We’ve all gone a bit mad for folk horror in the last few years, haven’t we? I’m frankly still shocked that a movie as audacious as Midsommar was so successful! As someone who watched The Wicker Man at an incredibly impressionable age, I’m very excited that the mainstream has decided to follow me into the woods to worship the old gods. And out here, The Mammoth Book of Folk Horror is the closest thing we’ll get to a bible. Well, one that doesn’t release an ancient curse, anyway.
In this 500+ page collection, you’ll find favorites such as Arthur Machen, M.R. James, H.P Lovecraft, and Algernon Blackwood. These are absolute essentials for those who are new to the genre, and always a pleasure for established fans to revisit; M.R. James’ Wailing Well has an especially creepy ending.
But it is the lesser known writers that excited me the most. Stories such as Gravedirt Mouth by Maura McHugh tells a tale of a Girl Scout trip gone incredibly awry, or Storm Constantine’s incredible Wyfa Medj, which literally had me gasping with horror on the final furlong.
The highlight in the collection for me was genre stalwart Ramsey Campbell’s horrifying tale, The Fourth Call. If you thought your family’s festive traditions were strange, think again. The great thing about most of these tales is that much of the horror lies in the unknown and unseen. A disturbing sound here, a stray breeze from there, a seemingly harmless artifact, can all contribute to something a lot more sinister. A notable exception to this is Simon Strantzas’ story, The King of Stones, which is absolutely brutal.
The Mammoth Book of Folk Horror, as the title may suggest, contains an enormous amount of stories, so quality inevitably varies. However, it is fantastic to see the many interpretations of folk horror, and how it existed long before the term was officially coined. An essential collection for anyone with a remote interest in the naturally terrifying. It’s released by Skyhorse on September 7th, 2021.