The Scary Countryside 2: Children of the Stones

The original “Scary Countryside” post.

Uncial script means “old and spooky.”

As mentioned above, “the scary countryside” is a staple meme of television and movies on both side of the pond, but in the UK there is the additional refinement of “the scary countryside where people practice strange and ancient rites.”

That does not work as well in North America unless you set your TV show in Awatowi, which is not going to happen soon.

So M. and I are enjoying a little “back to the Seventies” moment, watching the British TV series Children of the Stones, which so far might be described as The Prisoner meets The Wicker Man meets Groundhog Day. Or something like that.

To quote its Wikipedia entry,

Filmed at Avebury, Wiltshire during Summer 1976, with interior scenes filmed at HTV’s Bristol studios, it was an unusually atmospheric production with sinister, discordant wailing voices heightening the tension on the incidental music. The music was composed by Sidney Sager who used the Ambrosian Singers to chant in accordance with the megalithic rituals referred to in the story.Director Peter Graham Scott was surprised on seeing the script that the series was intended for children’s airtime due to the complexities of the plot and disturbing nature of the series. The series is frequently cited by those who remember it as one of the scariest things they saw as children.

Sounds good to me. More episodes await. If Netflix had existed in the late 1970s, this would have been on the coven viewing list, I am sure.

4 Comments

  1. The trope of “spooky rural pagan cult” does certainly crop up in American popular culture though, or at least it has done in recent decades. That’s the basis for episodes of both “The X-Files” and “Supernatural”, if my memory serves me correctly. And then of course there is the (terrible, terrible, terrible) remake of “The Wicker Man”, which is set in the U.S., somewhere near the Canadian border. I wonder if they are attempts to appropriate the British “spooky rural pagan cult” trope that the original “The Wicker Man” popularised, or whether there are earlier elements of this theme in American literature ? Certainly, H.P. Lovecraft touches on it a little with his tales of lurid rites in the Louisiana swamps…

    Plus, over in the U.S. you also have the “creepy rural Amish/Mennonite style cult” which appears in popular culture, but which (as far as I am aware) just doesn’t exist over here in Britain, for the obvious reasons that we don’t really have any Amish-style Christian communities here.

  2. H. P. Lovecraft was more about New England than Louisiana, and his “ancient cult” was, of course, that of Cthulhu, which predated all human civilization.

    The trouble is, we lack scary Druids, etc. so while I could recommend, for example, Thomas Tryon’s Harvesst Home as a vaguely Pagan-ish “scary countryside” novel, there is nothing equivalent here to the many works of Phil Rickman.

    For creepy Christian groups, the fundamentalist Mormons are a better choice than the pacifistic Amish—witness the television series Big Love.

    • With regard to Lovecraft, I was specifically thinking of a section in “The Call of Cthulhu” in which a policeman from New Orleans describes strange “voodoo” rites dedicated to Cthulhu in the Louisiana swamps. I suppose that Voodoo and Hoodoo must also take on many of the “creepy, pagan rural cult” associations that in British culture would be associated with druids.

      • Chas Clifton says:

        To Lovecraft, voudoun and hoodoo functioned as the Exotic Other (as so often the case in American literature, film-making, etc.) The participants were definitely not his people, so I would not equate that mention with the “rural village that preserves ancient rites” trope.

        Voudoun, hoodoo, and Santeria do get the “creepy” label often, but the (usual) racial angle always complicates matters immensely.