Tales of horror
and/or the supernatural
are a by-product of the growth of science and rationality in the Western world, and first appeared in their modern form during the English Enlightenment
. Time was, merely alluding to a vampire
, or witch
was frightening: what was unsettling was not that these things existed in fact, the way ordinary hazards of life did, or that they were wholly imaginary, but existed in a shady twilight between possible and real, where normal laws of psychology and physics could not be said to apply. Now, of course, since self-styled vampires are to be found in any respectibly large urban gathering, the most likely response to a full-out, venomous, lamia
from most people, would be something like "Whoa, cool!" before a torrent of questions. The same would be true of a werewolf -- after all, we know
that a real werewolf would be more interested in downing some Alpo
than ripping you limb from limb. Even extraterrestrials, which would seem to be the ultimate in strangeness, have been domesticated: we "know" that if a flying saucer
were to land, what would walk out wouldn't resemble a large, sapient duck
, a glowing sphere
, or a bear's
head on a spinning hubcap
, but an elfin gray-green creature with long fingers and wraparound eyes, whose interests include world peace
, the greenhouse effect
, and boffing schoolmarms
As for witches...not only do they exist, but are, at least in contemporary sensibilities, about as scary as Quakers. Nature worship, we're told, has nothing to do with racist myths like The Wicker Man, or Black Masses but is a well-established set of rituals and beliefs, about as frightening as an Episcopal Church Service. If well-understood, and listened to with a gentle heart, Nature itself is a fond, and nurturing mother who will provide for all her creatures...no one has any reason to fear her, as much as pity her wounded and weeping state.
So it is with Heather and her male companions: all they really need to do is go out there to Burkittsville, film a short piece about the legend of a misunderstood woman who was probably protecting local children from familial abuse and whose wrongful death set loose a chain of vengeance, and go home. Oh, yes, they've heard that there are real mountain folk who worship strange gods in them thar hills: so much the better!
What transpires, of course, could hardly be filmed any other way: here, almost as in a scientific experiment, we see an arrogant postmodern feminist, smug in her academic knowlege of everything from map-reading to anthropology, being brought down to the level of a weeping, remorseful, wreck by nothing more than strange noises and odd constructions of twigs.
What amuses me is that she's met the witch...she just didn't recognize her without the aromatherapy candles, the estrogen analogue tea and the latest chitchat about ecofeminism. Nature, as anyone who's done much camping knows, is less an unconditionally nurturing Mom than a drunk housewife with PMS who can be sweet as aspartame one moment and harshly abusive the next -- their fast lesson is that no, there aren't any cigarette machines out there in the forest, it's dark and cold, and often you go hungry if you don't kill something. So it is with Nature worship in this story: the three of them are clearly being marked for sacrifice, being a) outsiders and b) profane in the sanctuary (their constant strong language and smoking evidently put them over the top). They will be killed, as the spirits demand to be fed, and what better sacrifice than young, strong (relatively) good-looking people of high rank?
As a movie, it marks a turning point between the special-effects-and star-studded vehicles of the 80's and 90's, as exemplified by "Titanic", and the reality shows of the Millenium...