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[SXSW ’21] ‘Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched’ review: An atmospheric look at folk horror in film

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched appeals to a very specific group. The documentary looks back at folk horror in film. Due to its rich and varied history, documentaries about horror movies tend to be fun. But can one that is so focused succeed?

Splitting the document into chapters allows writer-director Kier-La Janisse to focus on folk horror from around the world. There is little crossover of topics in Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched. The film does a great job of showing how individual cultures from around the world impacted folk horror. When themes are revisited, it is due to their worldwide influence. Catholicism is the most obvious example.

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Paganism and ancient rituals are a big part of folk horror. This ties into another idea in Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched. The clash between the past and the present comes up often in follow horror films around the world. It is interesting to see how this fear is interpreted around the world.

[SXSW '21] 'Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched' review: An atmospheric look at folk horror in film

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched effectively shows the parallel between the films and real life. Highlights include how wars, the rise of feminism, and technology have all been addressed in folk horror. This is standard in documentaries about movies, but it is interesting to see how it is incorporated in these types of movies.

The film is split into chapters which allows it to cover various aspects of the genre thoroughly. In this case Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched is basically split geographically. Each section covers a lot of ground. Differences and similarities from around the world are discussed and nothing seems overlooked while the film never feels bloated.

[SXSW '21] 'Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched' review: An atmospheric look at folk horror in film

Aesthetically, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched is attention grabbing. Collages and ancient sounding poetry are seen and heard during the film. It is a nice touch that could easily have come off as silly. It is executed perfectly, bringing something that is not normally found in documentaries-atmosphere.

Of course, any documentary about film is going to need movie clips and interviews to really drive the point home. Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched includes over 150 movies and 50 interviewees. It is an in depth look into folk horror that even those who are not fans of the sub genre will find interesting.

SXSW is March 16 – March 20. Tickets and a full lineup can be found here.

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