Folk tales were the original horror stories, and folklore has often been the inspiration for modern horror. The new anthology film The Field Guide To Evil gives us eight examples of this as a collection of directors from around the globe give their take on the lore of their lands.
“The Sinful Women of Hollfall” -- The first tale, from Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz the team behind Goodnight Mommy. A tale of forbidden love and demons in a rural Medieval village. It’s beautifully shot and the creature is distinctly creepy looking. Bringing to mind films like The Witch and Hagazussa it gets The Field Guide To Evil off to a strong start.
“Haunted by Al Karisi, The Childbirth Djinn” – Can Evrenol (Baskin, Housewife) contributes a modern day tale that allows postpartum depression to manifest as an evil spirit. A pregnant young woman steals a necklace from the elderly woman she cares for, raising the ire of the title entity. Grim and unsettling with Everol’s trademark visuals. The influence of The Drop Of water episode of Mario Bava’s anthology Black Sabbath are obvious as well.
“The Kindler And The Virgin” – A ghost offers a man great knowledge and power if he eats the hearts of three recently dead people. This tale by Agnieszka Smoczynska (The Lure) is the bloodiest segment of The Field Guide To Evil. But apart from that and an unsettling ghost, it’s fairly predictable.
“Beware The Melonheads” – This one feels more like it was inspired by 1970s horror films than actual folklore, but given the USA’s much shorter history than other countries, maybe they count. Calvin Reeder (The Rambler, The Oregonian) gives us a mix of Peter Pan and The Hills Have Eyes in this tale of mutant children in the woods.
“What Ever Happened to Panagas the Pagan?” -- Yannis Veslemes
(Norway) offers a Christmas tale of a goblin who wants to join the
human celebrations. Of course it ends badly for all concerned. My
least favorite segment.
“The Palace Of Horrors” -- A man who scours India for deformed people he can sell to circuses in the US for their freak shows. He becomes obsessed with a rumor of something to hideous for mortal eyes to behold. Ashim Ahluwalia (John&Jane) shoots this in atmospheric black and white but it’s a bit to subtle for its own good at times.
“‘A Nocturnal Breath'” -- Katrin Gebbe (Nothing Bad Can Happen) takes us back to the rural countryside of the past. The story concerns a “Drude”, a demon that looks like a rat and crawls into people’s mouths to possess them.
“The Cobblers’ Lot” – The final segment tells the tale of brothers, both cobblers, who become rivals seeking the affection of a princess. Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio, In Fabric) shoots in the style of a silent movie, complete with story cards, (there are some sound effects however). It’s a suitably grim ending to the collection.
I’ll admit, by the end of The Field Guide To Evil I was feeling a little restless. I tend to prefer my anthology films with 3 or 4 stories. However, producers Ant Timpson and Tim League have assembled a
The Field Guide To Evil is available on VOD and in some theaters. You can get details at the film’s website.