Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Room 207 Press Webinars #2: The Second Haunted Generation

[Before I start: even if you don't want to give me money to listen to my talks (and maybe also if you do), please consider donating to one of the bail funds currently being managed to get protesters out of COVID-19 incubating jail cells. Here's a list. You don't have to live there or know these people, or even put in that much, and you won't get any real thanks, or even really get a medal for it. Don't make a deal of it, do it anyway. It's just the right thing to do.]

Yesterday, amidst the deluge of horrors that the news cycle bestowed upon us, I saw a Facebook link for a think piece about folk horror that described The Wicker Man as something like the “1970s version of  Midsommar”. Part of me wishes I'd saved that link, if only as a demonstration of how folk horror as a thing has become enough of a cultural phenomenon to produce godawful clickbait thinkpieces and folk-horror-themed Funko Pops. It'd be glib to say that folk horror is here to stay, because obviously it isn't, pop cultural movements are ephemeral, but it's here and it's visible and it's making money.
Wouldst thou like a piece of shoddy plastic tat?
So over the last few years, I've been writing a lot about folk horror. There was that project about the folk horror and that turned into a book that got nominated for an award (which was nice), and my big thing has actually been why folk horror has become a thing, why you had movies and TV like that made so much in the 1970s, and why it has not only been retrospectively turned into an aesthetic, but why it is happening again. I wrote about this specifically a few months ago. In this week's seminar I'll be looking at how this is, what sort of cultural conditions produce this sort of media, and specifically examining what makes new folk horror a unique genre, separate from its 1970s origins, with special reference to the works of Ben Wheatley, Robert Eggers, Peter Strickland, Ari Aster and Jordan Peele.

This seminar ran on 8th June 2020. 

Films referenced: 
Witchfinder General (Michael Reeves, 1968)
Blood on Satan's Claw (Piers Haggard, 1970)
The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 1973)
Ghost Stories for Christmas (BBC, 1971-1978)
Rosemary's Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)
Let's Scare Jessica to Death (John Hancock, 1971)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978)
The Stepford Wives (Bryan Forbes, 1975)
Lonely Water (Central Office of Information, 1973)
Charley Says (Central Office of Information, 1973) 
Jigsaw (BBC, 1979-84)
Bagpuss (Smallfilms, 1973)
Tottie (Smallfilms, 1984)
Jim'll Fix It (BBC, 1975-95)
Rolf's Cartoon Club (BBC, 1989-95)
Kill List (Ben Wheatley, 2011)
Sightseers (Ben Wheatley, 2012)
A Field in England (Ben Wheatley, 2013)
High Rise (Ben Wheatley, 2015)
Katalin Varga (Peter Strickland, 2009)
Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland, 2013)
The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, 2014)
In Fabric (Peter Strickland, 2018)
The Love Witch (Anna Biller, 2016)
February AKA The Blackcoat's Daughter (Oz Perkins, 2015)
I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (Oz Perkins, 2016)
The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015)
The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019)
Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)
Us (Jordan Peele, 2019)
Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)
Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019)

1 comment:

  1. I attended the webinar yesterday. Thank you for an interesting presentation. I would like to compliment you on - bizarrely enough - your graphics, as a lot of speakers don't know how to use PPT and just throw up blurry images. Yours were crystal-clear on my TV screen!

    I am the guy who brought up Bone Tomahawk, and I urge you to watch it. There's no indication that director S. Craig Zahler intended it to be folk horror, and indeed "weird Westerns" tend to get treated as their own thing and not as folk horror. But BT clearly IS folk horror, in that an isolated landscape is treated almost as a character, a forgotten or neglected people / belief system represents the danger, and the relationship between land, Other and status quo is central. There is no supernatural element, but neither is there in Wicker Man or Witchfinder General. I can understand why some Native Americans object to BT - while the only stated Native in the film is clearly intelligent and honorable, and makes the case that the villains are NOT "Indians," it's pretty clear that the film plays on the fears of Native American aggression created and exploited by the colonizers' Manifest Destiny strategy. But that's part of what makes BT interesting as a text concerning folk horror's treatment of racial otherness as a source of fear. I suggest it doesn't get classed as FH because it doesn't play "FH Bingo" - this isn't a bucolic rural landscape, there are no wiccans or twigs.

    I will check out Blood Quantum, which looks like an interesting take on the zombie apocalypse film. But the only comparison with BT is that both have Native Americans. They're in different genres.

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