There are few things scarier in life than the feeling of total isolation. Combining this tense, inescapable terror with the supernatural thrills of folklore, the folk horror genre delivers a nuanced sense of heart-pounding unease. While many of the movies in this subgenre may utilize the power of nature, magic, or otherworldly deities, it is the actions and blind belief of the humans in the film that truly incite fear.
From creatures beyond understanding to human sacrifice, here are 9 folk horror movies that'll have you sticking to the people and places you know.
Though it inspired a 2006 American remake that is mostly fodder for jokes, the British original is a much more respectable source of terror and unease. Upon hearing word of a missing girl, Police Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) travels to the remote Scottish island of Summerisle to find her. As he navigates the island permeated in Pagan worship, his devoutly Christian sensibilities are appalled. As the strange Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) orchestrates the happenings on the island, Howie begins to suspect him of human sacrifice.
This A24 film is so tense and heavy with anticipation that it's difficult to watch more than once. But that doesn't mean it's not a masterpiece of folk horror. Dani (Florence Pugh) tags along with her boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends as they travel to a rural Swedish town to take in the culture of their annual midsummer festival. But as Dani and Christian's relationship begins to splinter, the group is vulnerable to the advances of the manipulative and violent Pagan cult hosting them.
The Blair Witch Project
Credited with revitalizing the found footage genre, this film drags audiences right into the heart of the horror. When three film students travel to a forest in Maryland to film a documentary about the local legend of the Blair Witch, they all mysteriously vanish. All that's left behind is the chilling footage of their last known moments.
Based on the novel of the same name by Adam Nevill, this film adaptation is a Netflix exclusive. To honor the memory of a lost friend, a group of old college pals get together for a hiking trip through Sweden. When the men take a shortcut through the forest, they get the feeling they're not quite alone. Surrounded by disturbing imagery and odd symbols, there are strange machinations at work around them.
Set in New England in the 1630s, a Puritan family is victim to an evil force within the woods. As unimaginable horror and tragedy befall the family, one of the daughters, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is suspected of being the cause. But there are much darker things among the family than they know.
While discussions of folk horror typically center on Eurocentric tales, this Japanese folk horror anthology film is essential viewing. The movie collects four ghost stories all set in Old Japan. Of the tales, the second story, "The Woman of the Snow," tends to be most people's favorite. In it, a man survives a ghost killing only to fall in love with a woman who eerily resembles the spirit he promised to never speak of.
Related: 7 Creepy Japanese Horror Movies
British conversationist Adam Hitchens (Joseph Mawle) and his wife, Clare (Bojana Novakovic), move with their infant son to a remote Irish village to study the surrounding forest. The locals are displeased with their arrival, and impart the unsettling local legends of baby stealing fae. It's too strange to believe—until the family is beset by terrifying and relentless creatures.
Set in 1905, drifter Thomas Richardson (Dan Stevens) travels to a remote Welsh island to rescue his sister, Jennifer, who is being held for ransom by a cult. Posing as a convert, Thomas situates himself in the unsettling community which uses blood sacrifice to make the land fertile. But the situation is even more complicated and dangerous than it seems.
Blood on Satan's Claw
This 1971 film has gained quite a cult following, adding to its acclaim for being one of the essential films to lay the groundwork for the folk horror genre. In rural 18th-century England, a small village is overcome with superstition. But as the town's judge stews in his skepticism of supernatural involvement, the local children give themselves over to Devil worship.