It could be argued that the sub-genre of folk horror is the bedrock upon which many contemporary horror films have built their premise.
Folk horror draws its name from the fact that the antagonists and stories featured within such films are derived from traditional folklore. It is important to note however, that this is not the defining characteristic of the genre; rather, it is the conflict that ensues from the clash of old world, or simply alien, values and principles against their new age counterparts - in many cases, the true antagonists are actually the local populace, who seek to uphold their ancient or barbaric principles in face of what they perceive as intrusion from the outside world.
All of this highlights an undeniable status quo; the very nature of folk horror as a sub-genre is difficult to pin down. While there are a number of common elements normally present in these films, such as an expansively isolated rural setting or the legend of a malevolent and powerful deity of nature, the actual horror derived from proceedings often comes from human antagonists, who exploit storied legends for their own wicked, depraved or simply misguided desires. Be it cult members or just opportunistic sadists, the element of a human antagonist is alive and well despite the sub-genre's folklore-centric basis.
Without further ado, let us dive into the hidden gems of folk horror.
10. The Hallow
"Fairies, banshees and baby stealers".
Not exactly what one wants to hear upon arriving in a new area, but that is exactly what Adam Hitchens and his family find themselves confronted with upon arriving in a remote area of Ireland. Adam is a conservationist, traveling due to his work, and safe to say, he should be putting in for some extra compensation based on the events that transpire within ghoulishly brilliant folk horror The Hallow.
The 2015 folklore flick revolves around a hellish take on the aforementioned mythical creatures of the night, who gleefully set about terrorizing the unsuspecting family upon their arrival. Regrettably however, despite a glowing critical response and an ending quite literally begging for a sequel, the folklore-centric horror finds itself as a relatively unheard of cinematic commodity as of 2022.
The Hallow is a delightfully unexpected surprise in the sense that it is a genuinely good film despite a premise that puts the phrase "flogging a dead horse" to abject shame. The cast's efforts are consistently imbued with legitimately convincing emotion, lending an air of visceral reality to proceedings and dragging viewers into an emotional commitment to events transpiring within the film whether they want to be or not.
Factor in the thundering crescendo of a white knuckle final act experience and top it off with a subtly masterful lead turn from Game of Thrones' master-of-the-cameo-appearance Joseph Mawles, and The Hallow stakes its claim as one of the British folk horror sleeper hits of the decade.