WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED is the first feature-length documentary on the history of folk horror, exploring the phenomenon from its beginnings in a trilogy of films – Michael Reeves’ WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968), Piers Haggard’s BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW (1971) and Robin Hardy’s THE WICKER MAN (1973) – through its proliferation on British television in the 1970s and its culturally specific manifestations in American, Asian, Australian and European horror, to the genre’s revival over the last decade.
While exploring the key cinematic signposts of folk horror – touching on over 200 films, television plays and episodes as well as early inspirational literature – the film also examines the rise of paganism in the late 1960s, the prominence of the witch-figure in connection with second wave feminism, the ecological movement of the 1970s, the genre’s emphasis on landscape and psychogeography, and American manifestations of folk horror from Mariners’ tales and early colonial history to Southern Gothic and backwoods horror. Finally, the film navigates through the muddy politics of folk nostalgia. The term ‘folk horror’ is a loaded one, and WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED explores the many ways that we alternately celebrate, conceal and manipulate our own histories in an attempt to find spiritual resonance in our surroundings.
This film is presented as part of the New American Perspectives program in partnership with the Vilcek Foundation. HIFF is honored to feature director Kier-La Janisse as a 2021 program participant. An extended discussion with Kier-La Janisse will be available to view online during the Festival via the HIFF streaming app, and HIFF’s Facebook page.