Dawn Keetley
Search for other papers by Dawn Keetley in
Current site
Google Scholar
Sacrifice zones and folk horror
Abstract only
Log-in for full text

Doomwatch (1972) is infrequently cited in the burgeoning conversations on folk horror, but I argue that it is actually a key text. Not least, it is a clear influence on Robin Hardy’s 1973 film, The Wicker Man. It was, moreover, directed by Peter Sasdy, who also directed 1972’s The Stone Tape; the screenplay was written by Clive Exton; and the film was produced by Tigon British Film Productions, the company behind the folk horror classics, Witchfinder General and The Blood on Satan’s Claw. The plot of the film follows Dr. Del Shaw to Balfe, an island off the coast of Cornwall, where he is investigating whether an oil spill has disrupted the island’s ecosystem. While there, Shaw must contend with unaccountably hostile locals, who do everything they can to get him off the island. Doomwatch thus exemplifies the familiar structuring dynamic of folk horror—the often-violent encounter between the local/rural/primitive and the global/urban/modern. However, Doomwatch fails to offer the expected ‘sacrifice’ at the centre of folk horror. Instead, with its emphasis on the dire effects of both military and industrial pollution, Doomwatch represents the island itself as a ‘sacrifice zone’: the land and the community that lives on the land are ceded to the inexorable processes of the globalising economy. Literally abandoned at the end of the film, the island is positioned throughout as already lost to global modernity – and while the islanders themselves (at least at first) appear to be the powerful and even threatening ‘folk’ of folk horror, they, like their land, turn out to be already lost, ‘wasted humans’ rather than generative ‘folk’. In the end, there are no rituals promising fertility in Doomwatch, only the life-destroying sickness of a globalisation that dooms land and people alike.

  • Collapse
  • Expand

All of MUP's digital content including Open Access books and journals is now available on manchesterhive.


Folk horror on film

Return of the British repressed


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 46 46 26
Full Text Views 0 0 0
PDF Downloads 0 0 0