Over at The Baffler, there’s a great piece by Edward Millar and John Semley on one of my favorite films of all time – 1973’s The Wicker Man – and the subgenre it begot: folk horror. “[A]t its core,” they write, “folk horror is speculative fiction about the failures of the Age of Enlightenment.” Contrary to supernatural horror (like, say, The Exorcist, which also came out in 1973), folk horror “inverts rather than negates Enlightenment philosophy: the mob sacrifices the individual, peasant superstitions supplant science and reason as the true source of knowledge, a holistic and animistic conception of the universe overtakes an atomistic and mechanistic one.”
The Exorcist did to horror what 2001: A Space Odyssey did to science fiction; what The Good, The Bad and The Ugly did to the western; what The Godfather did to crime dramas. But while William Friedkin’s classic is rightly considered one of the scariest films ever made, The Wicker Man is – for me, anyway – even more terrifying. Thanks to Millar and Semley, I now have a better understanding why. And now I really, really want to see Midsommar.