“Folk horror ultimately asks, what if the old ways were right?
Genre: Horror Documentaries
Release Date: 2022
Where I Watched: Shudder
Gist: A very deep (3+ hours) dive into the subgenre of Folk Horror, in all its permutations. From silent films to modern-day foreign films, if you’re interested in this genre? It’s in here.
Talky talk: At almost three hours and 15 minutes, I figured Bewitched would be a great documentary to just put on and listen to while I was crocheting, cleaning up or doing something else with my time. But I was completely sucked in, thanks to the myriad of clips from various folk horror films, the beautiful folk music score, and interesting chats from folks the creators had interviewed. So yeah, definitely carve out a space where you can completely sink into this doc. You’re gonna want to.
From British folk horror – the gateway drug of this genre – to American prairie horror, horrific world folktales, religion and folktales, occultism as history, and how the specter of folk horror bleeds into other genres of film? No matter how knowledgeable you are on this subgenre, you’ll walk away learning a few things. And having a helluva great time doing it. Bewitched also taught me a term or two that I’d never heard of before. For example, psychogeography and Urban Weird. And now I need to read so many things, because these topics sound awesome.
Writer/Director Kier-La Janisse selected a lovely group of knowledgeable folks to speak on this subject, and they dig into themes and similarities between the films and folklore of different countries with gusto. How Paganism and Christianity “accepted each other” in Russia and Italy. How “misunderstanding and fear” of indigenous peoples fueled the folk horror of Australia. The folk horror that sprung from Shintoism and being off-kilter with the spirits around you in Japan. The focus on “prejudices of race, class, and gender” in the folk horror of Brazil, and how scorned women myths cut across the barriers of country.
This doc touches on many films, giving viewers a lovely list of of movies to check out later. With so many clips from so many films, Bewitched definitely shows its work, and these clips are fascinating, spooky, and had me longing to dive into a huge binge. And, of course, Shudder currently has a curated selection for your viewing pleasure after you watch this doc. I’ve created a list of the films I was able to jot down; I’ve definitely missed a few, but if you’re interested in seeing just how varied the subgenre of folk horror is? Be my guest.
My only problem with Bewitched? I was absolutely exhausted after I watched it. Because three hours of constant, loving dedication was exhausting for my typically dilettantish ass. I recommend letting yourself come and go, in order to best let all this goodness really sink into your brain parts. Definitely take this film and treat it like a miniseries; break it down hour by hour and really let yourself enjoy. Because if, like me, you try to watch all of the over 3 hours of this film because you got completely sucked in? It’s going to be a lot. Maybe too much; I’m definitely watching this again (and again) to pick up bits and pieces that flew by me as I tried to absorb every little detail of every tidbit the creators and their guests had to offer. Breaking it into chunks is one of the great things about being able to stream a new movie. Take advantage of that with this one.
Come for: A comprehensive look at a subgenre that’s been around for centuries, even though it seems it’s only just picking up steam. (Spoiler: it’s been steaming for quite some time.)
Stay for: A huge list of genre films that’s sure to have many, many entries you’ve never heard of but now are dying to watch. Your queue can thank me later.