From Alien to When a Stranger Calls, many films are based on folklore or employ an urban legend element to propel the narrative. But once those traditional aspects have been identified, do they warrant further scrutiny? Indeed, why is the study of folklore in popular film important? In Films, Folklore and Urban Legends, Mikel J. Koven addresses this issue by exploring the convergence of folklore with popular cinema studies. Well beyond the identification of traditional motifs in popular cinema, Koven reveals new paradigms of filmic analysis, which open up when one looks at movies through the lens of folklore. In particular, this book focuses on the study of urban legends and how these narratives are used as inspiration for a number of films.
Divided into five sections, the book begins with a general survey of the existing literature on folklore/film, predominantly from the perspective of folklore studies. Subsequent chapters address discourses of belief, how urban legends provide the organizing principle of some films, and how certain films “act out” or perform a legend. Movies discussed in this book include Alligator, Candyman, The Curve, Dead Man on Campus, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend, Weekend at Bernie’s, and The Wicker Man, as well as zombie films, killer bee movies, and slasher films (including Halloween, Black Christmas, The Burning and Terror Train). Koven also devotes attention to key television shows such as The X-Files and Most Haunted.
In his analysis, Koven explains not only how film and television narratives are built upon already-existing popular culture beliefs, but also how films and television shows recycle those beliefs back into popular culture. Taken as a whole, Film, Folklore and Urban Legends both stands on its own as the first book-length study of folklore and popular cinema, and as an introductory textbook for the study of folklore and film.