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The Scariest Things Podcast Episode CXXXI: Folklore Horror


ATMOSfx! Woo!
Once upon a time… horror was something you learned from your grandmother or the tribal elder. It is ancient horror by way of magic and myth, bolstered by the shared beliefs of a culture. This sub-genre is open to a broad range of interpretations and can be somewhat hard to pin down for definition. Leave it to the Scariest Things who were not afraid to give our own takes on what Folkloric horror is all about.

folk·lore

noun
1.the traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth.

Folk traditions create the style of the culture. From the design of buildings to the crafts that they produce, the food they eat, the songs that they sing, and the stories that they tell. It also is embedded in the history of a place. For folklore horror, there is particular resonance because these are widely held beliefs. The stories may have a true root, something awful that happened, and the legend of that tale grows and transforms into something truly fantastical until it becomes part of the tapestry of a place.

This is generational horror, a once oral tradition of scary tales passed from elders to youths that are steeped in lore and history that use ritual and storytelling to set the cultural boundaries. Folklore horror exists in the deep, deep woods that are just outside of your peripheral vision. It derives its power from the communal beliefs of a community that are handed down through oral tradition and ritual.

Things that you could not explain become myths and legends, and the rituals and ceremonies that attempt to tap into the power of these beliefs become the stuff of dark magic. This can range from practicing voodoo and witchcraft to the telling of faerie tales to the pursuit of cryptological entities. All cultures have folkloric stories embedded in their past, spiritual touchstones that can define a society.

If folkloric tradition establishes the norms and rules of a place, then folkloric horror is defined by the aberrations and the breaking of these rules. These are the things that are not to be done, or dire consequences are the result. If Joseph Campbell’s heroic journey is the celebratory model story for the aspirations of a community, folklore horror is the cautionary warning for those who dare to go beyond the boundaries of the acceptable.

In modern society, these tales come to us by way of the cinema. And we get our lessons served to us through horror movies. Movies are our most powerful form of storytelling and linking folklore to horror through the movies is an extension of the oldest of our stories.

Mike, Liz, and Eric have gathered some of our favorite folklore horror films, but we didn’t have time for all of them. Here is a roster of some of the best in folklore horror:

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