The term folk horror has become popular in recent years to describe a subgenre of British horror cinema and television in the 1960s and 1970s. In particular the films ‘Witchfinder General’ (1968, Michael Reeves), ‘Blood on Satan’s Claw’ (1971, Piers Haggard), and ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973, Robin Hardy) are identified as key works in this subgenre, seen as distinct and different from the generic 19th Century world of Hammer and the contemporary settings of Amicus. The term was first coined by Piers Haggard during an interview with writer, actor, and broadcaster Mark Gatiss in his ‘A History of Horror’ (2010) documentary series.
Following Gatiss’ documentary, online commentators have further developed this notion of British folk horror, identifying both antecedents and later films featuring similar themes, elements and motifs. However, while there is a growing body of popular discourse on the subject, there is very little in the way of academic critique of this subgenre.
This thesis will redress this imbalance, providing an analysis of what defines and characterises folk horror as an identifiable and distinct corpus with British cinema and television.