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SXSW 2021 REVIEW: ‘Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror’ is a Carefully Crafted Love Letter

SEVERIN FILMS

I’m not sure any of you out there can relate, but for myself being a horror fan feels like an innately defensive experience. It feels like you always get the face of judgment, or quiet disdain, when you announce that you love horror films. Then you are in the position of defending the films and, by extension, yourself.

It is mildly exhausting. 

That is what makes Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror, a carefully researched, studied, and crafted documentary so touching. It is everything we all wanted in this moments of judgment; a tribe of academics and experts behind you to explain the sources and merits of horror. 

It is a strangely emotionally experience to see the topic of folk horror, and horror in general, laid out with such love and care. Step by step, this film explains the source of the fears and reasons behind horror and why it is such a powerful and important genre to process and engage with very human experiences and societal stressors.

The horror genre is a hug for so many of us, a safe place to explore the darkness, the fears, the anxiety, the ugliness of portions of the human experience.

SEVERIN FILMS

As a visual document, this film by Kier-La Janisse is as meticulous as it is perfect. It is exhaustive and in-depth. Traveling the globe and exploring the horror of several geographical regions the film reveals how universally human the themes and trends of horror storytelling is.

The only superficial critique would be the length. At a bit over three hours, the exhaustive approach could find many less passionate viewers, well, exhausted. One wonders if this format would benefit more from a limited series, limiting each region and them to an episodic entry. Regardless this is tangental and unimportant to the content of the film.

That content is nothing less than a love letter.

So if you are that person who has always loved horror, folk or otherwise, this documentary is something you will want to experience. Exploring every nook and cranny of the genre and spending the loving time with them in a way that demonstrates both expertise and love.

Through her book, “House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films”, as well as her other works, Kier-La Janisse has demonstrated a care and understanding of horror that has always felt refreshing. This documentary is no different. It is the latest in a line of carefully constructed love letters to a very maligned and misunderstood genre, and I thank her for that. 

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