WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED (2021)
After her ground-breaking 2012 book HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL TOPOGRAPHY OF FEMALE NEUROSIS IN HORROR AND EXPLOITATION FILMS changed the face of long-form film criticism forever, polymath and all-round cult film renaissance woman Kier-La Janisse could be forgiven for leaving it there; that book alone earned her the label “pioneer.” But as her SXSW Audience Award-winning feature film documentary WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED: A HISTORY OF FOLK HORROR illustrates only too well, Janisse was just beginning. Clocking in at well over three hours but speeding along with an adrenal thrill that makes it feel like it goes by in the blink of an eye, this is much more than your usual horror documentary: it’s a treatise, a manifesto, a provocation, and a hypnotic history lesson all in one.
Janisse’s thematic atlas of folk horror begins with British classics like WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968), BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW (1971), and THE WICKER MAN (1973), before moving to North America and spreading its wings even wider, taking full flight into the wild, weird, and captivating beyond. Spanning an exhaustive world of film and folk culture and mapping how it has manifested in horror both globally and historically as we travel from countries including Mexico, China, Australia, and Brazil, Janisse and her army of interview subjects leave little time for us to catch our breath. Her impressive rock star list of interlocutors includes Robert Eggers (THE WITCH), Alice Lowe (PREVENGE), Piers Haggard (BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW), as well as critics, authors, and others including Kat Ellinger, Jonathan Rigby, Andy Paciorek, Adam Scovell, Maisha Wester, Abraham Castillo Flores, Sean Hogan, Samm Deighan, and — goodness! — the writer of this very blurb. WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED: A HISTORY OF FOLK HORROR is not just the must-see horror documentary of the year, but an essential movie for anyone with a fascination for the human affinity for all things dark and spooky. (ALEXANDRA HELLER-NICHOLAS)