[Fantasia 2021] A History on Folk Horror in Woodlands Documentary Review

13 Aug

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Fantasia Film Festival 2021
Available to view on demand

For screenings near you, please visit the official webpage

Clocking in at over three hours, woodland is a very detailed examination of what defines folk horror and on what the seminal films are. Kier-La Janisse certainly knows the cinematic realm to the tee, and I’d have to rewatch this work to catalogue all the movies referenced. I’d take breaks just because there’s a lot of terrific information to soak in.

The Unholy Trinity of “Witchfinder General,” “Blood on Satan’s Claw,” and “The Wicker Man” are referenced and rightly so. They helped define this new genre of cinematic folk horror. And thankfully, instead of focusing on the output from one country, many other worlds are looked at. Not every film is examined, and neither is every movie noted. The runtime doesn’t do the look at world cinema justice.

Japanese movies like “Onibaba” and “Kwaidan” are simply footnotes which deserve greater expansion. I’d prefer that this chapter be a documentary on its own. Other countries that get a mention is Australia, to which I’ll have to personally explore as time allows. I’ve been interested in The Dreaming for a long time not only for what this belief system encompasses but also in the art. To discover that there are works like The Last Wave (1976) that explore it in a horror context has reignited my desire to see what’s out there now.

The better part of this documentary is in how Janisse looks at what’s common between films from various sides of the world. The interviews are very telling. She’s like Joseph Campbell and her academic approach to examine tradition over myth.

I just have to ask if this filmmaker intended to make her discourse a series rather than a single work. As loaded as this single presentation is for trying to be thorough, I had to frequently pause the video, go do something else and return to watching. Hopefully, there’ll be a home video release that has chapter headings so I can get at parts I really want to watch again. I can imagine the bevy of extras to be added to this particular release, and we just have to wait for Severin Films to release the details in what that’ll come together.

3½ Stars out of 5 

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