Woodlands Dark & Days Bewitched

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Kier-La Janisse’s documentary Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror (2021) is 192 minute epic that lays behind Severin’s best home video release to date; the All The Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium Of Folk Horror boxed set. Severin’s boxed set includes over twenty feature films that are excerpted in Kier-La Janisse’s documentary. The set essentially expands on Janisse’s film to the point that it is equivalent to taking a college elective.

The fact that Severin could build off of Janisse’s documentary this way is a testament to the film itself. Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched does more than just survey a sub-genre that is difficult to classify. With contributions from so many experts Janisse is able to really dissect folk horror in terms of its aesthetic functions, its political concerns and its broader historical context. This isn’t the kind of movie documentary that could be mistaken for a special feature; it is a legitimate and rather in depth analysis and meditation.

Robert Eggers, Alice Lowe, Piers Haggard, Mariano Baino and more than a dozen others contribute to Janisse’s discourse. But what makes Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched really special is how Janisse is able to unify so many clips without the film degenerating into something like a hundredth episode clip-show of a sitcom. This is largely done with Ashley Thorpe’s animation which, given its macabre images, creates a tone and a lexicon in which so many films’ clips can be couched. Filmmaker Guy Maddin also aids in this by contributing some rather uncanny collages.

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched is the genre film equivalent to A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995). Kier-La Janisse has proven themself to be one of the great documentarians of film history and culture of their generation and I am excited to see their Blood In The Streets: Quinqui Film Phenomenon (2021). Even if one isn’t a particular fan of folk horror Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched is still compulsory viewing for every cinephile.