Best folk horror movies from around the world
Popular horror may be more than British and American films, the subgenre has a love for remote landscapes, old traditions and human violence. Ancient religions and old stories of what lurks in the dark are found across the world. In Indonesia, Impetigore, makes a young woman return to her childhood village to discover that it is cursed. Guatemala donated La Llorona, using the colonizing roots of the water spirit to speak to the very real indigenous genocide of the country. In Poland, his campaign became the target of Devil by a creature from Jewish mythology.
What makes the following films even more unique are the culturally significant elements used. Rock formations in Australia bring out fears of nature and the unknown. Superstitions about witchcraft are kept alive in a rural Italian village, along with its violent tendencies to find the culprit. In popular horror, the peace between strangers and closed communities breaks rather quickly – the passage of time becomes something dangerous.
Noroi: The Curse (2005)
Told through found footage, a paranormal researcher investigates mysterious happenings. It sounds simple enough – but right from the start, audiences know bad things are on the horizon. Masafumi Kobayashi, played by Jin Muraki, has a number of books and documents to his name, all about paranormal activity in Japan. When a young girl who broadcasts her psychic abilities on TV goes missing, Kobayashi gets his new story to cover. This takes her to a religious village that once performed rituals for a demon. When the village began to undergo modern changes, the potential bright future was corrupted by a past that didn’t want to be left behind.
This Japanese film centers on two women, one older and the other younger. In the 14th century, they both attack soldiers, stealing their possessions. A civil war is underway, pushing many people into desperate acts of survival. When a wandering soldier appears, he wears a Hannya mask, a horned face with an unnatural mouth. It’s an iconic visual from the film. The older woman deals with the soldier accordingly, stealing his things and this mask. It’s a bad decision for her. The distant land would be beautiful, if it weren’t filmed to be threatening. Tall susuki grass is almost everywhere, the perfect hiding place for women to perform their flight.
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
This Aussie movie baffles by not showing but implying something terrible. It’s dreamlike, with a consistent summer aesthetic. A teacher brings a class to Hanging Rock for a Valentine’s Day trip – they are never seen again. The location is very real, with a devastating story. The original indigenous tribes that occupied the land were driven out by the colonizers. In Picnic at the hanging rocknature itself becomes a character, more specifically the rock formations of Hanging Rock which seem to bewitch those who approach it.
La Llorona (2019)
A former war criminal and his family are confined to their mansion, as the past returns to punish the patriarch. A former Guatemalan dictator, Enrique Monteverde (Julio Diaz) is on trial for the genocide he ordered against the Maya natives. As protests rage outside the mansion during the day, the nights bring the sound of a woman crying. Then the water throughout the house is disturbed. The taps turn without anyone doing it. It’s obvious what’s going on, the water spirit of La Llorona has its sights set on the dictator and his close followers. From Mexico to South America, there are different versions of La Llorona. But what director Jayro Bustamante cling to stories emphasizing colonizers and indigenous women, basing its fictional dictator on a very real one.
Sorcerer’s Hammer (1970)
Two elderly women hide communion bread to give to a cow that has not produced milk. The seemingly harmless act unleashes one hell of a firestorm. A priest finds out, and soon an inquisitor is brought into the situation. From Czechoslovakian history, Boblig (Vladimir Šmeral) supports a series of trials, using the infamous, Malleus Maleficarum, as a source of help. This literature had a specific purpose. The pages of Catholic authors encouraged brutal methods of torture to extract confessions from “witches”. Power-hungry Boblig believes his own lies, heedless of the growing number of defendants being burned at the stake. The North Moravian trials of the 1600s were not the only source of inspiration for the director Otakar Vavra. The theme of absolute and corrupting power is also very much influenced by the communist regime in Czechoslovakia, an oppressive regime that remained active during the era of Wizard’s Hammerthe exit.
By the late director Marcin Wrona, comes this Polish film. A wedding party goes to hell when a bride’s family tries to stifle the possession that has taken hold of the groom. The Jewish legend of the dbbyuk is used, a wandering spirit in search of a body to inhabit. But it is not the monster of the film. Peter (Italy Tiran) remembers little of his ancestral language since he is about to marry the Polish Zaneta (Agnieszka Zulewska). But when he digs up something on his family’s rural estate, Piotr learns how far his future in-laws are willing to go to ignore the family secret dating back to the Holocaust.
The Old Ways (2020)
Christine (Brigitte Kali Canales) is a journalist from Los Angeles returning to her hometown of Veracruz, Mexico. She considers doing a story about witchcraft, but it’s not long before she finds herself at the center of it. A bruja from this remote community orders an exorcism, seeing signs that the journalist is possessed. There’s an abundance of possession movies out there, this one tries to do things differently. The exorcism and its series of rituals are used as a way to discuss depression and drug addiction.
From the opening, the director Joko Anwar knows how to shake the public. A young woman is assaulted and the Why leads to a mystery found in the rural village of his parents. But going back there will be his biggest regret. The villagers are stricken with a curse and only bloodshed can save them. In this Indonesian film, Anwar uses wayang, a traditional performative art of using shadow puppets, to bind himself to the secret of the curse. As for the answers they provide, they might remind you of scary stories from childhood.
Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)
An Italian giallo from Lucio Fulci finds a village where witchcraft superstitions persist. And it became dangerous. Unsolved child murders lead the villagers to believe that a local witch is responsible. The police get involved, but their methods don’t stand a chance against the carelessness of the villagers’ growing fears. They don’t trust outsiders, so that doesn’t help the media wanting to capture the scandal. But as the villagers descend into paranoia, the strangers might be the ones to stop the killer. The mountainous terrain of southern Italy confines this village, this isolation only fueling their hysteria.
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