Bridget Penney: Licorice
Book Works, 2019, Softcover, 144 pages, 18 × 11.5 cm
Chalk, gorse, old coppice, redundant dew ponds, a crossroads formed by the intersection of a B road and an ancient fisherman’s track. It’s August. The rain shows no sign of stopping. Licorice, a reclusive middle-aged filmmaker, has only a brief window of opportunity to realise her long-cherished film project about the story of Nan Kemp. A grisly story of infanticide, cannibalism and rough justice remembered on the map: local kids have dared and scared each other to run round ‘the witch’s grave’ since way back when. The rebuilt windmill provides a hypothetical link between the time from which Nan’s ‘story’ springs and the present.
For Angie, Licorice herself is something of a legend. Angie’s ex-lover Roy, sees Licorice as a bully and potential rival. Pete, co-directing the film, is consumed with unrequited lust for Angie… While Angie and Roy are definitively not speaking to each other, Pete and Licorice argue endlessly over how to shoot scenes and the direction the film is going to take. But Licorice has a secret only Pete knows. Well-worn tropes lifted from films such as The Mask of Satan, The Blair Witch Project and Irma Vep give this narrative about failing to create a narrative its shape. The idea of folk horror intrigues Licorice.
As events spiral out of control, and growing mistrust and exhaustion take their toll on all four filmmakers, the horror tropes they’re working with contextualise an immediate, inescapable sense of unease.