Folk Horror is one of the strangest sub-genres in horror. The films that fall into this category can fall into a large range of tones and atmospheres, which already makes them hard to qualify. However, you just need to introduce paganism or at least some sort of religious fear in the film’s story to give you that sense that, yeah, this is a folk horror film. You just feel it. Jikirag is the newest film that tries to fall under that banner but fails in creating true horror. Let’s review it.
Talking about folk horror is quite interesting. The genre goes way back to the 60s, and since then it has fallen into periods of rest and revival. Lately, the works of Robert Eggers, especially The Witch, have put the genre back on people’s minds. New fans have discovered plenty of amazing films that have been mostly forgotten but retain that which makes them special. Folk horror has a lot of elements that make it stand out from other subgenres.
One thing that really makes folk horror special is the fact that it allows itself to be weird. The legends and traditions of the different peoples around the world are enough to fuel and make any story feel peculiar. From another perspective, the stories of every religion sound quite weird, including the ones of Christianity. So, when these movies go way out there and bring strange visuals and sounds, you don’t really think about it. This is the way these films are supposed to be.
However, just weirdness and confusion don’t make for an interesting film. You need characters, plot, character arcs, themes, and good dialogue to make all these things come together in unison. It is hard. It is not an easy thing to do, so when a movie fails to do so, it is hard to blame the people behind it, but someone has to be responsible. In this case, Jikirag is a film that tries to be all those things at once, but its lack of internal logic throws everything out the window.
Jikirag is a film directed by Alexander J. Baxter, Leigah Keewatin, and Jessica Moutray. The film stars Tracey Roath, Alexander J. Baxter, Roy Campsall, and Josefin Jonsson Tysen. The movie tells the story of a pagan village, once protected by its contract with the god Jikirag. The contract established a relationship where the village would only take what they needed from the forest. When this stipulation is broken, the god returns with vengeance upon his heart.
The first thing that catches your attention about Jikirag is the use of language throughout the movie. The script tries to use this Old English dialect and creates some very funny moments. Using this type of language in a script is quite difficult. The Witch and The Lighthouse used the archaic use of English in a way that enhanced the movie’s period piece mood. In Jikirag, the use of this technique feels forced, and it only creates confusion as to what the characters are referring to most of the time.
If Jikirag is establishing its own mythology or borrowing from something previously established, it is not clear. The movie is quite confusing when it comes to its plot progression. The big moments just happen. There isn’t any sort of setup for some of these moments. There is a lack of context that makes the movie feel random in the things it wants to do. Maybe this was implicit in the text of the script, but as it goes to the screen, it feels like that context went somewhere else.
The cinematography helps to elevate some elements of the film. The mood is really dark, and the sets are quite raw in their nature. It makes you think about who would want to live in a place like this. The mood, sadly, is often broken by poor character writing and the constant confusion about the rules of the situation. Maybe there are no rules, but without rules, there are no stakes. Towards the end, the movie devolves into a screaming contest that only serves to hurt the ears.
In the end, Jikirag really suffers from bad planning and maybe too many hands in the kitchen. The fact that this is a movie directed by three people is baffling. Maybe the inconsistencies and weird developments and strange creative decisions come from the fact that there wasn’t a single unifying vision behind this movie. You need that vision to be shared among all the members of your filmmaking team if you want some sort of consistency. This movie doesn’t have that.
Jikirag could have been a nice horror film. One that could have stood among the latest efforts in the genre. However, the lack of cohesion and bad writing stop it from going anywhere. Horror films are already having a bad period because they haven’t allowed themselves to go beyond the same old formula. It is very sad that a movie tries to do something a bit different in the genre and fails to master the essentials of making a movie that feels like a consistent and coherent tale.