In the vast expanse of all things horror resides the Folk Horror. A sub-genre based on rural upbringings, fables, and sometimes.. ancient evil. This subgenre horror has been graced with exquisite films like The Wicker Man (1973), Kill List (2011), The VVitch (2015), and most recently Ari Aster’s Midsommar (2019).
Coming fresh onto the scene with his first feature film, based on his 2009 short Who’s Afraid of the Water Sprite?, William McGregor’s feature debut Gwen looks like it’s gearing up to be an intense and wildly atmospheric folk horror hit.
In the stark beauty of 19th Century Snowdonia a young girl tries desperately to hold her home together. Struggling with her mother’s mysterious illness, her father’s absence and a ruthless mining company encroaching on their land. A growing darkness begins to take grip of her home, and the suspicious local community turns on Gwen and her family.
Gwen was produced by BFI, and is being distributed by Shudder (which is a really good sign). This bleak horror film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Riviera International Film Festival and was nominated for a multitude of other awards across its festival run. For a feature film debut that’s impressive, and very reassuring.
This folk flick has a great cast, to boot. Gwen is played by the incredible Eleanor Worthington-Cox of The Enfield Haunting (2015) as well as her fantastic job as Boogie in Johnny Knoxville’s supremely underrated 2018 pic Action Point. The sick mother, Elen, is played by Maxine Peake of 2014’s Oscar-winning The Theory of Everything and Funny Cow (2017). Rounding out the cast is previous folk horror actor Richard Elfyn of Gareth Evan’s Apostle (2019), and Killer Elite (2011).
In horror’s next folk vehicle, it seems we will be given a wonderful slow-burning psychological trip set to keep us on the edge of our seats until the final credits. Gwen hits select theaters August 16th.