Film, Media and Music

Requiem for a Village and the rural English horror of modernity and socio-cultural change
Paul Newland

David Gladwell’s elegiac Requiem for a Village (1975) sits on the periphery of current critical formulations of the folk horror genre, but shares many of the genre’s key themes and concerns and much of its iconography. As Adam Scovell points out, ‘Gladwell’s film deserves to be more widely seen and discussed because it exemplifies a key theme in Folk Horror; the breakdown of the everyday normality that occurs through an obsession with the seemingly normal.’ (Scovell 2017: 83) Paying close attention to the rich aesthetics of the film, I will argue that through its Soviet montage-influenced editing scheme, which dialectically collides images of nature and timeless rural activities with images of the uniform architecture of a new suburban housing estate and rural fields being prepared by huge machines for further new housing, Requiem for a Village locates horror in an ongoing battle between the ‘old ways’ which are in danger of being eradicated on the one hand and modernity and rapid socio-cultural change in rural England on the other. I argue that Requiem for a Village develops a complex and fragmented vision of the ‘monstrous’, which is at once located in the memories and/or visions and experiences of the unnamed old man, but also in modernity broadly conceived, symbolised by the vast digging and earth-flattening machines.

in Folk horror on film
Human as subject and object within the folk horror anti-landscape
David Evans-Powell

Folk horror screen texts present landscapes that feel inhabited and worked. Unlike other landscape-oriented traditions (e.g heritage drama and Hammer Gothic), the folk horror landscape is a ‘world we are living in’ rather than ‘a scene we are looking at’ (Wylie, 2007: 1). Folk horror on-screen illustrates the role of human as subject and owner of the landscape, through its occupation, cultivation and demarcation. However, having established this dynamic, these texts then subvert it. The Wicker Man (1973), The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971), and The Borderlands (2013), amongst other British folk horror films, all challenge notions of landscape subordinate to civilisation. They are suggestive of what Peter Hutchings has termed the ‘anti-landscape’, a ‘landscape that provocatively throws into question the very idea of the human… as the owner of landscape’ (Hutchings, 2004: 29). They imply the resurrection of older, or the incursion of alternative, ownership and governance of the landscape.  This chapter will explore these contested notions of the demarcation, ownership and control of the landscape with a focused analysis of The Blood on Satan’s Claw and comparative discussion of other folk horror films, including Dogged (2017), The Fallow Field (2009), and The Unkindness of Ravens (2016). In doing so, it will illustrate the tension between landscape and anti-landscape and examine how these tensions can be read as representative of other cultural tensions, such as those between nature and civilisation, rationality and irrationality, and primitivism and progression. It will also examine how these representations have changed over the 20th and 21st centuries within the British cinematic folk horror tradition. 

in Folk horror on film
K. J. Donnelly

British folk horror films have a crucial relationship to the past, where the past has a direct connection with and sometimes a determining effect on the present. However, this form of historicism can be complex and irrational, and significantly different from the ‘historical’ representation of the past dominant in films. This yields an ‘outsider’ history, which seems the antithesis of the officially-sanctioned costume drama past which dominates British cinema and television. Lair of the White Worm (1988) not only has a story where antique legend is brought back into the present, but also depicts the historical past through startling and disturbing tableaux vivants that erupt violently in the present day. A Field in England (2013) is premised upon a narrative of uncertainly allied with the historical depiction of England in the mid-17th Century, during the English Civil War, which remains an ambiguous and troubling period of British history. Both Lair of the White Worm and A Field in England have a malleable sense of time and a magical flavour to historicism. Uncertain time is perhaps partly enabled by the unchanging dimension of space. In both, significance lies underneath the rural landscape and its rendering is in the very materiality of sound and image rather than simply in narrative and representational terms. This landscape is one that bears distinct scars of the past and is wreathed in the ineffable. This chapter will argue that although hearkening back to the past, folk horror films provide particular affordances for understanding the present.

in Folk horror on film
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Exploring the sensory affect of drums in British folk horror cinema
Lyndsay Townsend

Sound is crucial in creating the atmosphere of fear and tension that is definitional of the horror film. It can contain even more power than what is shown onscreen; we can shut our eyes, but can never completely shut our ears. Furthermore, it is folk horror that places a special emphasis on sound, with a particular importance held by the sonic expression of a drumbeat. Either produced diegetically by a character or community in a ritual onscreen, or presented through the film’s soundtrack to evoke fear within the viewer, the use of a drumbeat is a distinct sensory technique in British folk horror cinema. This technique is crucial in achieving three main goals of the genre – establishing and strengthening a folk horror community, representing the corporeality of endangered bodies onscreen, and signalling a greater level of the threat and fear that are essential to horror film in general. With a primary focus on Kill List (2011) and reference to a number of secondary examples, this chapter examines how the auditory presence of a drumbeat achieves these three goals, and ultimately argues for the importance of a phenomenological understanding of the genre. This proposed framework will allow us to understand the fear of folk horror as affective, that is, as a fear that is felt; a characteristic that I argue is central to defining the genre.

in Folk horror on film
History, industry, style
Amy Harris

Using Hélène Cixous’ notion of the écriture féminine as its framework, this chapter explores how women filmmakers have a special ability to subvert established tropes and return agency onto women subjects in their films. Through close textual analysis of Jacqueline Kirkham’s Following the Wicca Man (2013) and K. Pervaiz’s Maya (2021), two independently financed British films, this chapter explores the new forms of subjectivity that come by having women in frontline creative roles. A combination of close textual analysis paired with filmmaker interviews demonstrates how contemporary folk horror made by women filmmakers can push back against the established androcentric forms of the subgenre, offering new frameworks of representation that challenge, subvert and deviate from traditional folk horror. This chapter argues that, in one way or another, women’s creative autonomy invites new and exciting possibilities within the context of a historically bound mode like British folk horror and can provide spaces for women to explore their own identity and agency through the prism of established generic systems of representation.

in Folk horror on film
Joanna Mąkowska

By situating Baldwin’s Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems in conversation with Jericho Brown’s 2019 poetry collection The Tradition, this article examines the theory of love in their poetic thinking. It argues that in their poetry, love emerges as a multifaceted mode of knowing and feeling, grounded in corporeal intensity and imbued with sociopolitical and historical meanings. Both Baldwin and Brown view love as integral to the understanding of queer sexuality and racial politics, foregrounding at the same time the challenges of loving and being loved in a historically anti-Black society. Their poetics of love coalesces the intellectual and the affective, the erotic and the political, moving beyond the conventions of inward-bound and personal lyric toward what Martinican philosopher and novelist Édouard Glissant termed a “poetics of relation.” Such transgenerational reading also allows us to explore Baldwin’s and Brown’s poetry as acutely attuned to historical moments which seem strikingly similar: Reagan’s and Trump’s presidencies.

James Baldwin Review
Kim Akass

This chapter argues that, even when more women are employed behind the scenes of a production it does not necessarily mean that it results in a more nuanced and sympathetic onscreen interpretation of motherhood. The rise of streaming services has allowed women more roles in the creation of television series but this does not necessarily result in a fairer treatment of mothers in television narratives. This chapter argues that, even with big stars (mothers themselves) at the helm, and with mothers front and centre of the narrative, women behind the scenes sadly have no more power over the depiction of motherhood than the male showrunners that have come before them.

in Mothers on American television
The moral-political undertow of London’s Hindi cinema presence
Shakuntala Banaji
Rahoul Masrani

From the now famous culture-clash blockbuster Purab aur Paschim (East and West, 1970) that pits supposedly real and patriotic Indians against the deracinated diaspora, London has appeared in hundreds of Hindi films. This chapter examines how sometimes London is filmed sparsely and with such banality that it is a meaningless and cliched backdrop of consumption and romance (as in the Camden sequences of Mujse Dosti Karoge? which could be set in any city), but with increasing frequency as a metaphor which epitomises the tensions of secular, globalised modernity, longing for home, and identity, for those in the diaspora. In the wake of Aditya Chopra’s phenomenally successful Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (The One with the Heart Will Win the Bride, 2001), this chapter notes a significant change that began to take place in Hindi films set in London, with the city playing an ambivalent role as a semiotic marker of personal choice, anonymity and modernity which ultimately sours and leaves the protagonists longing to return to their roots, their homeland and their traditions. At the heart of these films (including Namastey London and Patiala House) lies a desire to attract viewers to London only in order to reject its supposedly ephemeral allure. This chapter asserts that most of the plots end by putting London in its place – a place which is fun to shop in, to walk through, but which has no heart; they end with a re-entrenchment of essentialised Indian characteristics. London’s complex material identity as the former capital of the British empire and now an important global financial centre, in both Bollywood and English-language films, is often reduced to a screen identity centred upon global consumption in late capitalism.

in Global London on screen
London River
Ana Virginia López Fuentes

The increasing mobility of people, goods and information around the globe has resulted in an increasingly interconnected world with a high potential for cosmopolitan encounters. Both dividing lines and borderlands have the potential to either curtail or promote cosmopolitan moments of self-transformation. So-called ‘border films’ structure their narratives around different types of borders, usually highlighting their paradoxical nature. This chapter looks at London River as an example of a border film that can be inscribed within the category of ‘cultural exchange’ narrative as theorised by Deborah Shaw, Tom O’Regan and others. The film tells the story of two parents: Ousmane, a black Muslim from Mali, and Elisabeth, a white protestant from the Channel Islands, looking for their children in the city of London after the 7th July terrorist attacks. The narrative crosses various geographical borders and was filmed in different locations: France, London and one of the Channel Islands. It was a French–British co-production and it features a multinational cast and crew, including a French director of Algerian origin working in the city of London. This chapter looks at the film’s representation of today’s extremely complex borders, in society in general and particularly in global cities. As argued in the chapter, the movie constructs different spaces of the city of London as both dividing lines and as borderlands, emphasising the dual nature of borders theorised by border scholars such as Gloria Anzaldúa, Mike Davis and Anthony Cooper and Christopher Rumford. London River is an accurate representation of the complex social networks occurring in large cities all over the world.

in Global London on screen
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The Brazilian diaspora in London as depicted in Henrique Goldman’s Jean Charles
Stephanie Dennison

Jean Charles (2009) is the work of London-based Brazilian director Henrique Goldman. It is a free adaptation of the story of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian mistaken for a terror suspect and shot dead by British police in Stockwell tube station in 2005. As well as providing a context to the story of Jean Charles and the making of the film, this chapter focuses on the portrayal of London as a space of work and play for the sizeable Brazilian diaspora (between seventy and one hundred thousand Brazilians live in London), in what, at first, is a veritable celebration of Brazilian Portuguese. Brazilians are depicted as being left to their own devices until post-national forces denominated global terrorism spoil this slice of Brazilian life in London, and Jean Charles is shot dead. At this point the language focus notably shifts to English, and London is transformed. Without the safe haven of their language, the Brazilian characters are quite simply lost. Given the difficulties that Goldman experienced in getting this co-production made, this chapter argues Goldman’s film can be just as much read as an exposé of the trials of South American ‘transnational’ filmmakers working in the UK in general as it is a damning critique of the treatment of immigrants at the hands of the UK authorities.

in Global London on screen