Folk Horror: Lands of Cruelty, Beliefs of Terror
Folk horror is now a familiar genre for the Korean audience, as seen in notable works like Ari Aster's Midsommar (2019) and Banjong Pisanthanakun's The Medium (2020). As the name suggests, the core elements of folk horror revolve around rural/natural areas and communities. The secluded nature of these closed and tight-knit communities is often intertwined with superstitions, witchcraft, and rituals, terrorizing or threatening visitors from the city.
Emerging as a subgenre of horror films in the UK around the 1970s, folk horror had its prime for about a decade but faded into obscurity after the 1980s. Then, it resurged as the prevalent trend in global horror films in the decade following the 2000s. The recent worldwide popularity of folk horror has expanded beyond modern reinterpretations of British folk horror masterpieces from the 1970s, with folklore and occult practices from various regions worldwide being actively adapted for the screen. The genre's outreach expands in diverse mediums such as webtoons and series. In other words, folk horror is now a genre incorporating the most local elements and the most global creative trends.
The special program, co-curated by BIFAN programmers, will present 11 feature and short films, ranging from classical masterpieces to recent hits, exploring the history of folk horror. Supported by film institutions from around the world, including the Korean Film Archive, the Swedish Film Institute, and The National Film Archive of the Czech Republic, the program will showcase various aspects of folk horror that have evolved throughout film history, including the Swedish silent film masterpiece Häxan (1922), the 'unholy trinity' of films representing the folk horror genre: The Blood on Satan's Claw (1971), a hidden masterpiece of Korean occult horror: Evil Spirit (1974), and British genre filmmaker Ben Wheatley's modern transformation of folk horror, Kill List (2011). The program also offers a comprehensive perspective on folk horror in different regions, including the latest works from the Philippines and Japan that showcase the influence of folk horror within Asian genre films.
In addition to film screenings, the festival will feature diverse events. One such event is the Mega Talk, featuring local and international producers, programmers, film critics, and researchers, including Kier-La Janisse, director of Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror. The Mega Talk will delve into the birth and evolution of folk horror, examining the distinctive characteristics and critical significance of Korean and Asian folk horror films. A booklet and limited-edition merchandise will also be available during the Festival to enhance the understanding of folk horror.