a German production and has excellent dubbing. Much of the story takes place in 1980’s Germany and the level of historical accuracy is amazing and also incredibly disconcerting for someone who was an observant teen in the 1980’s. Like so many of the stories recommended in Coney Craftoween, this plot benefits from repeated viewings. Reference notes might be appreciated by some viewers. Here is an excellent video that explains so much but understand that is discloses a lot of the show.
Ms. Sid’s current favorite Urban Wyrd deep dive is “True Detective” from HBO.
This show has interesting links to many other stories in the genre. It is inspired by Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, a collection of short stories published in 1895 which was a tremendous influence on H.P. Lovecraft. “True Detective” is a true crime horror show and does have graphic depictions of violence, abuse, and death. It also depicts dysfunctional relationships, mental illness, and substance abuse. There are several seasons in the anthology series. The seasons stand alone but are linked in an overall framework like American Horror Story. To date there are 3 seasons- the first that debuted in 2014 stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as Louisiana homicide detectives who initially investigate a case in 1995 only to have to revisit it 17 years later.
This show won many awards and nominations and it clearly was influenced by classic folk horror film. People show up suddenly in animal masks, there are odd rituals, and there are seasonal cycles to the activities just like in “The Wicker Man”. This series has in turn become an influence on other film makers. Creator Nicholas Austin Pizzolatto and “Midsommar” creator Ari Aster both use the color yellow as an identifier for things and people who are occupying liminal spaces. Additionally, the creators also have their characters create combinations of human body parts and natural objects like branches and antlers to create super creatures.
“True Detective” uses a type of apotropaic object as a part of the plot- all through the season are appearances of Devil Traps- a type of HooDoo magic charm constructed of twigs meant to trap evil spirits. This is an obvious link to the twig figures used in “The Blair Witch Project” .
The sets and costumes are the type of effortless looking scenes that are incredibly detailed and engineered so they seem effortless. But make no mistake- everything you see and hear in this series in intentional.
Nic Pizzolatto did extensive research to bring his ideas to life.
The compelling nature of the story has generated an incredible amount of fan art and educational discourse.
Perhaps the most compelling thing about the series are the frequently delivered maxims of one of the main characters, Rust Cohle, who embraces the philosophy of pessimism as a way of life. Revisiting this character’s musings in 2020 is unsettling to say the least.