Gothic Association of New Zealand and Australia

Johnston, D. (Participant)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


Rural Returns: Journeys to the Past and the Pagan in Folk Horror
A central element of the core folk horror texts (The Wicker Man (1973), Blood on
Satan’s Claw (1971), Witchfinder General (1968)) is the idea of rural communities as retaining pre-Christian practices and beliefs. When uncovered by a modern outsider who is returning to the countryside, these revelations disrupt their world view. Folk horror texts do not resolve this tension between worldviews, present any ‘victory’ as bittersweet and neither side is shown to hold all of the answers. The sustaining of this tension beyond the end of the narrative suggests that folk horror speaks particularly to our contemporary uncertainty, where organised religion and political organisations no longer hold all the answers, but retreat to the past also does not appear to present a sustainable alternative. This paper will show the importance of the rural return as a movement in time as well as space, one which invokes a strong sense of cyclicality in the rural space-time in tension with the linear industrial time of modern urban living. Examples will be drawn from the ‘Unholy Trinity’ of folk horror films, as well as related texts such as the Robin Redbreast and the BBC series The Living and the Dead.
Period22 Jan 2019
Event typeConference
LocationSurfer's Paradise, Australia, Queensland
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Folk horror
  • Time
  • Rural
  • National identity
  • Nostalgia
  • Film
  • Television