What is folk horror? The first thing to do when talking about the subject is to apply a caveat. Folk Horror was never meant to be a genre, never meant to be something you could put on a sign above a tidy shelf in a library or bookshop. It’s a label applied post-mortem by the surgical slice of a pathologist, organs extracted and weighed in the balance before being stuck to the preserved skin of its victim by a deft, analytical hand. And each of those media analysts, reviewers, bloggers, commentators, filmmakers, musicians and writers approach the subject from their own perspective, and as they do so the body of work to which that label is stuck grows ever larger.
And, as labels go, it’s a good one. Superficially. But it’s as tricky and slippery as the muscular twist of a perch hooked from the deceptively placid waters of a still pond. It shifts in the grasp because the definitions themselves seek to unify those things which were never consciously a whole. Uniting them is valid, but dangerous, because things may be thematically alike but different in presentation, and the clothes in which you dress yourself may be emblematic without being wholly or accurately representative of your beliefs or substance. The main problem with arriving at definitions of substance is that folk horror is really a compound noun which, whilst it creates a ‘new thing’, still tries to cram in as many of the things to which each of its separate words applies. Again, not a bad thing because these help with the definition, but it does leave those who love a definition struggling for air. Also, of course, labels apply for a reason – to help people identify things, and sometimes those people (finding they like something), are looking for more things they might like, or are pilgrims who arrive seeking clarification from learned masters who are presumed to have the answers they seek. And learned masters (or mistresses) are more likely to say ‘go away and make up your own mind).