June 20 2022

Worship the Old Gods

Folk Horror as a film genre explores the power of ritual, stories passed down through generations and long forgotten. Taking sanitised modern life and peeling back the mask to expose the dirt, the earth, our connection to the old ways. Exploring the darkness in the woods, the power of the land, the earth and it’s strangeness, everything about our landscape and existence that’s remains unsettling and unknown. The conflict between rationality and experience - organised religion and belief.

>> watch teaser / watch in full 

I grew up as a kid sat in the back of folk clubs, folklore and myth has always been fascinating. I was also raised going to Quaker meeting so when watching Roger Eggers, the VVitch a few years ago it stuck with me and I started seeking out and watching more and more films that could loosely described as folk horror.

There’s some talk about why we’ve seen a resurgence of folk horror’s themes in contemporary culture (Ari Aster’s Midsummer being probably the most famous currently) and I think there’s something in the disconnection and isolation of a sanitised modern life, experience through a screen, safe but sometimes feeling empty. The terror of how disconnected and unknown we’ve allowed our natural landscape to become, the comfort of ritual to give some attempt at connection and control over an out of control, unknowable universe. We’re longing to get our hands dirty. 

"all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again" - Ecclesiastes 3:20

Giving up cerebral rationality to tap into our inherent baseness, our bodies, our connection as beings. The horror in folk horor is often centred somewhere about sex. The freedom, in The Wicker Man, of the residents of Summerisle and how it both captivates and repulses puritanical sergeant Neil Howie. There’s often a young woman who is the focus of temptation, as in Blood on Satan’s Claw, young women using their sexuality as power, becoming a channel for the old gods, to call you in, siren-like, to worship. 

“The Law of Nature is the Law of Sex and Death. The ever revolving circuit which lies in the centre of the Mysteries” - Approaching Babalon, Georgia Van Raalte

Sex is dirty, the earth is dirty, unsanitary, unwashed, untamed, uncontrollable. Nature is erotic; fruit ripening and swelling, buds opening, the earth calls out for sensuality. Our fear of sex, of freedom, of unboundedness and bodily exploration outside of the safety of polite guarded society connects sex to horror. Nature is a site of horror; hunters and predators, darkness, killing to survive, becoming worm food, rotting into the earth. We’ve grown to fear and protect ourselves from death at all costs, being confronted with the reality of the morbidity of natural world scares us. Folk Horror plays on both of these fears.

The Rite of Spring is ballet by Stravinsky where the dancers perform rituals ushering the advent of spring and ends with a young dancer is chosen as a sacrificial victim and dances to their death. I wanted to make a film referencing the energy and symbolism of my favourite films and create a new form of a ritual to bring in the coming spring. Corwin, Nicole and myself as instigators, sect members or cult leaders and Chuck as our potential victim. 

We shot this in the woods in Portland on a (pretty fucking cold) early March day, the buds of blossom were just coming through and the earth felt like it was on the precipice of opening up again. Getting finally to work with Corwin, Vaunt and Chuck after so long as really a dream, this is shot on their beautiful land which gave so much life to the film. We spent a whole day shooting, getting progressively colder, wetter and muddier so when we finally got to built a fire at night at the end we really did go a little wild with the warmth of the dancing and the heat, it really did feel like giving into the power and magic of the earth. 

Everyone here was so creative and excited when we brought this idea forward, it was a proper collaboration, Vaunt made the hood and the amazing dried flower crowns herself and the whole day we spent exchanging ideas and trying out new weird things Chuck was such a trooper they definitely had the coldest and hardest job of everyone but they were always smiling and happy to try the next weird or uncomfortable thing we suggested.

I knew the soundtrack would be so important and I loved what we'd made with Andy Gibbs from Thou for our film Bloodmilk (sadly now censored and no longer allowed on our site) so I approached him to work together on this. I went out into the woods at dusk armed only with my mic and headphones and recorded the ambient sounds of the moors and the forest, singing, humming, breathing, yelping gasping (getting caught doing this by a dog walker was an even more embarrassing experience than being caught naked who knew) and Andy crafted them into this haunting, ritualistic soundscape.

Everyone involved here is such a talented creator in their own right. It was a really long and perfect day and I’m so happy to get to bring you the end result now.

'The Rite of Spring' (1913), Stravinsky
'The VVitch' (2015), Robert Eggers
'Midsommar' (2019), Ari Aster
'Blood on Satan's Claw' (1971), Piers Haggard
'The Wicker Man' (1973), Anthony Shaffer
'Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched' (2021), Kier-la Janisse
'The Golden Bough' (1890), James George Frazer

original score by Andy Gibbs

mild kidnap theme, face slapping, mild impact, cum eating/swopping, spit.