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The Fable of Isabella

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The Fable of Isabella is a 2019 independent British folk horror film. The film was written, directed and co-produced by Sarah MacGregor working in collaboration with an art project in East London Film Cafe Co-Op. The film was an experiment in production of a feature film with all members of the cast and crew working in flat structure rather then hierarchical. As in keeping with many low-budget and micro budget independent films the cast and crew members took on a range of roles in both in front and behind the camera.

The story of the film was influenced by according to MacGregor the short life of Isabella Billington a Yorkshire witch who was executed in 1649 at age 32 for allegedly carrying out satanic murders and rituals. However in The Fable of Isabella the witch is a described as a 14 year old girl. MacGregor has stated that the story for The Fable of Isabella is created from a combination of supernatural tales and folklore and was not intended to represent the actual life of Isabella Billington rather the film explores fear and alienation of women in contemporary society using stories from the past to illustrate the troubles facing women characters of the present. The film is set mainly in Northern England but also features some ghost stories Gothic tales drawn from Victorian London. Other settings explored in the film are Whitby (Yorkshire Coast) Robin Hood's Bay and the moors and woodlands of Yorkshire. MacGregor also has explained interview and her writing about the film that she was concerned with the rapid erosion of the coast line of the British Isles including the Jurassic landscape and coast of Northern England. The film also explores other eco-horror themes such as flooding and the destruction of historical villages as the sea rises. While filming in Yorkshire the crew became more concerned about the urgency facing areas of coastline that they were filming near and wanted to highlight this in the film. Key actors in the film include English actor Johnathan Hansler who portrays a horror writer trying to create a script on the topic, Bemudian actor Kris Darrell as a paranormal researcher, Felicia Bowen as a documentary producer who also worked in other roles behind the camera and Abel Tyler MacGregor who created and designed original electronic elements and tracks for the haunting sound track which also explore a range of traditional music as well as sea 'soundscape'.


The film opens with a close up on the eyes of a woman staring directly into the camera while in the back ground we hear the sounds of a hunt with dogs barking and whooping. A woman in voice over tells us that British history has few pedestals but the stake is everywhere. We see a train rushing through countryside as a women reads.

Next a montage of Whitby during the famous Goth Festival takes place and we see a solitary figure of a man walking to the lighthouses - this is Guy, (Jonathan Hansler) a writer who is staying at a beach house over looking the sea and struggling to complete a script about an historical local witch named Isabella. The producer of this film Jerry (David Wayman) is worried about Guy's ability to complete the script on time and flies over an enthusiastic paranormal researcher Svajone (Kris Darrell) from New York. When Svajone arrives late at night at Whitby a storm has blown up and she finds Guy hostile and unwilling to work with her. Eventually the two develop a working relationship and a parallel story inter-weaves that of Hirsch (Felicia Bowen) a documentary producer who with a crew (Laura, Taz and G) are trying to make a record of the last days of Isabella's life by visiting various locations. Through the footage of the documentary crew and through Svajone's script notes we find out that Isabella in folk lore was said to have been sold to the devil by her terrified pregnant mother. The crew visit a fishing village which was the site of several unexplained gruesome murders which we said to have been carried out by Isabella. The crew become separated when filming one evening and a girl is heard crying in the woods. Hirsch and Laura find themselves terrorised by a masked man who jumps on the bonnet of their car but they manage to drive away leaving Taz and G. The script that Svajone and Guy develop is written and re-drafted and as such we see various aspects of the story of documentary crew which follows a found footage format and it is revealed that the documentary crew are characters in the script that Guy is completing.

The story of the film proceeds with several twists as the documentary crew find out that a mediaeval cult connected to Isabella is still in existence and trying to prevent the completion of the documentary culminating in a life and death struggle. Mean while at the beach house Guy is forced to question his own sanity when a twist reveals that Svajone the researcher is not what she seems.[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]


  1. Dark Eyes of London David Dent 2020 The Fable of Isabella New Wave of British Horror
  2. The Fable of Isabella Podcast interview with The Geek Collective (Australia) 2019
  3. Extra Features Podcast Interview with Sarah MacGregor about The Fable of Isabella 2020
  4. Sarah MacGregor article on Linkedin August 2020 Coastal Erosion and Sustainable Film Making
  5. Food for Thought Film Blog (Scotland) January 2020 The Fable of Isabella

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