With a 3 hour+ runtime, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched concerned me that this doc would test the limits of my admittedly poor attention span. I’m happy to report that was not the case, and that I was riveted the entire time. I love both horror and folklore, so I went into this knowing that I would most likely find the documentary interesting. However, I did not expect to end up watching the film about four or five times throughout the week, desperately gleaning all the information I could while the documentary was still available. The diverse and interesting content along with the well-organized structure of the documentary work together to make this an enthrallingly informative piece on the genre of folk horror.
The documentary is broken up into six different parts, each talking about a different aspect of folk horror. These parts were connected with folk songs or poetry readings and a steady narration throughout connecting all of the ideas being presented. The songs and poetry readings did a lot to contribute to the folk mood of the piece, and each of the entries were great choices that I thought were well-placed for maximum effect. The narrator does stumble over their words a few times, but I almost felt like that added a bit more personality to the film rather than detracting anything from it.
This doc made me feel like I was back in one of my literature classes in college in the best way possible. I love listening to people who are well-versed and passionate in a particular subject talk animatedly about that interest. The featured contributors were well-chosen, and each seemed to have something unique to say about the subject at hand. The editing did a lot to highlight what each person was saying by cutting to examples demonstrated in footage from the films being discussed. I think this is such an important part of film documentaries that not everyone gets completely right. Here there seemed to be a perfect balance between the talking contributors and the clips from the films they were talking about.
I’d also like to give kudos for the vast scope of this documentary, as it was one of the most comprehensive I’ve seen in a long time. Yes, the film is long, but it covers an astounding amount of information in that time. The sheer scope of the movies mentioned in this documentary is impressive to say the least. The film did spend a good bit of time on British and American folk horror, but about a third of the documentary is also spent on folk horror throughout the world. The diversity in subject matter was refreshing, and it was nice to be introduced to new films and film concepts that I’ve not seen much of before.
I knew I was in good hands early on, as the first contributor on screen mentions working on a different documentary that I absolutely adore (that doc is Mark Gatiss’ History of Horror, all three parts of which can be found on YouTube and I’ve probably watched it at least twenty times). After that, my interest and delight in this piece only continued to grow as the documentary went on. I’ve learned so much about folk horror and what it deals with, and I can’t wait to revisit and reanalyze my favorite pieces from the genre armed with my new-found knowledge.
If you liked this article, you can check out Brooke’s other work here!