During 2020, the folk horror movie sub-genre has risen in popularity unlike any other—here's why. While it first rose to prominence in the genre during its mainstream introduction in the 1960s, it was quickly replaced with the wave of slasher flicks that permeated throughout the rest of the twentieth-century. The twenty-first century has seen paranormal film franchises boom in popularity but by the end of the 2010s, folk horror re-emerged with a new found fervor.
The first folk horror movie, Hӓxan, released in 1922. It is entirely silent, and features a plot about witches conferring with the devil. The most popular folk horror films to come out of its rise in popularity during the 1960s and 1970s are Witchfinder General (1968), The Blood On Satan’s Claw (1971), and The Wicker Man (1973). These three movies disrupted the sense that the countryside was filled with calm and serene elements by introducing unsettling elements to the atmosphere. They grew in popularity due to the fact that there was an increased interest in folk-based culture, such as music and festivals. It was a way of returning to a simpler life, but the sub-genre suggested that the idyllic landscape was just as horrific as real-life.
By the time horror entered the 1980s, slasher flicks dominated the genre. They were far more popular than folk horror due to their ability to broaden their story lines through franchising and sequels. Slasher films introduced iconic characters such as Jason Voorhees of Friday The 13th and Michael Myers of Halloween. Folk horror did not have that capability until recently, when a wave of films by various directors from an array of cultures reintroduced the sub-genre to the mainstream.
Folk Horror's Popularity In 2020 Explained
Just as 1960s and 1970s folk horror was attributed to the rise of a desire to return to simpler times, the same can be said for films of the sub-genre today. With television shows depicting the horrors of technology, such as Black Mirror, folk horror's rise in popularity may be due to the fact that it depicts a bare necessities lifestyle in rural areas that are isolated from contemporary fears. This is undoubtedly an appealing aspect of the sub-genre, but its ability to tell folk tales and stories from across the world adds an extra element of interest for western audiences.
Ari Aster’s Midsommar is one of the most popular folk horror movies, and highlighted the sub-genre's growing intrigue. It features a familiar story to folk horror—a Swedish cult celebrates a festival of horrors in broad daylight. Joko Anwar’s Indonesian folk horror film, Impetigore, challenged these stereotypical elements of the sub-genre by introducing a non-western tale. It captured stories that may be unknown to audiences outside of Indonesia, which appeals to those who enjoy unexpected, unknown, and historical horrors. On the opposite end, The Witch tells a dark and gritty folk story set in 1630 New England. By doing this, it showcases a dark and mysterious moment in the history of the United States with some factual background.
Nearly every folk horror movie is based in some form of truth or history, which makes them even scarier. These stories are commonly passed from generation to generation, so this storytelling tradition has essentially been preserved in film. In 2020, folk horror has become more popular than ever because it abandons the contemporary fears of climate change, technological advances, and government conspiracies by focusing on the past and simplicity. Folk horror movies also provide tales foreign to western culture, as well as stories based in historical fact, oral history fiction/non-fiction, and the mysteries of the past.