What is Folk Horror?

Folk Horror Pagan Witch in Forest

Most people think of horror as an overarching theme in today's stories, but the ideas of horror and how they're depicted can go further than just scary monsters and bloody gore. Horror is all about what people fear, even if what we fear is ourselves. Folk horror is a subgenre of horror that raises many questions, and there's no single agreement as to what it truly is. Folk horror is part of the universal markers of sinuous and atmospheric art and is a theme that continues to form communities together. We're here to provide a good description of what it is and what you can do to explore this unique part of history.

The Definition of Folk Horror

The term "folk horror" references folklore and art within a horror context. Many people define folk horror by what's considered the holy trinity of this subgenre, being Witchfinder General (1968), The Blood on Satan's Claw (1971), and The Wicker Man (1973). When using these movies as a reference, folk horror has a specific definition: British movies during the late 1960s and '70s with rural, earthy associations to ancient European pagan and witchcraft traditions and folklore. While this definition only implies horror during a specific time, other countries continue to produce folk horror content, as the content of folklore and witchcraft exists among all cultures worldwide.

Because of this, folk horror contains specific themes that people can look at within their stories, imagery, and influence. These themes include:

  • Witchcraft/Paganism: As a phenomenon shaped by ambiance and aesthetics, witchcraft and paganism are aspects featured in these movies as alluring and dark mysteries. These even include wearing Halloween masks to celebrate Samhain or other ancient traditions that have been passed on for centuries.
  • Rural landscape: Throughout folk horror, rustic roots, backwoods of our small towns, and pockets of civilization are the setting in which the main protagonist ventures and fears for their lives to escape from.
  • Isolation: Isolation often refers to not necessarily being alone but intellectually or morally alone amid groups whose practices and beliefs are alien to their own. The character works through the scenarios to find themselves among the people they're around, often leading to dire consequences.
  • Summoning/Happenings: Often acting as the conclusion to a story, folk horror typically depicts the invocation of spirits, demons, or other supernatural events, often detailing ritualistic sacrifices and acts of violence.

How To Engage With Folk Horror's Themes

The idea of darker entities, scenes of shadowy backwoods, and an idyllic small town gathering around bonfires can create raw visions of a warped past, even found as early as the Brothers Grimm. Modern retellings are working today to revive such concepts back into the world of horror and now expand into music, ghost stories, movies, and art. It continues to inspire us to this day, and many people take part in the study of folk horror to learn how it continues to influence us today. So, if you want to explore this genre more and bring it to life, why not look at what Horror Dome can provide for you for all of your Halloween mask needs?


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