Armageddon Gospels was created in direct response to what occurred in 2016. On January the 10th, David Bowie died and on the 2nd of February, after a six year long demise into the darkness of Alzheimer’s, my mother died.
On the 23rd of June Britain voted to leave the European Union. The country of my birth gave way to racism and fascism, ideologies that existed in the seventies, as I grew up. The undigested racism, hatred and bile resurfacing to consume the land of my birth.
The same fear and hate I recognised from childhood, but not the truth of the place I call home. The rise of intolerance coincided with both deaths.
My mind combined these events into a story about refugee gods, returning to search for the holy grail, in a ritual that might save the mythic landscape of England from the haunted presence of an entity called the Bone King.
The screenplay was written in an ecstatic state of mourning and grief. For the loss of my mum, my motherland and the loss of one of England’s greatest sons: David Bowie.
We shot ‘Armageddon Gospels’ over the course of the summer in 2016, in East Sussex on the South Downs, one of England’s most beautiful national parks.
The ideas and concepts, the sadness and loss was mirrored in communion with the most beautiful and quintessentially English location that I had ever worked within. As we shot each scene across the South Downs, the weather appeared to change and shift, mirroring the emotions I was experiencing. Albion was felt as a presence.
In the midst of grief, the spirit of the land became a living partner in the creation of the film. Offering solace and a space to grieve for my mother and country. The foundations of my emotional connections to the land of my birth, that I felt all my life manifested as a genius loci, the spirit of a land, that produced my mother and Bowie. Slowly over the course of being on location and filming, ‘Armageddon Gospels’ replaced a part of my identity that was broken and damaged.
In ‘Armageddon Gospels’ a ritual takes place to honour and heal Albion of the Bone King’s sickness. We shot this scene at the feet of the Long Man of Wilmington, an immense hill figure. The ritual was performed beneath the giant Albion himself, in a chalk field, on what appeared as the exposed bones of the land.
As we captured this scene, a woman and a man walked close to where I was watching the ritual taking place. I asked if they would mind waiting whilst we finished filming. They said they were happy to, and after we cut, we began to talk and a new connection was made within the Theatre of Manifestation. The woman was a folk musician named Joanna Burke, an expert in the history of English folk music. Joanna went on to score the entire film.
“Like Hermetic Arts, one of my personal benchmark voices and one of the most important benchmark voices in the folk horror and urban weird creative communities is that of John Harrigan. His film ‘Armageddon Gospels’ has garnered near absolute praise from critics and has had a profound impact on many working in the field, including myself. Ask folk horror fans why they consider it part of the genre, and aside from the response ‘It’s got a bloody bone horse in it, how much more folk horror can you get’, people talk of it a work where they feel the land being told, feel the power of ritual and lore, encounter a sense of a past and its lost gods walking in the now. I am obviously biased, but I hope you can see how I can map those responses onto my own definition of the genre as an unearthing, as an active infection of past and place, the refusal to use folklore as mere trapping.”
David Southwell – Hookland
I want to get back to work on the book, soon. Autumn is almost here…
I somehow rescued the Strange Factories master yesterday, after it was locked away on two raid drives that died in the same week.
It’s an immeasurable feeling locating something that important, that took such a huge amount of work to complete.
Then today I find that Strange Factories is cited in Dr. Steven Gerrards book ‘The Modern British Horror’.
flagship film programs hosted by “important” film critics would never discuss movies such as Demons Never Die (Arjun Rose, 2011) and Strange Factories (John Harrigan, 2013). This is because true British Horror cinema, that which tugs at the very sensibilities of British cultural life, not only is arguably difficult to track down but more importantly questions the very fabric of Britain as a postmillennial country that is now on the verge of possible economic and social collapse in a post-Brexit world.
I’m working in Cranleigh on the second episode of the Field Guide podcast. Enjoying a little break after the terrible intensity of last week. Back to edit 5 later this week. Need to decide on the direction I want to explore in sound.