Cults, human sacrifice, and pagan sex: how folk horror flower is back in the UK Britain to leave the EU

Folk-horror sounds like a contradiction in itself, as a mixture of Aran knitting and paranoia, morris-dancing and carnage. Mark Gatiss popularized the phrase, which are suitable, since The League helped the men, the seeds, the genus of the recent revival. The League found the funny in The Wicker Man, although it was not difficult to find: it was always difficult to take seriously a movie where a strutting, bewigged Christopher Lee as full of sound as disguised orders Edward Woodward, as a grumpy fool-in-a-Punch-in costume-to: “Cut some capers, man! Use Your Bubble!”

According to Gatiss, folk horror Central trinity consists of three films from the late 1960s and early 70s: Michael Reeves ‘Witchfinder General, a deep story of sadism and revenge, the lead in East Anglia during the civil war; Piers Haggard, Blood on Satan’s Claw, in which a cult of young people hundreds of years ago to commit a series of murders to the incarnate, Satan in the landscape; and Robin hardy’s The Wicker Man, a policeman, a human sacrifice for the island-dwelling heathens.

However, a new wave has in the last ten years. It includes: Ben Wheatley’s Kill list begins as Get Carter, with killers on a job, and ends with a terrible twist; David Keating, eerie, bloody Wake Wood, to name a few, a village after the death of her daughter; and, in print, Andrew Michael Hurley’s recent gloomy masterpiece” The Loney, in a family go on a pilgrimage to a Shrine, finding a cure for the older brother.

Folk horror is the theme of the new season in the Barbican, presents the dark dreams of great Britain has of itself. The movies pick up on folk the Association with the trunk and the roots. And our master turns out to be a wild: the scenery, the ports, forget the atrocities of the old ways, untouched by modernity and marked by half-forgotten rituals.

Lascivious glance … Blood on Satan’s Claw. Photo: Tigon/RGA

It is a place that is both alluring and threatening. The films are symptoms of the disease, pretending to diagnose it: the manifestations of our troubled, citified answer to everything natural, beautiful and not mechanically. Sometimes, these searches work, too nervous to us by fear, while they reach for an enchanted vision of the landscape and the quietness of the countryside. But the ecstatic peace, by Samuel Palmer, the images of Shoreham, or Wordsworth ‘ s universal Cumbria, did not sit well with gothic shudders. The fear makes the idyll and more likely to present as a visionary, great Britain, folk horror is reminiscent of a country haunted by the ghosts of the past, old nightmares, by sex.

You can stitch play into the ridiculous, but with surprising seriousness of these films, nevertheless, a three-way philosophical debate between enlightened rationalism, of Orthodox Christianity and restored paganism. Sex is the core of the debate: exactly how these films, both of which love most of all, and the recoil from the natural beauty, the human beauty of entrances and encounters.

Therefore, the repeated moment to seduce a young, beautiful blonde woman (Linda Hayden in Blood on Satan’s Claw, Britt Ekland in The Wicker man) seduces some of the ascetic outsider, like a pale imitation of Salome, the attempt of John the Baptist. So we have suits tight-lipped Woodward, sweating in his neatly ironed sleep, while a naked Ekland bustles and hums in the adjacent bedroom.

In the best films, Kill list, for example, the conspiracy coven Joker only deals with the Manipulation of the lonely dupe, and duping the audience in the process. The agnostics, and Christians are confused and doubtful, while the pagans and Satanists are smugly know. You are in the gag.

The films have a recurring archetype: the arrival of a stranger, the discovery of a secret cult, a shameful murder, perhaps a victim to propitiate the pagan gods. The metropolitan visitor, the outsider from the mainland, arrives in a strange situation for you and for us. Here are the enlightened laws of the nation do not apply. In these forgotten spaces, there are other laws: rules and rituals, known both as the remains of some of the tribe there-the memory is still completely foreign. The locals do not understand, while we do it. The rooting in place is eerie. Once, almost everyone was so rooted. But now, in the discontinuous world of the modern age, where relationships are casual, and the work comes and goes – feels foreign and even scary.

Sadism and revenge, in East Anglia … Witchfinder General. Photo: Allstar/AIP

As the stories progress, the lone figure, caught up in the myth and rite. Alan Garner’s wonderful novel,” The Owl Service, which adapted for TV, follows this pattern: it is based on a Welsh myth about a woman created from flowers, betrays her husband and turns into an owl. Here, as in other folk-tales of horror, wherein, in a myth of a fall from the industry, supermarket world is frightening, in a possessed by the abyssal powers. In these dramas, The Golden Bough gothic.

For, even if it is only a question of sex versus asceticism, we would be just a load of re-enactment of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. But in the folk-horror, the amount of the individual destroyed. You are not against some of the abandoned witch, but a sect. It is not the government, to get to you, but your neighbors. You’ll be killed, but you can’t protest, because it is the will of the people. The majority prevails.

But this victory for “decent people” looks manic: the smiles are forced, all doubts suppressed. In their representation of the masses, these films are a kind of power, the worship of the mob over the individual. Later we can add the page with a different amount, the revengers, but that the identification of such dehumanizing. As long as there is blood and suffering, we should be satisfied.

In two plants on one edge of the genre – David Rudkin the BBC drama Penda’s Fen and Peter Shaffer’ s play Equus – the sexual confusion is also at work. But, even though it is horror, there is no murderous lot. Of the most jaded psychiatrist in Equus, the young man, he is the treatment has an enviable ecstasy, even if the young people have sexual feelings and instinct for worship is addressed to a horse. Behind all of Freudianism, the game, the root tap is a connection to the wild.

Penda’s Fen, meanwhile, somehow Edward Elgar, a coming-out, in rural the England of the 1970s, religious doubt, the cold war paranoia, and an encounter between a high school students, and the last pagan king of England manages to bring together. It is a dream of renewal: the landscape stands against the cold rationalism, against the industry. Like Equus, the most, was filmed in 1977 and recently revived with Daniel Radcliffe, the folk-horror to its fertile . The connection – the religious experience – it is a lonely figure. There are no crow’s lot. These are not stories of forced, nor human sacrifice, but of self – “dark, true, impure and dissonant,” as Rudkin. In both, a lonely boy, trying to summon up a mystical intensity, vision and reality blur.

What is different and striking here is that it is forbidden is almost a rule in the folk-horror, the supernatural. In The Wicker Man or Kill list, no one expected to appear a little dark God. The evil is entirely human. There is no divine appearance in the Kill-list, no summoning, just a joyless absurd to the extreme aggression, thoughts of suicide, and killer looks all at once.

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The Wicker Man: watch an exclusive ‘lost’ clip from the cult horror film

In fact, in the folk horror revival, the secret is no longer on fertility, and rebirth. Now the secret is violence. Wheatley is the master here, no doubt. Both Kill list and A field in England, and his psychedelic fable during the English civil war, the theater can turn into a nightmare steeped in history and policy. Although he lives life in a dreary suburb, built and paid for by violence, Kill list main character returned soldier is essentially a murderous man. He and his partner may think you are the Crusader, king Arthur’s knights of the execution of terrible people, but we quickly realized that they only malicious killer himself.

When they finally appear, the cultists are empty, without faces, uninterested in their own self-preservation, thanks to the men, the torture, download carelessly in a hail of bullets. Only Chaos, cruelty, and violence committed. As they are polite to each extreme act of violence applaud your fad auto-approval is part of the ritual.

Ultimately, these grisly applause is shows us that the cultist on the cinema audience. The pagan rite in which we live, is the film itself. A sense of complicity was always part of the folk-horror. The gang-rape and murder in Blood on Satan’s Claw starts from the victims point of view, but then plays through the observation of the mob lascivious look. The killing amount in these films is us.

• In the forest is at the Barbican, London, 3-25.