What we now call “British folklore” consists of the oral traditions of the British people, including their myths, legends, and customs passed through the generations. It’s interesting to see how British mythology has influenced mediums, including food like the hot cross buns, literature like the Celtic Tales, and casino games like the Ireland riches of robin slot. When it comes to film, this particular subgenre offers a wealth of distinct, widely varied story possibilities. Here are a few movies that do an excellent job of depicting classic elements of British folklore.
Witchfinder General (1968)
The film Witchfinder General, adapted from a novel by Ronald Bassett, tells the story of Matthew Hopkins, an East Anglian witch hunter born in England in the 1620s. He claimed that he was named “Witchfinder General” by the Puritan Parliament. Based on real life, the film shows Hopkins on the road, offering his cruel services for a charge. The country was in a terrible state then, but Hopkins’s witch hunts were mostly unopposed because of civil strife, superstition, and terror.
The Third Day (2020)
Two people, played by Jude Law and Naomie Harris, go to the mysterious island of Osea throughout six episodes. At high tide, the causeway is inaccessible, preventing anyone from leaving (assuming they choose to go, that is). As is typical in the genre, an ancient mythology plays a role here. Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s score is replete with sounds of the outdoors, effectively immersing the characters in the abundant flora of Osea. Even though the series is fiction, Osea Island is real. Also real are the Celtic saints that the spooky people of the English isle worship. These gods are said to have come from another world.
Apostle is a strange genre mashup that pulls in several directions at once. It’s not your typical action movie, and it’s not the slow, plodding material that lovers of folk horror are used to. Apostle balances moodiness and gruesome violence to satisfy even the most discerning horror fans. Apostle is definitive proof that more action directors should explore the horror genre, thanks to the superb work of Dan Stevens as our brave, overwhelmed hero and Michael Sheen as the island community’s charismatic cult leader. A true story about a convent inspired the movie in the 17th century, where the nuns’ thought demons had taken up residence.
Folk horror depicts a world where trees are enemies, alone is torturous, and the ground abounds with human remains. Many folk horror movies draw on local tales, mythology, and old-world beliefs, although they don’t necessarily deal with the supernatural. Disturbing brutality, an outpouring of violence, and man-made cruelty are present in every one of them; they are not works for the weak of the heart.