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In Ann Turner’s film Celia (1989) the Hobyahs of English folklore are the central fantasy image and main allegory of the film’s narrative subtexts. The Hobyahs are creatures that dismantle the family unit and the home. In Celia the Red-Scare, the rabbit epidemic, and marital infidelity are all equated with the Hobyahs to varying degrees. The use of this piece of folklore helps to ground even the most adult plot points in the naive perspective of the titular character, a nine year old girl.

As Celia confronts the Hobyahs of growing up, Ann Turner reveals the intergenerational traumas of WWII. The adults in Celia’s world are imperfect monoliths of authority that she gradually challenges like the dingo dog of the Hobyahs tale. Adults bid for control out of fear of infidelity, communism, and fines; essentially becoming the Hobyahs that Celia fears so. Grandmothers, neighbors, fathers and policemen all figure in the dichotomy of family versus Hobyahs that defines Celia’s experience of the world.

While grown-ups fight to preserve order and reason in the face of trauma and paranoia, Celia fights to maintain the fantasy world inspired by her grandmother and to preserve the safety of her beloved rabbit Murgatroyd. Child’s play becomes ritualistic coping mechanisms as Celia’s world spins out of control. The “folk horror” identified with Celia is born out of the intersection between the fantasy of play and the reality of danger.

Celia addresses the trauma’s of childhood and its relationship to make-believe in much the same way as Frog Dreaming (1986) but with a much darker edge. Celia‘s status as a cult film comes from Ann Turner’s willingness to delve into the darkest corners of childhood fantasy; a portrait of one girl’s rage and frustration with a grown-up world she cannot understand. Celia is that rare cult film that has a lot of heart and compassion. Though rabbit lovers should be warned that in this respect Celia is heartbreaking.