Paul Newland
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Folk horror and the contemporary cult of British rural landscape
The case of Blood on Satan’s Claw
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In this chapter I argue two separate (but related) things. Firstly, focusing primarily on the cult film Blood on Satan’s Claw (Piers Haggard, 1971), I explore the generic qualities of a range of Gothic and so-called ‘folk horror’ films, and think about how far rural landscape plays a part in their aesthetic and appeal. Secondly – and related to this – I demonstrate that we are witnessing a contemporary ‘cultification’ of folk horror which is manifesting itself as a subcultural reappraisal of a range of rural 1960s and 1970s texts, but also the development of new, contemporary texts that draw on, mine (and are indeed are haunted by) their textual antecedents - especially in the ways in which they often pit the rural ‘anti-modern’, ‘natural’ and/or pagan landscape against the technocracy of modernity. What we see in these texts then – but also the cult discourse that increasingly circulates around them - is a distinct romanticisation of a dark British (but especially English) vision of a pagan, pre-modern or proto-modern rural past, and a focus on what might still be alive now ‘in the present’ in such spaces.

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