Folk Horror, as a genre, is one which encompasses a wide span of storytelling conventions. With his second theatrical release, Ari Aster aimed to not only immerse himself in the world of Folk Horror but to offer something entirely new. Midsommar has done exactly that. It has all the trappings of many of the best films that the genre has to offer, as well as new visual and thematic additions that could only come from a mind like Aster.
Now that you have seen the film, perhaps you're craving more entries that embody a folk horror aesthetic. Whether it's a psychedelic romp through the English countryside or a creature feature in the Scandinavian wilderness, there is sure to be something for anyone looking to scratch their Folk Horror itch. There are many to choose from, but this list aims to include ten which will feel like the most natural extensions of Midsommar.
If you haven't yet, you need to go back and watch Ari Aster's first theatrical release: Hereditary. The film follows Annie, a mother and an artist who is trying to keep everything together after the passing of the family matriarch. After another unexpected tragedy, the family begins to unravel from both grief, repressed guilt, and an otherworldly domestic presence aiming at tearing them apart.
What follows is one of the most emotionally jarring horror films in recent memory. Ari Aster's masterful storytelling paired with the disarmingly disturbing yet gorgeous cinematography of Pawel Pogorzelski (who also worked on Midsommar) results in a film like no other. It is gut-wrenching, mean-spirited, and still somehow entertaining. If Midsommar is about shining light on our fears and trauma, Hereditary is how easily their shadow infects our lives.
9 An American Werewolf in London
If Midsommar showed us anything, its the sheer stupidity and disrespect American travelers often show when their abroad. When it comes to folk horror about strangers in a foreign land, there's much to choose from. One, in particular, is the 1981 cult classic An American Werewolf in London.
American backpackers David and Jack are traversing back country roads of Northern England when they enter a village plagued by superstition and fear. Unfortunately, their fears end up being grounded, as David and Jack become victims of a Werewolf attack. The film itself is certainly scary at times, but it is far more concerned with telling an equally funny and truthful story. This blend of humor and the macabre crept into Midsommar as well. If you like seeing oblivious Americans become victims of ancient curses, this is the film for you.
8 Penda's Fen
Some of the best Folk Horror never saw a day in a major theater. In the genre's heyday, TV was full of short films and TV episodes obsessed with these stories. Penda's Fen, a BBC TV movie, is unlike any Folk Horror film out there. Honestly, it doesn't even have many peers in general.
The film focuses on a coming of age narrative for an overly zealous and conservative teenager. As he learns he is adopted, he begins a series of hallucinations concerning his possible pagan roots, as well as his budding queerness. Similarly to Midsommar, it reexamines taboos and results in the Pagans not necessarily being the bad guys. It is dreamlike and jarring in its cinematography and editing and will leave you in a higher state as you would with Midsommar.
7 Robin Redbreast
Another British TV movie, Robin Redbreast is a bit more traditional in its storytelling trappings than Penda's Fen. The film tells the story of Norah, a script editor who just ended a long term relationship and has moved to the countryside for some peace of mind. Slowly she begins to notice strange happenings and occurrences from the local townsfolk, hinting that she is stuck in a web of conspiracy.
Robin Redbreast is full of claustrophobic scares similar to Hereditary but goes full Midsommar with its cultish terrors and landscape horror. The film also has much to say on relationships and agency in much of the same way Midsommar does. It is a fascinating and satisfying mystery which has unfortunately flown under the radar for too long.
Out of all of the films on this list, Sightseers is perhaps the least horrific. The film itself might not even fit into the label whatsoever, but the visual language of the film and its overall thematic quality share enough with this genre that it had to be included. The film focuses on a volatile couple in Northern England who go on a road trip together.
What should be a nice little holiday turns into a savage and brutal examination into the inner workings of toxic relationships and our animalistic urges. So much of Sightseers deals with many of the fears of Folk horror. What if people reverted back to their savage ways of murder or sacrifice for nothing? Where would that lead people? Sightseers is darkly funny and embraces the full scope of landscape horror perfectly.
5 The Ritual
When it comes to Folk Horror, so much of it is centralized in the UK alone. This certainly makes sense, as the search for their druidic past has been an obsession for the Brits for hundreds of years. But Folk Horror shouldn't be so limited. There are so many other cultures with fascinating folklore and beliefs that are dying to be explored. Midsommar touched on this certainly with an exploration into the traditions of Midsommar. If Midsommar wasn't enough of a Scandinavian scare, another Nordic nightmare is none other than Netflix's The Ritual.
Like An American Werewolf in London, The Ritual is about a group of backpackers, except this time in the backwoods of Sweden. This group of friends commits to this trip in honor of their lost friend, and this tragedy weighs on the entire film, similar to the inciting incident that occurs for Dani in Midsommar. The Ritual is far more creature focused though, exploring not only the horrors of the community but the actual beasts they worship. It blends the genres together with a dash of good old fashioned body horror, resulting in a wild and scary ride through the Swedish wilderness.
4 A Field in England
Drugs. They're fun, mostly illegal, and all over Midsommar. These were not single sequences with a minor trip, but nearly a quarter of the film was through the lens of drug use. The visuals that audiences experienced alongside the characters were unsettling and honestly terrifying. No other film has implemented psychedelics in the genre in such a way apart from Ben Wheatley's A Field in England.
This period piece of folk horror focused on a group of deserters during the English Civil War. Looking for treasure in, well, a field in England, this band begins to be terrorized by a self-described warlock and the influence of magic mushrooms. The film has some of the strangest sequences in any horror film around. Blend that with the intense soundtrack and committed performances and A Field In England becomes a wild time at the movies. Don't let the black and white scare you, that's the psychedelic's job.
3 Witchfinder General/The Conqueror Worm
From here on out, the following films listed are seen by many to be the most essential in the Folk Horror genre. They might not share as many thematic or content similarities with Midsommar, but without them, the genre might not even exist. Firstly in what is regarded as "The Unholy Trinity" is Witchfinder General. Set in the same period as A Field in England, Witchfinder General focuses on the witchhunts that plagued England, and the man behind it all.
The film takes an interesting stance in that Pagans are not necessarily the focus. The film is far more concerned with cultish attitudes of the puritanical Christians who are tearing their communities apart through fear and superstition. Witchfinder General is less spooky than most folk horror, but what it has to say on the patriarchy, power, and how easily fear can ruin the lives of the weakest among us. Also, Vincent Price plays the titular role of Matthew Hopkins in the film, so if nothing else you can't deny yourself a performance from this legendary horror icon.
2 Blood on Satan's Claw
The second must-see of "The Unholy Trinity" is Blood on Satan's Claw. Another period piece, this film focuses on the influence of Satan on a small village in West England. After a local farmer releases the spirit upon the town, its influence begins to corrupt the youth of the village. Running amok, these young witches murder those who oppose them in allegiance to their dark lord. This is one film which really demonizes the Pagan figures as opposed to Midsommar. Blood On Satan's Claw shows the horror that these beliefs tendencies have on such a community.
That being said, it certainly holds a similar shock value as Midsommar. A fair content warning to those interested in watching: there is a graphic scene of sexual assault and murder in the film. It is brutal and unapologetic, and certainly not for most viewers. For this reason alone, it remains one of the most decisive figures in the genre, but the sheer aesthetics of its visuals and soundtrack have influenced every film since.
1 The Wicker Man
The grandfather of the entire genre and the film that holds perhaps the greatest presence on Midsommar is The Wicker Man. Some films just embody a genre, and The Wicker Man is exactly that for folk horror. Forget the dreadful Nick Cage remake, the film is genuinely fantastic. Equally a horror, comedy, and surprisingly a musical, The Wicker Man is without a doubt one of the most unique films ever made.
The film tells the story of Police Seargent Howie who is sent to the Scottish Island of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. What he finds instead is a pagan island full of free love, folk music, and an unhinged Christopher Lee performance. Slowly he realizes he is entering a trap, but it's too late. Like Dani, Howie came of his own free will to be a part of their Summer Solstice celebrations. Both protagonists enter a world where their deeper traumas, taboos, and more are challenged. Unlike Dani though, things don't end too well for dear Sgt. Howie. The Wicker Man is the perfect Folk Horror film, and the perfect follow up viewing after Midsommar.