As the folk horror anthology Rewilding lands on Prime Video, its director Ric Rawlins discusses ten of its key inspirations – from Moomins to M.R James…
Ric Rawlins’ first full-length feature, Rewilding (2023) is available to watch now via Amazon Prime. Described by Ric as the first UK folk horror anthology, here he discusses key inspirations for the film.
1. The Devil Rides Out (1968)
There was something about Christopher Lee’s character n The Devil Rides Out (Terence Fisher) that spoke to me as a version of a British hero: clever but caring, sophisticated but empathetic: his intellect is essentially put to the service of others. It offered me a clue to depicting British decency at a time where, to be blunt, I wonder if decency is what we’re famous for.
You have to be careful going back to Hammer and that era. If you bring in received pronunciation you’re creaking into comedy territory, but again if you look at Lee’s acting, his total sincerity is what enables us to feel jeopardy.
2. The ghost stories of M.R James
The atmospheres and ghoulish endings are always a pleasure, but there’s an equal thrill in the detective work, I find. Despite characters who are often flawed and sometimes greedy, you’re with them on the archeological dig, or staring into the stained glass window to find
the secret messages. It’s riveting.
With Rewilding I didn’t set out specifically to write M.R James style stories, but there are echoes of his work – hopefully pleasing echoes! – such as the puzzle solving and certain visual motifs.
3. Hellebore magazine
This is a beautiful folk horror magazine packed with fascinating tales of weird Britain and its pagan ancestors. When I was writing Rewilding I would often find myself reading it in the bath, smiling at how wonderfully they capture the vibe that I too was trying to locate.
One of Rewilding‘s three stories ‘Stone Mothers‘ was directly influenced by an article in Hellebore. It told of the discovery of a cave painting in France that appeared to depict a horned God – a controversial find that caused a debate around whether this was proof of
4. The Moomins
There’s something poetic about Moomins tales that is a lifelong inspiration for me. In the context of the film, its sea caves: the Moomins are always going into sea caves. So much so that, when I came to write a film that was set in one, I had just assumed that sea caves were everywhere and it would be easy to find one. Uh-uh. Think again.
The first sea cave I found was in Beer, Devon. It was quite magical because you can only walk to it during ‘neap tides’ – which happen twice a month. Unfortunately this also rendered it impractical as a shooting location!
Next up was St. Cuthbert’s Cave in Cornwall, the stone of which is an amazing psychedelic colour – but too long a drive for the actors. The cave we finally chose is on the far west of the Gower, off a small village called Llangennith. When I found it I had a lie down inside and
thought, ‘those bloody Moomins’.
5. Roarings from Further Out: Four Weird Novellas by Algernon Blackwood
There are some lovely tales in this anthology, but one that directly inspired Rewilding was ‘The Man Whom The Trees Loved’. It’s about a man who becomes obsessed with the forest outside his garden, told from the perspective of his concerned, conservative wife. It’s not
the most dramatic of tales, but it gives voice to trees themselves in quite a dark and evocative way.
6. The Wicker Man (1973)
I think we all secretly want to live on that island and have our rigid thought-patterns melt away into something rural and wild and poetic – it’s a provocative film because it’s so seductive.
I tried to not just pillage from The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy) template, but also give some new ideas back to it – but of the three Rewilding tales, ‘The Writer’s Enquiry‘ is the closest to its structure and concept. An outsider to a beautiful village, charmed and confused by its older rituals.
The Wicker Man‘s soundtrack is of course an inspiration too – how beautiful is Willow’s Song? A lot of modern folk horror seems to forgo putting real folk music on the soundtrack, so it was a pleasure to work with a cittern player called Nathan Morgan, who improvised about half the Rewilding soundtrack in one recording session!
7. Jaws (1975)
Whenever I’m scripting, editing or composing score elements, I always bump into certain characteristics of Jaws (Steven Spielberg) – they sort of bubble up from my unconscious – and I’m happy with that. All inspiration has to start from somewhere before it evolves into the final idea, and I trust myself to ricochet off things rather than steal them.
Jaws is the perfect spectacle-thriller for me, because it has that very solid grounding in the crowd scenes, the lives of its characters, the local fishermen in the real locations – you’re a firm believer in the reality of Amity island before the shark starts chewing people up.
8. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Horror films can paint a bleak picture, but I never want the audience to leave feeling depressed. That’s why in Rewilding you’ll always find a kind character among the more sinister ones – someone who can offer a bit of hope in humanity.
Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski) is probably more bleak than most, but even so you have the character of Hutch, who is on Rosemary’s side – doing some research for her, a genuinely concerned friend. He’s taken away of course which doesn’t bode well for Rosemary’s support network!
But his existence prevents the film from being nihilistic.
9. Beasts by Nigel Kneale: ‘Baby‘ (1976)
A friend of mine has been working on a book about the 1970s series Beasts by Nigel Kneale, and she pointed me in the direction of ‘Baby’ – a fantastic folk horror story that is currently available for free on YouTube.
It’s got your classic setup of the city couple moving to the countryside and encountering some ancient forces, but as is so often the case with 1970s folk horror, there’s something indescribably bewitching in its forest locations and depiction of psychological turbulence.
10. The Evolution of Horror podcast
Mike Muncer has opened up the history of horror in a way that’s more accessible, funny and informative than I think it’s ever been done before – it never feels academic yet you’re always learning something.
The Evolution of Horror features brilliant seasons on folk horror and the occult – but I think the best episodes are usually just ones where James Swanton is a guest. His voice is like some sort of charming Victorian ghost!
Rewilding is available to rent now from Prime Video