Folk Horror: Witchfinder General

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T’was re-named The Conqueror Worm in America.

 

Witchfinder General (Michael Reeves, 1968)

Brutal, sadistic, bloody and very very cheap, Witchfinder General was the fourth and final film made by the young and exciting Michael Reeves. The film concerns a fictional account of the activities of Matthew Hopkins, authorised in the film by Cromwell to smoke out any witches that may be operating in the country. Along with his brutal aide, John Stearne, he travels from village to village accusing people of witchcraft before having his assistant ‘extract’ a confession. It’s an interestingly cruel presentation of violence and misogyny and Vincent Price as Hopkins is inspired casting. As his lip curls and that tell-tale voice slithers out proclaiming that he is ‘Here to do God’s work my child’ there’s nothing camp here. Instead we get only the sinister look into the sadistic and perverted eyes of man with a mandate for cruelty. Continue reading “Folk Horror: Witchfinder General”

Folk Horror: Blood on Satan’s Claw

Blood on Satan’s Claw (Piers Haggard, 1971)

I’ve become a bit obsessed with ‘folk horror’ recently, especially since I wrote about it in my recent post. So I thought I might watch and review some of it, looking specifically to dig out the signifiers of folk horror (flowers, masks, blood rituals etc) and look at some of the crucial themes of the genre like the religious frictions, the use of ruins and ancient stones as places of worship/sacrifice and an obsession with the land. I’ll be doing some reviews of the main films in the movement as well as some of the TV stuff too. Continue reading “Folk Horror: Blood on Satan’s Claw”

Nowt as Queer as Folk

Last year Mark Gatiss made a wonderful 3 part documentary about his love of horror films called ‘A History of Horror’. Interestingly I think it would probably be better served if it was called ‘My History…’ because it is such a personal series of programs exploring his fascination with the macabre and murderous world of the horror film. At one point Gatiss explores the theory that there is a curious sub-genre of British horror film, comprising only three films and featuring something layered deep within the British psyche. Calling this crop of films ‘folk horror’ he picked out The Wicker Man, Blood on Satan’s Claw and Witchfinder General and proceeded to explain how their engagement with the nature of paganism and a kind of earthen ancient spirituality seemed to dredge up something unique for our isles, a special kind of fear. Gatiss highlights the scarcely seen Blood on Satan’s Claw (the extract is here on YouTube) and in his exploration with director Piers Haggard he focuses on the notion of something being innate in our soil – in the land itself. The notion that buried somewhere in the earth beneath our feet is a portion of our blood-soaked history is a powerful one indeed and one that might go further than these three films and occur in certain other parts of our sparkling horror history. Continue reading “Nowt as Queer as Folk”