25th Fantasia International Film Festival: “Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched”

by Rachel Bellwoar

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror

Written and Directed by Kier-La Janisse

If all you’re looking for is a rudimentary knowledge of folk horror, Woodlands Darks and Days Bewitched probably isn’t for you, but if you’ve already seen Witchfinder GeneralThe Wicker Man, and Blood on Satan’s Claw and think they’re some of the greatest movies you’ve ever seen then Janisse’s documentary could be a terrific way to start exploring the genre further. It’s certainly a film that helps nail down what it actually means when a film gets described as “folk horror.”

By starting with the movies most commonly associated with the genre (or “the unholy trilogy” as they’re referred to in this documentary), Janisse is able to move the conversation forward to discussing films that don’t always get put under the “folk horror” umbrella or films that may have been overlooked due to how much focus is usually put on British folk horror over folk horror from other countries. Rather than have the same voices talk the entire time, it’s clear a lot of care was taken to find experts who could speak more definitively on certain titles. Whether its Abraham Castillo Flores discussing the La Llorona legend or Jesse Wente talking about indigenous horror films, Woodlands values their authority, and it shows.

Woodlands does itself a disservice, though, with its three hour and fourteen-minute runtime. Besides the folks who will inevitably decide not to watch the film because of how long it is, it feels like a subject that would’ve benefitted from another format, like a miniseries, where each episode could’ve been better defined. While Janisse breaks the film up into six parts, there’s no warning ahead of time of what’s coming and, because the experts change, there’s no familiar face to guide viewers through to the end.

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched makes its Canadian premiere at Fantasia Fest.

The 25th Fantasia International Film Festival runs from August 5th to August 25th. Click here for the full program.