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All The Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium Of Folk Horror (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review - Part One

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    Ian Jane
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  • All The Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium Of Folk Horror (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review - Part One



    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: December 7th, 2021.
    Director: Kier-La Janisse, Avery Crounse, Djordje Kadijevic
    Cast: Kevin Kí¶lsch, Dennis Widmyer, Piers Haggard, Dennis Lipscomb, Guy Boyd, Rebecca Stanley, Sally Klein, Mirjana Nikolic, Petar Bozovic, Slobodan 'Cica' Perovic
    Year: 2021/1983, 1973
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    All The Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium Of Folk Horror - Movie Review:

    With what may very well be their most ambitious boxed set release yet, Severin Films compiles a wealth of folk horror productions and loads of accompanying bonus features to put this most unique of horror subgenres into ever important context.

    Here's the first of a few installments that will do a deep dive into what this set contains.

    Disc 1: WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED - A HISTORY OF FOLK HORROR:

    Directed by Kier-La Janisse in 2021, the documentary that opens this collection is an in-depth look at the folk horror films that began in the decades past and which continue to draw audiences to this day. While you might expect the film to focus on pictures from the United Kingdom like Blood On Satan's Claws and The Wicker Man, while it definitely does cover material like that it also spreads its focus to an international scope, covering material from Asia, South America, North America and other parts of Europe as well. As Janisse and company engage in lengthy but interesting dissections of different folk horror entries, they make the case for pictures you might not necessarily expect to see included here like Children Of The Corn and even The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The concept of folk horror is defined for the purposes of the documentary early on and they do an admirable job of sticking to it.

    Along the way we're treated to with Kevin Kí¶lsch, Dennis Widmyer, Piers Haggard, Alexandra Heller-Nichols, Amanda Reyes, Adam Scovell, Alice Lowe, Mariano Baino, Lawrence Gordon Clark, Samm Deighan, Kat Ellinger, Jonathon Rigby, Mark Pilkington, Pete Tombs, Sam Dunn, Sean Hogan, William Fowler, Jasper Sharp, Ian Ogilvy, Geraldine Beskin and quite a few others, Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched is a pretty massive and admirably thorough examination of what can be a tricky category to define. At three hours and twelve minutes in length, this piece covers a lot of ground and it goes in some very interesting and unexpected directions as it does. The picture is also loaded with scores of fantastic clips, and while many of these will be familiar to seasoned fans of horror (particularly those who appreciate international offerings), there are going to be just as many clips that you don't recognize. This serves to keep things interesting on a visual level and, in the case of this writer at least, to make you want to seek out a lot of this films (a few of which don't seem to be super easy to get ahold of in authorized English-friendly editions).

    The documentary is also really solid on a visual level. Some very cool custom animation work has been created for the documentary that often times recreates the look of an old fashioned pop-up book and which helps to get the appropriate mood for the material being covered here. Little things like this, and the old-timey font used in much of the movie to divide up the different titles and to create the credits sequences, just adds a welcome bit of visual flair to the proceedings.

    It all adds up to a seriously interesting watch. Yes, the three hour plus running time might seem daunting and you may find yourself wanting to break it up over two nights or something like that but the material here is very well put together and consistently engrossing. It also does a great job of setting the stage for the rest of the material included in this set, such as…

    Disc 2: EYES OF FIRE

    Avery Crounse's 1983 independently produced Eyes Of Fire is set in the 18th century on 'The American Frontier' and it begins when a Preacher named Will Smythe (Dennis Lipscomb) is about to be killed by the local townsfolk, accused, quite accurately, of adultery. He's saved by some of his followers, including Eloise Dalton, and they steal the town's ferry raft and an assemblage of supplies and head down river to try and start over.

    After arriving in a valley and finding the remains of what was once clearly a bunch of cabins, they're caught up to by Marion Dalton (Guy Boyd). He's come to try and bring back his wife, Eloise, who has left him for Smythe, and also to bring back his daughter, Fanny (Sally Klein). Immediately upon his arrival, Marion communicates with the natives, the Shawnee Indians, that patrol the area and who don't seem particularly keen on Smythe and company's arrival. One of Smyth's entourage is Leah (Karlene Crockett), a young woman who doesn't speak after seeing her mother accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake as a child. She seems to be able to see the future and catches glimpses of bad things to come. When Smythe finds a young native girl left at the entrance to their cabin, he assumes that the natives want him to raise her as a Christian and he takes it as a peace offering.

    Before long, however, it becomes very clear that Leah isn't at all what she seems and that as members of Smythe's entourage run into trouble that something out there in the woods would really rather they all leave immediately. Marian tries to convince his wife and daughter that Smythe is a fraud and get then out of there before it all hits the fan, but…

    A visually impressive film that was, until now, only ever legitimately available on VHS through Vestron Video, Eyes Of Fire is a weirdly effective film. A lot of the optical effects anchor this as an early eighties production and those effects admittedly haven't aged particularly well, but Crounse manages to create an eerie and atmospheric slowburn film that builds to a pretty tense conclusion and that offers up a lot of unsettling imagery along the way (faces in trees being the big one there - yikes!). As far as the other production values go, this was clearly made on a modest budget though no a microbudget, but things shape up well. The woods offer the crew all the natural ambience you could hope for, and the costumes all look appropriately authentic.

    Originally made as Crying Blue Sky (more on that in the extra features section), the acting is a bit inconsistent in the picture, but overall, it works quiet well. Lipscomb and Boyd are both very good here, and Crockett does well enough creating a weird almost mute character out of Leah. The rest of the cast are passable, it not always great. Really though, this one is all about the atmosphere and the strange, at times almost surreal set pieces. Crounse makes the woods into a location that is both beautiful and intimidating, magical and dangerous. It's strange enough that it won't be to all tastes but it's easy to see how and why this movie has developed a big cult following over the years, as it's a pretty fascinating picture.

    All The Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium Of Folk Horror - Blu-ray Review:

    Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.78.1 widescreen with the feature given 43.4GBs of space on the 50GB disc. The video quality of the newly shot footage, which was clearly done on high definition digital video, looks great. It's clean, crisp and as nicely detailed as you'd expect it to be. Understandably, the archival clips vary in quality quite a bit, some look pristine while others less so, it seems to be entirely a matter of available elements. Even the lesser quality clips are more than watchable, however. Really, no problems to report here, it all looks just fine.

    Eyes Of Fire is taken from a new 4k restoration and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, framed at 1.85.1 widescreen with the 1:26:09 theatrical cult of the film given 21.9GBs of space. There are some minor compression artifacts in the smoke/fog heavy scenes but they aren't too distracting. Otherwise, this transfer looks great. Colors are very well-reproduced and black levels are strong. Skin tones look nice and accurate and the elements used were clearly in excellent shape as there's virtually no print damage here.

    Audio for Woodlands Dark And Days Bewitched is handled by a 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track, with optional subtitles available in English only. If you watch the film without the subs on, they do automatically appear on screen during the parts that are spoken in foreign languages. Again, the newly created footage sounds pristine, the clips sometimes not so much but that's part and parcel for documentaries that use material from elements that are less than pristine. Overall the sound quality here is pretty solid, it just dips at times when older clips are used. Not a big deal at all in the context of the movie.

    The theatrical cut of Eyes Of Fire uses a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in the film's native English. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Audio quality is solid, the score sounds really nice and the dialogue is always clean and clear. There are no problems with any hiss, distortion or sibilance here.

    Extras in the collection are spread across the discs in the set as follows:

    Disc 1: WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED - A HISTORY OF FOLK HORROR:

    Extras on the first disc start off with a nine minute video introduction by Writer/Director/Producer Kier-La Janisse wherein she discusses how the documentary started off as a bonus feature for Blood On Satan's Claw and then took on a life of its own, growing in length and scope by leaps and bounds. She notes how this was really her first time producing a picture, David Gregory's support of the project, the importance of knowing the right people, expanding the piece from a British-focused study to an international one, details on putting the production together and bringing it to life and more.

    Animating Folk Horror — A Conversation With Ashley Thorpe is a twelve minute talk with
    Animator Ashley Thorpe where he goes over his processes for the animated sequences that play such an important part in the look of the documentary. He also goes over some of the influences that worked their way into his efforts from various aspects of British folklore, how he came to be involved in the project, working with Janisse on the production and how working on this movie allowed him to do things he wasn't able to do on a creative level before.

    Outtake: What is Folk Horror? is a two minute piece that is an expanded definition of the folk horror idea that was trimmed from the documentary's opening sequence that features some thoughts on the definition from a few of the movie's interviewees.

    Outtake: Harvest Hymns — The Sounds and Signals of Folk Horror is a twenty-two minute segment made up of clips featuring historians and composers such as Marc Wilkinson, John Cameron, Jim Williams, Pentagram Home Video and more others wherein they share their thoughts on "the sounds of folk horror from trad to electronica." Lots of insight here into what went into creating the soundtrack for the documentary and some of the movies that influenced it (The Wicker Man comes up right away but Ganja & Hess is also cited) as well as bands that influenced it such as Comus.

    Outtake: Terra Assombrada — Expressions Of Folk Horror In Brazil is a seven minute piece with filmmaker Dennison Ramalho and Scholars Carlos Primati and Laura Loguercio Cí¡nepa that goes into some detail on the influence that Brazilian horror film and literature has had on filmed folk horror films. Coffin Joe is covered here, of course, but there are also some other artists and filmmakers cited. Some of the clips in here look really enticing and will definitely pique the interest of those with a taste for the more unusual and lesser known entries in the international horror cannon.

    In the five minute Folk Poetry section, actors Ian Ogilvy and Linda Hayden perform readings of some classic folk poems that plays overtop of some atmospheric Super 8 footage of wood lots, forests, lakes and interesting landscapes.

    A trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection options finish off the extras on disc one.

    Disc 2: EYES OF FIRE

    Extras on the second disc start off with an audio commentary with Colin Dickey, the man who wrote Ghostland: An American History In Haunted Places. In this track, Dickey goes over the strangeness that permeates the movie and 'almost works.' He notes how Crounse brings together a lot of different elements of American folk lore and culture, nods to classic cinema contained in the feature, the confusion that exists in the movie about what the original sin that sets everything into motion in the film really is, the depiction of witchcraft in the movie, thoughts on the different characters and the actors and actresses that play them, the idea and depiction of cursed land as portrayed in this and other folk horror entries (such as Pet Semetary), elements in the film that 'drive good horror' and why those elements work, the effects featured in the film, the movie's impressive ambience, the cinematography and lots more.

    The Secret Is In The Trees is a twenty-nine minute featurette wherein Stephen Thrower interviews Avery Crounse about how he got into filmmaking, his background in still photography, the different cameras that he used over the years, the shooting locations for the film, casting the picture, what it was like directing his first feature, how the film was distributed, his original director's cut and why it was changed and quite a bit more.

    Also interesting to see if Crying Blue Sky, the original 1:48:30 original director's cut of the movie. Restored in 2k from Avery Crounse's own 35mm answer print, this version is also presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. It takes up 22.1GBS of space and uses a 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. There are no subtitles provided here. In addition to some added bits placed throughout the film, this alternate cut also features alternate opening and closing sequences, adding more detail to the relationship between Smythe and Eloise and providing an equally odd, though no less effective, finale to the film. The presentation quality here isn't as strong as the theatrical cut but it still looks pretty decent and it's great to see it included here as it does represent Crounse's original vision for the film.

    Disc two also includes a few interesting short films, the first of which is an American film from 1972 titled The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow. Directed by Sam Weiss, this thirteen minute full color animated movie is narrated by none other than John Carradine and it adapts Washington Irving's classic tale of the headless horseman. This is presented newly scanned from 16mm elements for this release by the educational film archive AV Geeks, and it's a nice addition to the disc, it's pretty fun.

    The nine minute Transformations, an American film directed by Barbara Hirschfeld in 1972, is a weird experimental short lensed in Vermont where a group of white witches or wiccan types practice an arcane ritual. This shot comes courtesy of the Vermont Archive Movie Project. This short is in black and white and features no dialogue, only music, but it's quite evocative and eerie in its own simple way.

    The last of the shorts on this disc is the 2018 short Backwoods, made in the UK by director Ryan Mackfall. Based on H.P. Lovecraft's The Picture In The House, this fifteen minute piece tells the story of what happens to a scholar (Ciaran Clarke) when he strays from his goals and winds up in a house he presumes to be empty and abandoned. In the house, he finds an aged book that, once he starts to flip through it, takes a strong hold over him. This short comes courtesy of Myskatonic Films and is in color and widescreen. Shot on HD digital video, it looks good and it does a nice job of capturing an appropriately Lovecraftian vibe.

    All The Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium Of Folk Horror - The Final Word:

    The first two discs of All The Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium Of Folk Horror launches the set off in fine form with a fascinating and ridiculously comprehensive documentary getting the ball rolling and the bizarrely engrossing Eyes Of Fire serving as the icing on the cake. Nice presentation and a host of extras complement the features wonderfully. Great stuff.

    Click on the images below for full sized The All The Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium Of Folk Horror Blu-ray screen caps!












































































































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