“In 2012 in the earlyish days of planning for A Year In The Country there was a trailer being broadcast for an episode called “Savage Party” of the British television youth-orientated soap opera Hollyoaks.
The trailer is basically a high street-esque take on some of the visual language, themes and tropes of the flipside or undercurrents of folkloric culture expressed in the likes of The Wicker Man (1973): a glimpse of Albion in the cultural overgrowth, a step through the gates into the secret garden (with spangly hotpants as your attire).”
“It shows the young folk entering a gated slightly magical-seeming woodland; they are often animal masked, behorned and May Queen crowned and enter an unsupervised carnivalesque atmosphere which seems to subtly hark back to earlier almost pagan times…”
“And yes the trailer is a simulacra of folklore-inspired culture but still enjoyable…
For some reason this promotional video blurs those lines a touch. It is joyous, ridiculous, a copy and also created with some sense of love or passion for its source material, even if that is but a flickering, passing moment of interest.”
“The trailer’s soundtrack is Stealing Sheep’s “Shut Eye” (2012), which is a lovely catchy sort of psych-folk indie-pop song, with the band’s music reminding me in a way of a more youthful, British Coco Rosie (the sister duo who were loosely connected with American freak folk in the 2000s, along with the likes of Devandra Banhart and Joanna Newsom).”
“Curiously in 2016 there was a “Halloween on Hollyoaks” trailer which drew from one of the other more flipsides of filmic culture, Italian super- natural horror and interconnected giallo, and was basically a homage to Dario Argento’s Suspiria film from 1977.”
“The appearance of such less thoroughly travelled themes in mainstream culture can seem like something of an unexpected treat when it is treated in a respectful manner and done at least reasonably well.
Along which lines, a soft spot should be reserved for the turn of the millennium remake of television series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) that was broadcast in 2000-2001, and which was produced by Charlie Higson, who also wrote and directed some episodes, and starred comedians Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer alongside Emilia Fox and gloriously white-haired former Doctor Who Tom Baker.”
“…it often shows a great love for a whole slew of fantasy, television, literature, crime horror and science fiction films etc. from years gone by in the way that it references and draws from them.
“The episode Man of Substance in particular, which seems to predate Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg’s Hot Fuzz film of 2007 by a year or few in a number of its themes, borrowings and the story of a sleepy country idyll gone bad and is rather folk horror-like in its setting and plot.”
“I guess we should have known something was not quite right when shown the unsettling monument on the way into the village that looked as though it should have been on the cover of one of the John Barleycorn Reborn series of dark Britannica compilation albums of wyrd, exploratory, underground etc folk that were released by Cold Spring beginning in 2007.”
“Along the way the episode wanders into the territory of and borrows from: The Wicker Man, The Monster Club, Curse of the Crimson Altar, Hansel and Gretel, Witchfinder General, The Bloody Judge and Penda’s Fen.”
“And just having Tom Baker, possibly still the archetypal Doctor Who, in amongst it all makes the episode fundamentally interconnected in the minds of watchers of a certain vintage with particular culture and tropes.”
“…and that is before we get to Gareth Thomas, who once starred as a freedom fighter in the cult science fiction series Blake’s 7 (1978-1981), who here plays a real ale pushing pub landlord who later appears in his festival garb only to be revealed as a centuries-old medieval lord of the manor.”
“Randall & Hopkirk is not necessarily as dark but thinking back this episode may have shared some ground with the similar time period’s The League of Gentleman series that was broadcast from 1999-2002 and its mixing of horror and comedy in a rural setting gone bad where “You bain’t be from round here” is the general refrain.”
“Just prior to its broadcast the The Wicker Man soundtrack had been first released in 1998 via the efforts and investigating of Jonny Trunk and Trunk Records and this is thought to have been one of the sparks that ignited that growing interest.
However, the number of different references to fantastic fictions from before that time in the series suggest its creator had a knowledge, interest and love of such things that stretches back some way.”
“The episode Fair Isle is set on an isolated island called Strait Isle which has its own laws and ways of doing things, produces its own unique foodstuff under the direction of an eccentric lord ruler and includes high jinx with the locals in a very local hostelry, all of which further echo The Wicker Man.
That episode also features Doctor Who-esque folkloric costumed creatures, ecological worries that have shades of the series Doomwatch (1970-1972), transformations which echo Ken Russell’s Altered States film (1980), a hiding of relics which harks back to The Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and even an “I would’ve got away with it if it wasn’t for you pesky kids” Scooby Doo-esque unveiling of the baddie.”
Online images to accompany Chapter 20 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:
Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.