Monday, June 19, 2017
Midnight Summer Dream - Folk Horror and the Ancient Kindred
Last month I watched two fantastic pieces of vintage British television horror. Shalcken The Painter was the 1979 continuation of the festive A Ghost Story for Christmas slot on the BBC and whose plot revolved around an artist’s lost love and her terrible fate. The Beast was an episode of the West Country Tales series of the early Eighties involving a city dweller’s encounter with a ghastly aggressive entity in the Cornish woods - the creature being played by the familiar character actor and former wrestler Milton Reid who can be seen in three of Mary Millington’s features.
In light of the latter work I have recently finished Folk Horror: Hours Dreadful and Things Strange by Adam Scovell which was published some months ago. Forging beyond the main cinematic trilogy associated with this sub-genre - Witchfinder General, The Wicker Man and Blood on Satan’s Claw - and the short stories of MR James, the book incorporates analysis of a truly comprehensive scope of Sixties, Seventies and Eighties film and television material from the Play for Today features Robin Redbreast and Penda’s Fen to the Hammer horrors Plague of the Zombies and The Witches and the Dr Who Jon Pertwee serials The Sea Devils and The Daemons.
Beyond the obvious association of these works with the British landscape and countryside - and of course the occult - there is consideration of similarly eerie creative dynamics that were transfused into urban settings right through to Public Information Films for children in the Seventies. The writing is academic in part but it was still a fascinating read and comes highly recommended.
In a not dissimilar context some months ago I read Thomas Sheridan’s absolutely intriguing fourth book The Druid Code. I am huge fan of Sheridan’s work by way of his Velocity of Now broadcasts and the incredibly interesting discussion of politics and Forteana to be found on his youtube channel and website.
At first I expected this book to have considerably less appeal to me than his previous book Walpurgis Night on the occult roots of Nazism but found it an extradordinary deconstruction of ancient British and Irish history as relating to the complexity of megalithic remains across the British Archipelago, Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. It also traces the passage of magic theory from druidic sources into witchcraft and freemasonry. Years ago I got engaged to my partner at the Holestone in Doagh in County Down and in turn have visited many of the places that Sheridan talks about in Ireland and the English West Country. Sheridan is both an insightful mind and a genuinely good humorous soul - his recent documentary works on occult Dublin and the mythology of Germany’s Odenwald Forest have been exemplary.
Both of these books of course hold particular relevance at this time of acute political and cultural strain in Britain as harking back to the purest of connections with our folk past - yet untrammeled and unsullied in this world of avarice, directionlessness and idiocy.