Folk Horror

by Mighty_Emperor | created - 28 Sep 2011 | updated - 5 days ago | Public

The name seems to have been coined, in this context, by Mark Gatiss in A History of Horror: "Home Counties Horror" to cover those films where the terror seems to well up from the countryside - Pan-ic in the woods. It draws on the spooky sensibilities of M.R. James and Algernon Blackwell but the godfather of urban horror is surely Arthur Machen. More modern exponents include Alan Garner, but overshadowing all others is Nigel Kneale, who repeatdely went out of his way to demonstrate the British countryside wasn't as tamed as we'd hoped.

About the list: All the films and television programs are in year order, then I added a few documentaries on the end which might be a useful place to look for some real folk horror. As you'll see I have slightly extended the definition to more than the British countryside because all countries have their ancient traditions that can well up and catch out the unwary city dwellers - you can see a definite trend in American films for witches/warlocks jumping out of bushes in the rural US and in 2010 you can see a large surge in such films from outside the Anglophone areas that dominate the list (with a strong showing for European films where the woods have always been deep, dark and menacing). If you are only after countryside terror in Blighty then it is easy enough to filter out other offerings (you'll find the first half of the list dominated by them, including all the classics).

John Smith has helped fill in some gaps too, by generously sharing his research.

Further reading: If you want to read more on this then try: *folkhorror.com, which helped me track down the names of the more unusual items: http://folkhorror.com *As did Folk Horror Review: http://folkhorrorreview.blogspot.com * Folk Horror Revival: http://folkhorrorrevival.com * Hauntology Rising: Folk Horror and Atavistic Resurgence Part 1, is also a useful guide, but it never seemed to gain a second part: http://2012diaries.blogspot.com/2011/06/hauntology-rising-folk-horror-and.html * Where to Begin with Folk Horror, by the BFI: http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/where-begin-folk-horror * The Guardian newspaper has a couple of looks at the resurgence in Folk Horror: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/apr/30/folk-horror-cults-sacrifice-pagan-sex-kill-list https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2018/jan/16/from-britannia-to-the-wicker-man-the-welcome-return-of-folk-horror * Scarfolk Council, evokes the strange Seventies/occult vibe that underpins a lot of the classic Folk Horror: https://scarfolk.blogspot.com

Books: * Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange by Adam Scovell (2017) - the definitive book on Folk Horror - also visit his site: celluloidwickerman.com * Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies - Second Edition (2018) by the good people from the site of the same name: folkhorrorrevival.com * A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields: Journeys in Otherly Pastoralism, the Further Reaches of Folk and the Parallel Worlds of Hauntology by Stephen Prince (2018) whose site is here: ayearinthecountry.co.uk * I'd also recommend Janet Bord's Fairies: Real Encounters With Little People which gives an excellent overview of fairylore from early times to the present day (and has a nice section on the way it merges seamlessly into alien encounters).

See also: If you were interested in offerings further east, then check out my other lists as, for example, "Crazy kung-fu horror films", deals with the Chinese films that often demonstrate the fear of the dark magics that lurk in the jungles of South East Asia or are based on monsters from their own myths, and my Eternal Evils of Asia does something similar from the southern Asia perspective. Also, as noted below, folk horror has quite a lot of similarities with backwoods horror / rural survival films (rural setting and sinister, unfriendly locals) but I have tried to keep the two lists as separate as possible.

Comments: As I don't have a Facebook account I cannot interact with the new comments system, so have switched it off. I will start a thread on the message board and link it in here shortly.

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1. The Wicker Man (1973)

R | 88 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

87 Metascore

A police sergeant is sent to a Scottish island village in search of a missing girl whom the townsfolk claim never existed. Stranger still are the rites that take place there.

Director: Robin Hardy | Stars: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland

Votes: 56,111 | Gross: $0.06M

Here for the thumbnail graphic, the list begins below:

2. Curse of the Demon (1957)

Approved | 95 min | Fantasy, Horror, Mystery

American professor John Holden arrives in London for a parapsychology conference, only to find himself investigating the mysterious actions of Devil-worshiper Julian Karswell.

Director: Jacques Tourneur | Stars: Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, Niall MacGinnis, Maurice Denham

Votes: 9,932

Based on "Casting the Runes" a short story by MR James.

3. The Undead (1957)

Unrated | 71 min | Fantasy, Horror

A beautiful woman is sent back in time via hypnosis to the Middle Ages where she finds she is suspected of being a witch, and subject to being executed.

Director: Roger Corman | Stars: Pamela Duncan, Richard Garland, Allison Hayes, Val Dufour

Votes: 1,434

4. The City of the Dead (1960)

PG-13 | 78 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

A young college student arrives in a sleepy Massachusetts town to research witchcraft; during her stay at an eerie inn, she discovers a startling secret about the town and its inhabitants.

Director: John Llewellyn Moxey | Stars: Patricia Jessel, Dennis Lotis, Christopher Lee, Tom Naylor

Votes: 4,694

The film is public domain.

5. Black Sunday (1960)

Not Rated | 87 min | Horror

A vengeful witch and her fiendish servant return from the grave and begin a bloody campaign to possess the body of the witch's beautiful look-alike descendant, with only the girl's brother and a handsome doctor standing in her way.

Director: Mario Bava | Stars: Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garrani

Votes: 11,396

aka Black Sunday

An adaptation of Gogol's short story "Viy" which draws on Russian folklore, even if Gogol's claims that Viy himself is also from local superstitions seems to be untrue.

6. Mother Joan of the Angels (1961)

110 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

A priest is sent to a small parish in the Polish countryside which is believed to be under demonic possession and there he finds his own temptations awaiting.

Director: Jerzy Kawalerowicz | Stars: Lucyna Winnicka, Mieczyslaw Voit, Anna Ciepielewska, Maria Chwalibóg

Votes: 2,269

Based on the same real-life events as "The Devils" (1971).

7. La maldición de la Llorona (1963)

80 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

A young woman inherits a mansion, only to discover that it is haunted by witches and evil spirits.

Director: Rafael Baledón | Stars: Rosita Arenas, Abel Salazar, Rita Macedo, Carlos López Moctezuma

Votes: 478

Based on the Mexican legend La Llorna, The Weeping Woman.

8. Kwaidan (1964)

Not Rated | 183 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

A collection of four Japanese folk tales with supernatural themes.

Director: Masaki Kobayashi | Stars: Rentarô Mikuni, Michiyo Aratama, Misako Watanabe, Kenjirô Ishiyama

Votes: 12,115

An anthology based on Japanese folktales.

9. Die, Monster, Die! (1965)

Approved | 80 min | Mystery, Horror, Sci-Fi

A young man visits his fiancée's estate to discover that her wheelchair-bound scientist father has discovered a meteorite that emits mutating radiation rays that have turned the plants in ... See full summary »

Director: Daniel Haller | Stars: Boris Karloff, Nick Adams, Freda Jackson, Suzan Farmer

Votes: 2,324

Based on Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space.

10. Eye of the Devil (1966)

Not Rated | 92 min | Crime, Horror, Mystery

Workers employed at a French vineyard follow old pagan rituals that call for the life of the marquis owner to save his crops during dry seasons.

Director: J. Lee Thompson | Stars: David Niven, Sharon Tate, Deborah Kerr, Donald Pleasence

Votes: 1,648

OK this is set in France but all they really did was set this folk horror film in sunnier climes, so they could use the failing grape harvest to drive the story.

11. The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

Approved | 90 min | Horror

Young workers are dying because of a mysterious epidemic in a little village in Cornwall. Doctor Thompson is helpless and asks professor James Forbes for help. The professor and his ... See full summary »

Director: John Gilling | Stars: André Morell, Diane Clare, Brook Williams, Jacqueline Pearce

Votes: 3,792

12. Cul-De-Sac (1966)

Not Rated | 113 min | Comedy, Drama, Thriller

In search of help, two wounded gangsters on the run find refuge in the secluded castle of a feeble man and his wife; however, under the point of a gun, nothing is what it seems.

Director: Roman Polanski | Stars: Donald Pleasence, Françoise Dorléac, Lionel Stander, Jack MacGowran

Votes: 9,863

13. The Reptile (1966)

Unrated | 90 min | Horror

In a Cornish village, various locals die from mysterious snake bites, but the coroner rules the deaths as heart attacks, until a family of newcomers starts an investigation.

Director: John Gilling | Stars: Noel Willman, Jennifer Daniel, Ray Barrett, Jacqueline Pearce

Votes: 2,677

14. Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)

Not Rated | 70 min | Horror

A family gets lost on the road and stumbles upon a hidden, underground, devil-worshiping cult led by the fearsome Master and his servant Torgo.

Director: Harold P. Warren | Stars: Tom Neyman, John Reynolds, Diane Adelson, Harold P. Warren

Votes: 32,875

The film is public domain.

15. Mystery and Imagination (1966–1970)
Episode: Lost Hearts (1966)

50 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

Will children become the victims of human sacrifice?

Director: Robert Tronson | Stars: David Buck, David Dodimead, Megs Jenkins, Freddie Jones

Votes: 29

16. Viy (1967)

77 min | Drama, Fantasy, Horror

A young priest is ordered to preside over the wake of witch in a small old wooden church of a remote village. This means spending three nights alone with the corpse with only his faith to protect him.

Directors: Konstantin Ershov, Georgiy Kropachyov | Stars: Leonid Kuravlyov, Natalya Varley, Aleksey Glazyrin, Nikolay Kutuzov

Votes: 4,306

17. Witchfinder General (1968)

Unrated | 86 min | Biography, Drama, Horror

A young soldier seeks to put an end to the evils caused by a vicious witch hunter.

Director: Michael Reeves | Stars: Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy, Rupert Davies, Hilary Heath

Votes: 7,573

The first in the Unholy Trinity of classic Folk Horror films.

18. The Devil Rides Out (1968)

G | 95 min | Horror

Devil worshipers plan to convert two new victims.

Director: Terence Fisher | Stars: Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Nike Arrighi, Leon Greene

Votes: 6,300

19. The Crimson Cult (1968)

R | 87 min | Horror

When his brother disappears, Robert Manning pays a visit to the remote country house he was last heard from. While his host is outwardly welcoming - and his niece more demonstrably so - ... See full summary »

Director: Vernon Sewell | Stars: Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Mark Eden, Barbara Steele

Votes: 1,651

20. Omnibus (1967–2003)
Episode: Whistle and I'll Come to You (1968)

Not Rated | 42 min | Documentary, Biography, Music

A university professor, confident that everything which occurs in life has a rational explanation, finds his beliefs severely challenged when, during a vacation to a remote coastal village ... See full summary »

Director: Jonathan Miller | Stars: Michael Hordern, Ambrose Coghill, George Woodbridge, Nora Gordon

Votes: 837

I hate it when this happens - has it been merged somewhere because it was a duplicate entry? In fact what was it?

21. Mystery and Imagination (1966–1970)
Episode: Casting the Runes (1968)

50 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

Mr. Karswell is very easily angered and never forgets a slight. As he is also a man capable of summoning demons from Hell to do his bidding, his quarrel with Dunning may have unfortunate consequences.

Director: Alan Cooke | Stars: Robert Eddison, Neal Arden, John Barrett, John Fraser

Votes: 15

22. The Owl Service (1969– )

30 min | Drama, Family, Fantasy

Three teenagers discover a mysterious set of owl and flower-patterned dinner plates in the attic and the magical ancient legend of the "Mabinogion" comes to life once again in their Welsh valley.

Stars: Dorothy Edwards, Gillian Hills, Michael Holden, Francis Wallis

Votes: 102

23. The Bloody Judge (1970)

PG | 84 min | Biography, Horror

Christopher Lee plays the Lord Chief Justice of 17th century England who condemns women as witches to further his political and sexual needs.

Director: Jesús Franco | Stars: Christopher Lee, Maria Schell, Leo Genn, Hans Hass Jr.

Votes: 841

aka The Bloody Judge

One of the films released to cash-in on the success of The Witchfinder General with Christopher Lee in the Vincent Price role

24. Mark of the Devil (1970)

R | 90 min | Drama, History, Horror

In 1700s Austria, a witch-hunter's apprentice has doubts about the righteousness of witch-hunting when he witnesses the brutality, the injustice, the falsehood, the torture and the arbitrary killing that go with the job.

Directors: Michael Armstrong, Adrian Hoven | Stars: Herbert Lom, Udo Kier, Olivera Katarina, Reggie Nalder

Votes: 2,522

aka Mark of the Devil

Another Witchfinder General cash-in with Herbert Lom in the Vincent Price role

25. Witchhammer (1970)

103 min | Drama, History

A very popular movie on the medieval persecution of witches (inquisition).

Director: Otakar Vávra | Stars: Vladimír Smeral, Elo Romancik, Josef Kemr, Sona Valentová

Votes: 1,332

aka Witch's Hammer

26. Cry of the Banshee (1970)

GP | 91 min | Horror

In Elizabethan England, a wicked lord massacres nearly all the members of a coven of witches, earning the enmity of their leader, Oona. Oona calls up a magical servant, a "banshee", to ... See full summary »

Director: Gordon Hessler | Stars: Vincent Price, Essy Persson, Hilary Heath, Carl Rigg

Votes: 1,544

27. Legend of the Witches (1970)

Not Rated | 72 min | Documentary

The history of witchcraft in Britain.

Director: Malcolm Leigh

Votes: 75

28. Valerie a týden divu (1970)

Not Rated | 77 min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy

Inspired by fairy-tales such as Alice in Wonderland and Little Red-Riding Hood, "Valerie and her Week of Wonders" is a surreal tale in which love, fear, sex and religion merge into one fantastic world.

Director: Jaromil Jires | Stars: Jaroslava Schallerová, Helena Anýzová, Petr Kopriva, Jirí Prýmek

Votes: 6,339

29. Witchcraft '70 (1970)

X | 82 min | Documentary

A mondo style report of satanic rites from around the world. Includes devil worshipping, voodoo cults, church of satan, black magic, naked exorcism and pagan rituals.

Directors: Luigi Scattini, Lee Frost | Stars: Alberto Bevilacqua, Anton LaVey, Edmund Purdom, Diane LaVey

Votes: 105

30. Crowhaven Farm (1970 TV Movie)

Not Rated | 74 min | Drama, Horror

A young couple inherits a farm. Hoping that the rural location might help to patch up their strained marriage, they move into it, only to be confronted by the supernatural forces that inhabit it.

Director: Walter Grauman | Stars: Hope Lange, Paul Burke, Lloyd Bochner, John Carradine

Votes: 639

31. Play for Today (1970–1984)
Episode: Robin Redbreast (1970)

76 min | Comedy, Drama

After the break-up of a long-term relationship, urban sophisticate Norah seeks refuge in a remote house in the country. The locals are friendly, if eccentric, and she toys with the idea of ... See full summary »

Director: James MacTaggart | Stars: Anna Cropper, Amanda Walker, Julian Holloway, Freda Bamford

Votes: 126

32. The Blood on Satan's Claw (1971)

R | 97 min | Horror

Horror thriller set in 17th century England about the children of a village slowly converting into a coven of devil worshipers.

Director: Piers Haggard | Stars: Patrick Wymark, Linda Hayden, Barry Andrews, Michele Dotrice

Votes: 3,694

The second of the Unholy Trinity of Folk Horror

33. The Devils (1971)

R | 111 min | Biography, Drama, History

In 17th-century France, Father Urbain Grandier seeks to protect the city of Loudun from the corrupt establishment of Cardinal Richelieu. Hysteria occurs within the city when he is accused of witchcraft by a sexually repressed nun.

Director: Ken Russell | Stars: Vanessa Redgrave, Oliver Reed, Dudley Sutton, Max Adrian

Votes: 10,854

34. The Stalls of Barchester (1971 TV Movie)

45 min | Horror

While cataloging the library of Barchester Cathedral, a scholar finds a diary detailing the events surrounding the mysterious death of an Archdeacon some 50 years earlier. The first of the BBC's famed 'A Ghost Story for Christmas'.

Director: Lawrence Gordon Clark | Stars: Robert Hardy, Clive Swift, Thelma Barlow, Will Leighton

Votes: 336

35. Black Noon (1971 TV Movie)

Not Rated | 74 min | Horror, Western

A traveling minister and his wife are quietly menaced by a devil cult in the Old West. By the time the Good Reverend figures out what's going on it may be too late to stop the evil.

Director: Bernard L. Kowalski | Stars: Roy Thinnes, Yvette Mimieux, Ray Milland, Gloria Grahame

Votes: 184

36. Invasion of the Blood Farmers (1972)

PG | 84 min | Horror

Somewhere in upstate New York, a young woman is terrorized by a group of rural farmers primarily interested in a harvest of blood.

Director: Ed Adlum | Stars: Norman Kelley, Tanna Hunter, Bruce Detrick, Paul Craig Jennings

Votes: 583

Early American folk horror.

37. The Stone Tape (1972 TV Movie)

90 min | Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi

A research team from an electronics company move into an old Victorian house to start work on finding a new recording medium. When team member Jill Greeley witnesses a ghost, team director ... See full summary »

Director: Peter Sasdy | Stars: Michael Bryant, Jane Asher, Iain Cuthbertson, Michael Bates

Votes: 1,004

38. A Warning to the Curious (1972 TV Movie)

50 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

An archeologist goes treasure hunting along the English coast in search of a lost, fabled crown that supposedly helps protect Great Britain against invasion.

Director: Lawrence Gordon Clark | Stars: Peter Vaughan, Clive Swift, Julian Herington, John Kearney

Votes: 817

39. Dead of Night (1972– )
Episode: The Exorcism (1972)

50 min | Horror

Four friends gather for Christmas dinner at an old cottage. Suddenly, there's a power failure and the phone goes dead. Then their wine turns to blood and the turkey makes them violently ill. Then things really get strange!

Director: Don Taylor | Stars: Anna Cropper, Sylvia Kay, Edward Petherbridge, Clive Swift

Votes: 107

40. The Wicker Man (1973)

R | 88 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

87 Metascore

A police sergeant is sent to a Scottish island village in search of a missing girl whom the townsfolk claim never existed. Stranger still are the rites that take place there.

Director: Robin Hardy | Stars: Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland

Votes: 56,111 | Gross: $0.06M

I'm not sure what else needs to be said about The Wicker Man- if you are reading this list then you've watched this film. If you haven't then stop reading now and go and do it. This is the the final film of the Unholy Trinity and when we reached Peak Folk Horror, for now...

41. Hex (1973)

PG | 92 min | Drama, Horror, Western

A group of friends who were World War I flyers ride their motorcycles across America in search of what they believe their generation lost during the war.

Director: Leo Garen | Stars: Keith Carradine, Cristina Raines, Scott Glenn, Hilarie Thompson

Votes: 113

42. Mark of the Devil Part II (1973)

97 min | Drama, History, Horror

A tribunal interrogates, tortures and murders "witches" and "heretics" during the Inquisition.

Director: Adrian Hoven | Stars: Erika Blanc, Anton Diffring, Percy Hoven, Lukas Ammann

Votes: 203

43. Leptirica (1973 TV Movie)

63 min | Drama, Horror

A young man wants to marry the beautiful daughter of a landowner who refuses to allow the marriage. To prove his worth, the young man becomes a miller in a vampire-infested local mill.

Director: Djordje Kadijevic | Stars: Mirjana Nikolic, Petar Bozovic, Slobodan 'Cica' Perovic, Vasja Stankovic

Votes: 1,527

Early international folk horror as this is from Yugoslavia.

44. Lost Hearts (1973 TV Short)

35 min | Short, Horror, Mystery

A young orphan, Stephen, is sent to go and live with his strange, much older cousin at his remote country house. Once there, Stephen experiences terrible dreams in which he sees a young girl and boy who are missing their hearts.

Director: Lawrence Gordon Clark | Stars: Simon Gipps-Kent, Joseph O'Conor, James Mellor, Susan Richards

Votes: 370

45. The Treasure of Abbot Thomas (1974 TV Movie)

37 min | Horror, Mystery

The Reverend Justin Somerton, a scholar of Medieval history, and his protégé Lord Peter Dattering are visiting an Abbey library. Studying a stained glass window they uncover clues leading to a treasure hidden by a disgraced Abbot.

Director: Lawrence Gordon Clark | Stars: Sheila Dunn, Anne Blake, Frank Mills, Virginia Balfour

Votes: 270

46. Play for Today (1970–1984)
Episode: Penda's Fen (1974)

90 min | Comedy, Drama

Through a series of real and imagined encounters with angels, demons, and England's pagan past, a pastor's son begins to question his religion and politics, and comes to terms with his sexuality.

Director: Alan Clarke | Stars: Spencer Banks, John Atkinson, Georgine Anderson, Ron Smerczak

Votes: 284

47. Race with the Devil (1975)

PG | 88 min | Action, Horror, Thriller

Two couples vacationing together in an R.V. from Texas to Colorado are terrorized after they witness a murder during a Satanic ritual.

Director: Jack Starrett | Stars: Peter Fonda, Warren Oates, Loretta Swit, Lara Parker

Votes: 4,844

We Brits don't have a monopoly on folk horror either - this film feels like The Devil Rides Out colliding with a car chase movie, in rural Texas.

48. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

PG | 115 min | Drama, Mystery

81 Metascore

During a rural summer picnic, a few students and a teacher from an Australian girls' school vanish without a trace. Their absence frustrates and haunts the people left behind.

Director: Peter Weir | Stars: Rachel Roberts, Anne-Louise Lambert, Vivean Gray, Helen Morse

Votes: 29,129 | Gross: $0.23M

Folk horror goes Down Under.

49. The Devil's Rain (1975)

PG | 86 min | Horror

4.8