After Watching 'Midsommar,' Read These 10 Folk Horror Novels For More Chills Down Your Spine
The summer's biggest horror movie, Midsommar, landed in theaters earlier this month and many fans of Hereditary writer/director Ari Aster have already seen the film. If you're one of those who already rushed to the theater to see it and wants more chilling stories like it, I've picked out 10 folk horror novels to read after watching Midsommar, so you can keep the pastoral chills rolling down your spine.
An American-Swedish thriller, Midsommar centers on Dani, a young woman who has just lost her sister and parents in a murder-suicide, and who is currently caught up in a dwindling relationship with her boyfriend, Christian. When Christian and his friends from grad school are invited to take part in a midsommar celebration at a pagan commune, Dani tags along. The graduate students are quickly disturbed by what they witness throughout the course of the festival, but they won't be able to escape the horrors that the once-in-a-lifetime event has in store for them.
As a new work in the folk horror film tradition, which includes both classic films — Witchfinder General, The Wicker Man — and modern movies — The Witch, The Ritual — Midsommar will undoubtedly inspire its fans to seek out similar stories. Folk horror typically focuses on the Very Bad Things that may be dredged up by pagan and heathenistic cults, or simply by more traditional religious practices. Although folk horror is typically a U.K. phenomenon, prominent U.S.-made examples do exist, and include The Blair Witch Project, Pet Sematary, and Rosemary's Baby.
Check out the 10 folk horror novels I've picked out for you below:
'The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion' by Margaret Killjoy
A group of cultists become the unwitting targets of their patron deity's wrath in this 2017 novella, which follows a woman investigating her friend's death as she goes toe-to-hoof with a malevolent, three-antlered deer.
'The Hidden People' by Alison Littlewood
After learning that his beloved cousin, Lizzie, has been burned alive by her husband, Albie travels to their village to make sense of the tragedy. Lizzie's husband is missing, but everyone in town believes he committed no crime. They insist that Albie's cousin had been stolen and replaced by the "fair folk," and that the creature her husband killed was not human at all.
'The Lottery and Other Stories' by Shirley Jackson
A village preparing for an annual ritual commits a shocking crime in the title story of this collection from The Haunting of Hill House author Shirley Jackson. You might have read "The Lottery" in high school, but it's worth re-reading today.
'Long Lankin' by Lindsey Barraclough
Sent from London to the remote village of Byers Guerdon to live with a wacky aunt, Cora and Mimi want nothing more than to return to their old lives. But an ancient evil stalks the people of Byers Guerdon, and it may have just set its sights on little Mimi.
'The Silent Companions' by Laura Purcell
Expectant mother Elsie travels to her recently deceased husband's family estate, accompanied by his cousin, to prepare for the dead man's funeral. While there, the two women will discover why the villagers believe their new home to be an evil place, and Elsie will learn the secrets behind the mysterious wooden figures that have been styled to look like the house's former residents.
'Through the Woods' by Emily Carroll
In this graphic collection of short stories, Emily Carroll captures the horror that lurks behind your favorite fairy tales. Read about the sisters who traveled, one by one, to the house of a decidedly not-nice man, and about the people with oddly loose, clicking teeth, in this chilling book.
'The Red Tree' by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Reeling from a recent breakup, Sarah tries to escape her bad memories of Atlanta by fleeing to a fixer-upper in Rhode Island. When she discovers the manuscript written by the home's previous tenant, who was obsessed with the large tree at the back corner of the property, Sarah finds herself becoming more and more attached to the giant oak.
'The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares' by Joyce Carol Oates
In the title novella of this collection, 11-year-old Marissa goes missing from her small town, and another girl plots to use Marissa's disappearance — which she may have had a hand in causing — to stage a ritual known as "The Corn Maiden."
'In the Woods' by Tana French
Twenty years after three children went missing in the forest, another child is found murdered nearby. Detective Rob Ryan, the sole survivor of the previous incident, is tasked with solving a case very much like the one he has never been able to remember.
'The Auctioneer' by Joan Samson
First published in the 1970s, and reprinted in 2018, Joan Samson's The Auctioneer tracks the changes that occur in a small town following the appearance of the charismatic Perly, who asks the town's residents to donate their family heirlooms to his fundraising auctions.