Horror in film comes in many forms, no doubt largely because there are so many different sources of horror in the real world. One of the most common sources of film horror involves a confrontation between dangerous, ancient, pre-modern forces and individuals accustomed to a supposedly safe and sanitized modern world. Whether the horror arises from a thousand-year-old vampire, an even more ancient demon, or a resurrected Egyptian mummy, it is clear that fear of the ancient and primitive past—perhaps surviving into the present by supernatural means—provides some of the most potent sources of horror in film. However, it is also the case that pre-modern horrors can arise without supernatural aid, when modern individuals encounter other people whose cultural practices are still pre-modern, causing them to behave in ways that cannot be understood or accepted by the logic of the modern world. Perhaps the most obvious case of this sort of horror involves the whole realm of “folk horror,” in which modern characters typically find themselves in dangerous situations as a result of their encounter with the adherents of a pre-modern culture that operates according to rules that are different from those of the modern world—though this genre can again involve supernatural elements. The genre of folk horror is thus, at first glance, rooted in an opposition between the modern capitalist world (in which human society has established colonial dominion over nature) and a more traditional folk world, often one in which a human community lives in respectful harmony with nature. In practice, however, individual films often problematize this opposition, suggesting that the modern and the traditional are not simple polar opposites.

Adam Scovell, in the leading book-length study of folk horror, characterizes the genre through the four narrative elements of what he calls the “folk horror chain”: an emphasis on landscape, isolation from the modern world, a “skewed” belief system (in comparison with prevailing modern beliefs), and an often violent and sometimes supernatural culminating event that he refers to as the “happening/summoning” (17–18). Scovell, however, is here presenting a fairly narrow and specific description of the classic (and mostly British) type of folk horror film. But there are also horror films that draw material from specific folk religions, folktales, or other aspects of folk cultures that might be classified as folk horror.

British Folk Horror

What is generally considered to be the genre of folk horror is strongly rooted in a series of effective British films from the late 1960s and the 1970s, beginning with Witchfinder General (1968) and extending through The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and The Wicker Man (1973). Indeed, the term “folk horror” was first used to describe The Blood on Satan’s Claw (by its own director), though The Wicker Man is frequently seen as the pinnacle of the genre in its classic phase. It should be noted, though, that there is at least one excellent forerunner to these three films that is less often cited. That film is The Eye of the Devil (1966), which serves as an “interesting but neglected predecessor to The Wicker Man” (Murphy 77).Here, David Niven plays a French aristocrat who returns to his ancestral estate at Bellenac in order to sacrifice himself in an effort to overcome the failure of the grape crops in the local vineyards. The aristocrat’s wife (played by Deborah Kerr) follows him there, having no idea what is going on. Once she arrives, she begins to observe all sort of strange rituals and other goings-on, causing her to consult the local priest (played with creepy menace by Donald Pleasence) in search of an explanation. His explanation is that “the people of Bellenac are deeply rooted in the past. Their traditions of worship are ancient. Some of these traditions may seem strange to an outsider.” And strange they are. In fact, more and more strangeness accumulates throughout the film, especially as embodied in a pair of creepy siblings (possibly twins), played by Sharon Tate and David Hemmings. And, of course, the priest turns out to be in league with the locals: in Bellenac Christianity is not the Other of the local folk religion but has, in fact, been merged with it. In the end, the wife is unable to prevent the aristocrat from sacrificing himself, though it remains unclear whether the sacrifice will, in fact, stimulate the growth of the local grapes.

Witchfinder General grows out of historical accounts of witch-hunting during the English Civil War in the mid-seventeenth century, accounts that are very much the stuff of horror. In the U.S., incidentally, the film was released under the title The Conqueror Worm, from a poem by Edgar Allan Poe, in an attempt to link it to the highly successful cycle of films in 1960s starring Vincent Price and inspired by the work of Poe, though Witchfinder General is not directly related to this poem or any of Poe’s other writings. It does, however, star Price as Matthew Hopkins, the witchhunter of the title, who ruthlessly seeks to root out and execute witches, with a tendency to sexually assault them along the way. Indeed, the horror aspects of this film arise very much from the activities of Hopkins, not from witchcraft.

Price is superb as the pompous-but-smarmy Hopkins, though he doesn’t really dominate the film as he sometimes does, spending long segments off the screen while British actor Ian Ogilvy actually gets most of the screen time as Richard Marshall, Hopkins’ eventual nemesis. Hilary Dwyer is quite good as Sara Lowes, Marshall’s love interest and one of the victims of Hopkins in his roles as both sexual predator and sadistic torturer. Indeed, the final scene in which Sara is tortured by having an icepick repeatedly plunged into her back is pretty powerful even now (in the heyday of torture porn horror films) and was considered absolutely shocking in 1968. Price makes Hopkins completely (and appropriately) despicable. In any case, while the historical details aren’t always accurate, this film contains an important reminder that the most horrifying things imaginable in horror films have often already actually been done in reality is definitely worth a look. The film was quite successful and triggered a new cycle of horror films featuring Price, all made in Britain (though by the American studio AIP, which had produced Price’s Poe films).

The Devil Rides Out (1968) is a lurid thrill-ride that is certainly not a cinematic classic. It has its moments, though, and it was one of the most prominent Hammer horror films that didn’t derive from a Universal monster franchise. Here, Hammer’s flagship director Terence Fisher directs Hammer stalwart Christopher Lee in a tale of an evil (but posh) supernatural cult that owes allegiance to a goat-headed god that is essentially identical to Satan himself. Lee hams it up in this film perhaps more than anywhere except his death scene as Dracula in Dracula Has Risen from His Grave (1968). Here, though, he’s the good guy, working to save innocent victims from the evil cult. It’s also great fun to see Charles Gray (better known for playing Blofeld in the Bond film Diamonds Are Forever) as the sinister cult leader. The Devil Rides Out never pretends to be anything more than sensationalist entertainment, even though it treats its material in an entirely serious fashion, without a hint of (intentional) humor.

Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973), a key example of British folk horror, has been called (by the magazine Cinefantastique) “the Citizen Kane of horror films,” and it is certainly one of the finest cult horror films, though it doesn’t literally involve ghosts or witches or demons or even a legitimate folk religion. Here, Edward Woodward is Sergeant Howie, a devoutly Christian British police officer who comes to the remote island of Summerisle to investigate reports of the disappearance of a young girl there. Howie immediately notices oddities in the way the locals react to his inquiries and suspects that something highly suspicious is going on, which it definitely is.

The Wicker Man is a very direct predecessor to may folk horror films that came after itl including Apostle, a 2018 Netflix film that is strong on period visuals (it is set in 1905) and ramps up the gory details, but is otherwise little more than a less suspenseful reworking of The Wicker Man. It also does a much less effective job of depicting its island folk culture, though Dan Stevens’ turn as the tight-lipped visitor might be a match for Woodward’s. Still, the invented folk culture of the island (which centers around a sort of fertility goddess who has been imprisoned and forced to do the bidding of the island’s rulers) is itself pretty humorless and seems almost indistinguishable from a particularly grim version of Christianity, as when the use of truly horrific torture devices within this culture recalls the medieval Catholic inquisitions. In addition, Stevens’ character is not an ultra-pious Christian but a former Christian who has lost his faith. Thus, the contrast between Christian and pagan religions, which is so crucial (though ultimately uncertain) to The Wicker Man, is essentially removed from Apostle.

Sometimes folk horror occurs, not because a modern individual wanders into an ancient culture, but because practitioners of an ancient culture are already living among us in the modern world. One key example of this kind of folk horror film is Ken Russell’s The Lair of the White Worm (1988), which seems to want to suggest that ancient cultures had a freer and more open attitude toward sexuality but which takes this notion somewhat to an extreme, reflecting the sort of rampant eroticism for which Russell was well known as a director. This film is also unusual in that it contains numerous comic touches—indeed, Russell himself has insisted in interviews that the entire film should be considered a comedy. And it certainly does frequently veer into the realm of the ridiculous, including the use of a preposterous giant snake-god that looks like it might have been designed by a troubled second-grader. Meanwhile, though the film takes place in a rural setting in England, it nevertheless takes place in a rather modern milieu and features characters who mostly seem quite modern. In the midst of all this, however, is local aristocrat Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donahoe), who turns out secretly to be a priestess in an ancient sacrificial cult that worships the snake-god (the “white worm” of the title) that lives in the local underground caverns. Amid lots of heavy emphasis on the phallic symbology of snakes, Lady Sylvia contrives to sacrifice a young local woman, Eve Trent (Catherine Oxenberg), who happens to have the misfortune of being a virgin—which of course makes her a particularly desirable sacrificial victim. In the end, both Lady Sylvia and the snake-god are destroyed, but the film ends with one final twist when one of the heroes, Scottish archeology student Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi), bitten by Lady Sylvia before her demise, has contracted the curse of snakiness and will apparently now carry on the cult.

Russell’s film is loosely based on Bram Stoker’s 1911 novel of the same title, The Lair of the White Worm, which was itself based on the legend of the “Lambton worm,” a well-known story from the folklore of northeastern England. However, it is fairly clear that Russell is primarily interested in the erotic possibilities of this story, which are almost completely missing from Stoker’s novel. As Scovell puts it, “as usual with Russell’s films, there is a hyper-eroticism to almost everything that happens, which distracts from the Gothic ties of Bram Stoker’s original story and the ruralness in which it is framed” (95). Of course, Stoker is best known as the creator of Dracula, and one of the elements of the film that does seem to reflect its source material is that both the snake and its acolytes are decidedly vampire-like—thus the motif of passing along membership in the cult via a bite.

One of the highlights of recent British folk horror is the work of director Ben Wheatley, including such interesting examples as Kill List (2011), A Field in England (2013), and In the Earth (2021), all of which contain strong folk horror elements, while also mixing in material from other genres as well. Kill List, for example, begins essentially as a crime drama as two British army veterans turn to work as hit men, using the skills they learned in the military to earn much more than they otherwise could amid the struggling British economy. However, as they go about their rounds, they encounter stranger and stranger circumstances that eventually lead them to a murderous human sacrifice cult that seems to be headquartered on the estate of a member of Parliament. This encounter leads to disastrous results for the hit men, including a particularly shocking ending. In this case, we don’t actually learn very much about the details of the practices of the cult, as Wheatley lets us use our imaginations, presumably based on what we have seen in previous folk horror films involving cults. Kill List is a beautifully made film that drew extremely enthusiastic reviews, both for its visual texture and for its social commentary.

A Field in England is one of Wheatley’s strangest films, a period piece set during the English Civil War and thus looking back to Witchfinder General. It’s a chaotic setting (there is a reason why the best-known history of that civil war is entitled The World Turned Upside Down)that Wheatley uses primarily for atmosphere, without really interrogating the issues behind the war. The film also creates atmosphere through its black-and-white cinematography, though it otherwise minimizes the use of the kinds of sets (it is literally set primarily in a field) and costumes (the characters are mostly dressed in rags) that are typical of period dramas. There is very little real engagement with the historical setting, except for the indication that this was a time when the world was still infused with magic and alchemy—though it leaves open the question of how much of the magic is real and how much is merely hallucinated due to the psychedelic mushrooms found in the field. Meanwhile, despite the mostly dark subject matter, A Field in England contains a surprising amount of humor (including slapstick violence), to the point that it sometimes feels like something from Monty Python.

Wheatley’s most complex folk horror film is In the Earth, which also contains strong elements of science fiction. Indeed, one of its themes (explicitly stated within the film by one of the characters) is a variant of science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke’s famous dictum that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, thus echoing the way in which many aspects of the film can be interpreted as either horror or science fiction. To add interest, the film takes place during a pandemic (though not the Covid-19 pandemic), which serves as background to a strange trip into a remote forest that might be haunted by a supernatural entity demanding cultish worship and sacrifice or might just simply be using natural methods of mounting a resistance to the destruction of the environment by human beings. In so doing, In the Earth suggests parallels between climate change and pandemics as global phenomena that might be read as nature’s revenge for human damage to the planet.

With relics like Stonehenge serving as stark reminders of an ancient past, there are plenty of potential sources of folk horror in Britain. Sometimes, though, British characters wander abroad to encounter folk horror. In The Ritual (2017) four British mates go on hiking trip in the remote Swedish woods as a tribute to a recently murdered friend. Strange happenings soon begin, however, and it eventually becomes clear that the woods are inhabited by a cult devoted to the worship of an ancient supernatural creature. The cult, of course, wants to sacrifice the outsiders to their god, leading to some fairly effective action as the four try to defend themselves while at the same time struggling to figure out just what they are defending themselves from. The Ritual was produced in conjunction with Netflix and is a good example of the recent activity of Netflix in the horror film field.

American Folk Horror

Modern Americans have relatively little connection to a distant past. To a very real extent, the ancient roots of America’s mainstream culture are in Europe, especially England. There is, however, one source of ancient cultural energies, very foreign to our modern sensibilities, on the North American continent, in the form of Native American culture. This source, however, has not been richly mined, perhaps due to the fact that the real horrors in American history were visited upon Native Americans by modern invaders, not the other way around. There are, however, some horror films that draw upon Native American folk traditions, generally with supernatural intonations. After all, Native American mythology is rich in supernatural imagery, even if that imagery has thus far been underutilized in horror film. It has occasionally appeared, though, as in the case of Larry Fessenden’s Wendigo (2001), which employs the Native American supernatural creature of the title as a key motif. This creature is somewhat vaguely and multiply defined, appearing as it does in a number of different Native American cultures, mostly in what are now Canada and the northern United States. The wendigo is part of the traditional belief system of a number of Algonquin-speaking peoples, including the Ojibwe, the Saulteaux, the Cree, the Naskapi, and the Innu. Although descriptions can vary somewhat, common to all these cultures is the view that the wendigo is a malevolent, cannibalistic, supernatural being, strongly associated with winter, cold, and deprivation. On the other hand, the Wendigo of this film really features only in the (very unsatisfactory) ending to what is otherwise a fairly effective rural horror film. Here, a family from New York City travels into the Catskills for an outing in the country, having been loaned the use of a friend’s country home. There, they are tormented by a crazed local who has a grudge against the owners of the house, which he regards as his rightful heritage. He ends up killing the father of the family, then is himself badly hurt (possibly fatally) after an apparent encounter with a Wendigo.

An apparent wendigo is also crucial to Scott Cooper’s Antlers (2021), a stylish horror film that was co-produced by Guillermo del Toro. Here a small-town sheriff and his sister, a local school teacher, suspect one of her students of harboring a supernatural creature which is identified by a Native American as a wendigo. This wendigo, though, is an evil spirit that possessing human beings and makes them into murderous cannibalistic creatures. The protagonists seemingly defeat the wendigo using knowledge gained from their Native American consultant, though the film ends (as horror films often do) with a suggestion that the vanquished evil might still be a threat.

Adjacent to films that grow out of Native American folk traditions are horror films that are closely linked to the Western. One of the best of these is S. Craig Zahler’s Bone Tomahawk (2015), a Western horror film that deals centrally with the theme of cannibalism (and includes one horrifyingly graphic scene of a human body being butchered in preparation for a meal). What is perhaps most striking about this film, though, is its play with genre. Bone Tomahawk is, in many ways, a straight Western, and a very good one at that. It features excellent performances by the central actors, who bring genuine life to what is essentially a collection of Western archetypes. The key figures include Kurt Russell as town sheriff Franklin Hunt; Richard Jenkins as his aging “backup deputy,” Chicory Kory; Matthew Fox as the somewhat dandified Indian killer John Brooder; and Patrick Wilson as injured cowboy Arthur O’Dwyer, the husband to Samantha O’Dwyer (Lili Simmons), who is the town beauty but also its backup physician, an important role given that the main doctor is seldom sober. Bone Tomahawk is something of a captivity narrative in which Samantha (along with two men) is kidnapped and taken away, after which the other central characters head out in an attempt to rescue her. The film thus has a lot in common with films such as John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) and features a great deal of compelling cinematography of the Western landscape, like a Ford film. Bone Tomahawk is also rich in realistic period detail, though its grittiness is infused with subtle doses of humor throughout. However, Bone Tomahawk is also a horror film: the captives have not been taken by ordinary Native Americans, but by “troglodytes,” viciously savage, cannibalistic cave-dwellers who love feasting on the flesh of white folks. And Zahler doesn’t flinch at showing just how savage they really are. Arthur, Samantha, and Chicory all nominally survive (though it is not entirely clear that they will make it back to civilization), but in the meantime we are treated to one of the best Westerns of the twenty-first century—in a demonstration of just how well that genre can work with horror. On the other hand, the horror elements also contribute a sort of destabilization that highlights certain problems with classic Westerns, in which Native Americans were often portrayed as being pretty much as savage as the troglodytes of this one.

The tradition of modern folk horror is certainly not as strong in America as in Britain, but there are some notable entries. For example, Children of the Corn (1984), based on a short story by Stephen King, is not a great film, but it does seem to have struck a chord—and has become a well-known artifact of American culture, inspiring not only a total of eight sequel films, but television episodes of both South Park and The Walking Dead. It also combines three major tropes of the horror film: creepy children, satanic cults, and scary country folks. Here, the children of Gatlin, Nebraska, kill off all the adults in the town, and then threaten any outsiders (“Outlanders”) who happen to come by, including a couple played by Peter Horton and Linda Hamilton. The children, as it turns out, are under the influence of charismatic religious leaders among them, and, as a whole, Children of the Corn is first and foremost a critique of the creepiness (and potential deadliness) of religious extremism (a favorite Stephen King theme). Here, there is also a malevolent supernatural entity lurking in the corn that is influencing the children, but that’s just kind of an add-on for dramatic effect. What is most important is the film’s reminder that impressionable children can be influenced by religion in dangerous and damaging ways.

This film does little to imagine the actual cultural practices of this kid-ruled community, but it is clear that the entity influencing them is quite ancient and that human sacrifice is a big part of the religious practices it inspires—as is quite common in ancient folk religions. It is also clear that the corn is a big part of this religion and that the sacrifices are apparently meant to stimulate the growth of the corn, which would again be common in ancient folk religions.

In Children of the Corn, human agents pose the major threat, even if they seem to be working in the service of a supernatural entity. The situation is quite different, however, in In the Tall Grass (2019), another film based on the writing of Stephen King—in this case on a 2012 novella of the same title by King and his son Joe Hill. Here, passersby are lured into a field of tall grass, where distortions of space and time cause them to become lost and confused, with potentially disastrous results. And the source of all the trouble is an ancient stone in the middle of the field that seems to be exerting supernatural power over the field, apparently in a quest to gain human worshippers. We are assured of the antiquity of the rock, as well as its geographical centrality: “I think it’s a safe bet it’s been here since before the Kiowa hunted on the Osage Cuesta. Older than the hills. Probably was here before the glaciers came and carried the hills away. You realize we’re in the center of the contiguous United States. Smack-dab in the middle of the continent. He’ll, I’d hazard this stone is the center of the center.”

Granted Patrick Wilson plays a sinister character who is a danger to most of the others, but that is apparently because the stone has driven him to such actions. Wilson’s character is himself very much a victim; the real problem is the stone itself. This film has some visually striking moments, and the idea of being caught in an ever-shifting maze is potentially terrifying. But this film also illustrates the problem with such films in general: a big rock doesn’t make a very interesting villain, even with mythic resonances suggesting that it bears ancient powers that predate the human race.

American filmmakers have sometimes attempted to replicated British folk horror fairly directly, as in the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man, directed by Neil LaBute and starring Nicolas Cage in the lead role of police officer Edward Malus, who is lured to an island in Puget Sound by a plea from his ex-fiancée, Willow Woodward (Kate Beahan), who reports that her daughter Rowan (Erika Shaye Gair) has disappeared. (Note that the first and last names of Malus and Willow can be combined to read “Edward Woodward,” in a nod back to the star of the original film.) Remaking this film must have required a great deal of audacity, given that the original film is well-nigh perfect. In this case, many details have been changed, including a strong emphasis on the matriarchal character of the society on the island, which is now presided over by Sister Summersisle (Ellen Burstyn), rather than Lord Summerisle, as in the original. Unfortunately, almost all of the changes are for the worse. Cage’s performance is actually quite muted (by his standards) through the first two-thirds of the film, but he eventually morphs into his typically manic self, and his character is simply less effective as the film’s center than was Woodward’s tight-lipped, ultra-pious Neil Howie. Malus ultimately meets the same fate as Howie, though his troubles are complicated along the way by his pre-existing tendency to hallucinate and by the fact that the island is swarming with bees, while Malus is (of course) allergic to bee stings.

Meanwhile, culturally, this island society simply seems less believable than the one in the original, which can tie into ancient British cultural traditions, whereas the remake attempts to link its woman-dominated society back to the Salem witches, but this link is not very compelling. (That narrative, though, has exercised an important presence in American horror, directly or indirectly inspiring such fine horror films as Robert Eggers’ 2105 film The Witch.) Moreover, the depiction of this society seems driven by the misogynistic assumption that really bad things happen when women are in charge—though at least one generous critic attempted to recuperate the film as a parody of misogyny, intended (though half-heartedly) to atone for the real misogyny of LaBute’s earlier films, such as In the Company of Men (1977). All in all, the film is an unfortunate failure, typically savaged by critics and often described as unintentionally comical and comically awful.

International Folk Horror

As horror film in general becomes a more and more international phenomenon, it is no surprise that the folk culture of a variety of different folk cultures has been used to inspire folk horror films. Some of these sources, such as Haitian voodoo culture, has been a presence in American film for nearly a century. There have also long been international examples, such as the 1967 Soviet film Viy, based on an 1835 horror novella by Nikolai Gogol, itself derived from Russian folklore. There are also classic examples such as the 1964 Japanese film Kwaidan, which has the unique distinction of being an adaptation of a book of Japanese folk tales in English translation. And Japanese ghost stories, which have become quite prominent in world culture, typically have strong roots in Japanese folklore.

More recently, films made in a variety of different countries have used their indigenous folklore to generate horror films. As Ritual shows, Nordic folklore has proved to be a rich source of folk horror. For example, Mike Flanagan’s Absentia (2011) is based on the Norwegian fairytale “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” In addition, one of the finest American folk horror films of recent years, Ari Aster’s Midsommar (2019) deals specifically with Swedish folk traditions involving midsummer festivals. Films emanating from Scandinavia itself have also drawn upon the region’s rich tradition of folktales and fairy tales, such as Valley of Shadows (2017), which involves a boy’s journey into a deep dark forest that might be inhabited by supernatural monsters. And the 2010 Norwegian folk horror comedy Trollhunter has become an international cult hit.

Among the strangest supernatural entities to have been featured in horror films are the “kratts” of the 2017 Estonian film November. This film features a village of nineteenth-century Estonian peasants who lived in a world saturated with magi, heavily populated with supernatural entities, including ghosts, werewolves, and witches. But the most striking supernatural creatures are the “kratts,” which are distinctive entities derived from Estonian folk culture. A kratt can be built of almost any materials, as when the kratts of the film are weirdly cobbled together from leftover household junk, with results that are weird-looking to the extreme. A kratt can then be animated by the Devil in exchange for three drops of blood from the kratt’s owner, who can then employ the kratt as a sort of servant. Given all the magic in this world, it is not surprising that the characters of the film attempt to solve their problems via magic—not, however, with very good results.

The recent rise to global prominence of South Korean horror film has, predictably introduced supernatural motifs with a distinctively Korean spin. One of the most interesting of these is The Wailing (2016), directed by Na Hong-jin. Here, a series of strange (and bloody) events in a remote Korean town are at first a total mystery to the local authorities, especially the film’s protagonist, policeman Jong-goo (Kwak D-won). At first, Jong-goo seems a rather comic figure, afraid of his own shadow, which complicates the decoding of the film as it goes forward. There are also several important twists and turns that seriously complicate our own understanding of what is going on. Ultimately, the central event of the film is the possession of Jong-goo’s young daughter Hyo-jin (Kim Hwan-hee) by an evil spirit, ultimately causing her to kill her entire family, including her father. The exact nature of the evil spirit is never made entirely clear, though Satan himself (in the form of a Japanese man who has come to town) might be involved, with some of the locals as minions. There are also some Catholic priests, though they are of little help and have little impact on the plot, which does not necessarily depend upon a Christian mythology, though the film does begin with a Biblical epigraph. And, though there is certainly no Christ to be found in the film, there might be an Antichrist. Long, slow, and absolutely demented, The Wailing essentially makes up its own mythology from a stew of ingredients from both Christianity and Korean folklore. Many horror films have been accused of over-explaining their offbeat elements; no danger of that here.

The Indonesian horror film Impetigore (2019) combines several different elements, including folk horror, as it draws upon Indonesian folklore to produce a horror-based commentary on a number of contemporary social issues in Indonesia. In this film, two young women travel to an isolated and nearly deserted village seeking to uncover family secrets, which seem focused on a massive house that the few remaining locals regard with considerable suspicion as they do the out-of-towners. Impetigore, written and directed by Joko Anwar (a leading figure in Indonesian film who has worked in a number of genres), draws upon elements of some graphic Indonesian folklore (involving things such as the skinning of infants and puppets made of the skin of dead children) and history to build toward a horrifying and bloody climax.


Murphy, Bernice M. The Rural Gothic in American Popular Culture: Backwoods Horror and Terror in the Wilderness. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Scovell, Adam. Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange. Auteur-Liverpool University Press, 2017.