THE MISKATONIC INSTITUTE OF HORROR STUDIES ANNOUNCES
NEW LA BRANCH AND FALL LINEUP
Tuesday, August 21 – The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, the world’s longest-running educational organization devoted to the study of horror history, theory and production, has just announced a new Los Angeles branch to complement those in London and New York. The new Los Angeles branch will be hosted at the Los Feliz headquarters of the Philosophical Research Society, founded by famed occultist Manly P. Hall in 1934.
“The University of Philosophical Research is excited to partner with the Miskatonic Institute,” says PRS President and CEO Greg Salyer of the partnership. “Our storied campus in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles has been a home for seekers for 84 years now. Our mission has remained unchanged in all that time—to facilitate the exploration, discovery, application, cultivation, and rediscovery of wisdom. What has changed are the forms that meaning takes, so, in addition to literature, philosophy, and religion, we now explore the arts with our new art gallery, as well as film and media—and now horror studies. Welcome, Miskatonic. We look forward to engaging and edifying discussions of what the horror genre can teach us about ourselves and culture, and we’re glad you have made your home here.”
The new LA branch will be co-directed by Miskatonic founder Kier-La Janisse with scholars Elric Kane and Rebekah McKendry, both of the Shock Waves podcast. Classes will begin on September 13th with a monthly pilot season, starting with a masterclass with filmmaker Don Coscarelli (PHANTASM, BUBBA HO-TEP, JOHN DIES AT THE END) – whose new book True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking is due out October 2 – moderated by Blumhouse’s Ryan Turek. The season will continue with a class on aquatic horror by filmmaker and Miskatonic LA co-director Rebekah McKendry, PhD, author David J. Skal expanding on ideas from his book The Horror Show about the ways medical crises such as Thalidomide and AIDS were manifested in horror cinema, and filmmaker Rodman Flender with a breakdown and analysis of the Murder Set Piece in horror.
Philosophical Research Society
The New York branch of Miskatonic also has a new co-director – joining Kier-La Janisse and Yellow Veil Pictures’ co-founder Joe Yanick will be filmmaker Jacqueline Castel, known for her collaborations with Sacred Bones Records and the upcoming feature documentary A MESSAGE FROM THE TEMPLE: THE STORY OF THEE TEMPLE OV PSYCHICK YOUTH. Together the New York team has put together an incredible lineup for fall 2018, beginning with a class by renowned painter and performance artist Joe Coleman, moderated by film writer and producer Heather Buckley.
In October Miskatonic NYC embarks on two important collaborations in an exploration of horror made for the small screen: first, scholar and archivist Amanda Reyes, editor and co-author of the book Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium: 1964-1999 visits from Texas to present a brief history of the Made-for-Television film in conjunction with the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, followed by our first partnership with the Paley Center for Media, in which curator David Bushman presents a special class on TV horror pioneer Dan Curtis (DARK SHADOWS, THE NIGHT STALKER, TRILOGY OF TERROR).
In November, comedy writer David Misch (MORK & MINDY, POLICE SQUAD!) joins us to present his class HA! AAAH! about the intersection of comedy and horror, and we finish the season with sound designer Dean Hurley (TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN) exploring our physiological experience of sound and how that is used to chilling effect in horror.
Miskatonic London kicks off its fourth school year with Sarah Crowther’s class on drag and transvestism in horror, followed by GHOSTWATCH scribe Stephen Volk in conversation with filmmaker Sean Hogan (THE DEVIL’S BUSINESS) in October. In November, former programmer Jane Giles will present a guided tour of the notorious Scala Cinema through a cache of rare archival documents, architects’ plans, drawings, photographs and other ephemera, in conjunction with her new book on the history of the Scala from FAB Press. And in December we close with a strangely seasonal class on American Highway Horror by scholar and author Bernice M. Murphy, bookended by studies of unlikely Christmas movies PSYCHO and DEAD END.
In addition to our monthly London classes, two of our London instructors – Stephen Thrower and Jon Towlson – have been invited to Lisbon for the Motel X International Horror Film Festival to moderate artist talks on national horror cinema with filmmakers Andy Dyson (GHOST STORIES) and Pascal Laugier (MARTYRS) and Xavier Gens (FRONTIERE(S)), respectively.
FULL CLASS DESCRIPTIONS FOLLOW BELOW.
About the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies:
Named for the fictional university in H.P. Lovecraft’s literary mythos, the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies is an international organization that offers university-level history, theory and production-based masterclasses for people of all ages, founded by film writer and programmer Kier-La Janisse in March 2010, with regular branches in London, New York and Los Angeles as well as presenting special events worldwide.
For further information or interview requests, please contact Miskatonic publicist Kaila Hier at [email protected]
For more updates sign up for the Miskatonic Newsletter HERE!
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies – LA
Dates: Thursdays, September 13, October 11, November 8, December 13
Venue: Philosophical Research Society
Address: 3910 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles
Prices: $12 advance / $15 on the door / $40 Full semester pass
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies – NYC
Dates: Tuesday, September 11, Saturday, October 13, Thursday, October 25, Tuesday, November 13, Tuesday, December 11
Venue: Film Noir Cinema (Note: Oct 25thclass at Paley Center for Media)
Address: 122 Meserole, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Prices: $12 advance / $15 on the door / $50 Full semester pass
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies – London
Dates: Thursdays, September 13, October 11, November 8, December 13
Venue: Horse Hospital
Address: Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London
Prices: £10 advance / £11 on the door / £8 concs / £35 Full semester pass
FULL CLASS DESCRIPTIONS – LA:
September 13: Live From Miskatonic: Don Coscarelli in Conversation
Moderated by: Ryan Turek
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies is proud to open its LA branch with a career talk with one of the most important independent directors of American genre cinema, the man whose imagination brought us The Tall Man, whose KENNY & COMPANY and PHANTASM gave pre-teen genre fans an indelible image of empowerment in the form of actor Michael Baldwin, and who adapted the books BUBBA HO-TEP and JOHN DIES AT THE END into instant cult classics.
With a new biography on the horizon – True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking, due out October 2 – Don Coscarelli has agreed to sit down with us at Miskatonic, and over the course of a three-hour illustrated discussion moderated by Blumhouse’s Ryan Turek, will explore the key influences, collaborators and filmmaking lessons of his life.
October 11: I Dream of Deep Water: An Exploration of the History and Psychology of Aquatic Horror
Instructor: Rebekah McKendry
The summer of 1975 completed changed movie history. Not only did the release of JAWS set the standard for the “summer blockbuster”, it also ignited society’s communal anxiety, fear, and fascination with what could be lurking just the below the surface of the water. The success of JAWS not only led to a slate of rip-off films soon to be dubbed as “sharkploitation”, but also had real life repercussions of pure terror leading to deserted beaches and massive shark culls. However, JAWS was by no means the first or last aquatic horror media to pique our interest in the deep blue. Our fascination for monsters of the abyss goes back to the dawn of man and has traveled with us throughout time, from Jonah’s whale to ancient sea monsters depicted in early cartography to Moby Dick to the upcoming MEG film.
From unknown ghosts of the deep to sharks, mermaids, gators and the Great Old Ones of Lovecraftian lore, This lecture by Rebekah McKendry will examine not only the history of aquatic horror, focusing on film, but also touching on earlier texts and visual arts. McKendry will also explore the psychology behind our fascination with unknown fathoms, exploring the mental intersections of fear and fascination, the symbolism of submergence, and the subconscious primordial elements of the deep.
November 8: Rotten Bodies, Rotten Blood: Medical Crises as Reflected through Horror Cinema
Instructor: David J. Skal
The horror genre has always been informed by bottomless displaced anxieties about the body, disease, and medicine. In this lecture, David J. Skal, the author of THE MONSTER SHOW and HOLLYWOOD GOTHIC explores the pop culture underpinnings of modern horror in real-life medical crises and controversies, including the preoccupation with demon children that took hold as thalidomide, birth control, and abortion changed the reproductive landscape; the poisoned Tylenol crisis of 1982; the vogue in visceral, transformative special effects that paralleled the development of the plastic surgery industry; the link between the AIDS epidemic and a resurgent fascination with vampires; and much more.
December 13: Focus On: The Murder Set Piece
Instructor: Rodman Flender
Director Rodman Flender breaks down visual storytelling to its most basic narrative requirements. Often the centerpiece of horror and thriller films, the murder set piece is its own three-act “mini movie,” with beginning, middle and climax. With close-read examinations and comparisons of murder set pieces from the silent era through contemporary releases, students will gain an understanding of the essential tools needed to create tension and suspense on a visceral and psychological level. Deconstruction will include set pieces from classics many students know (Psycho, Halloween, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), modern favorites (High Tension, The Babadook), and lesser-known films (Edison’s Frankenstein, Horror Hotel, Kristy). Flender will also walk through his own preparation for a set piece he directed for the Dimension TV series Scream.
Topics covered include: What are the individual elements in Hitchcock’s Psycho shower scene that created the template for the modern murder set piece (music, editing, cinematography, lighting, performance)? Where have directors Brian De Palma and Dario Argento taken Hitchcock’s template in films like Dressed to Kill and Suspiria? What elements in Fritz Lang’s 1931 German thriller M did Ron Howard use 65 years later in his Hollywood film Ransom? A discussion of “high” vs. “low” art will compare similar scenes in Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring and Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left — why one is considered an art film while the other is thought of as grindhouse sleaze? Which do the students prefer, and why? We will compare antagonists in murder set pieces, from man (Frenzy), nature (Jaws), technology (2001, Demon Seed), and the supernatural (Nosferatu, Final Destination 5). Hitchcock’s Frenzy will also be examined as a master-class in blocking a scene.
FULL CLASS DESCRIPTIONS – NYC:
The Frequency of Fear
September 11: Joe Coleman – Stealing Fire: The Mastery of the Outsider
Instructors: Joe Coleman, Heather Buckley
There are those who have formally studied their craft—at Universities, though mentorship tin pursuit of a vocation through the brush, the scalpel; the camera. There are others that hone the craft as an Outsider, picking up the tools of the Masters to endeavor their own marks, without training guided only by the need to express and to make—to overturn rocks by hand and discover the forbidden.
Joe Coleman has been the Outsider—a Brooklyn artist, carny, once charged with harboring an “infernal device,” picked up these very tools of Creation—the pen and the brush—to create a maelstrom of images and words. He, possessed by arcane narratives, conjures his paintings as they unfold into tapestries of killers, sinners, self-portraits, counter culture saints and marytrs. His hand untrained but true.
There is an intersection, by accident or intent, where the Master and the Outsider create symbols and works that mirror. There are places where The Master is unsure to go but the Outsider without the boundaries of convention walks into dangerous territory where the soul is confronted and everything is changed and what is a dream and what is real is combined and elevated.
To understand this borderland we must compare objects and acts. And in this unique live conversation moderated by film writer and producer Heather Buckley, Joe Coleman will investigate a series of films and the ways that concepts of high and low art intersect in and around them. The first will be Gerald Kargl’s Angst(1983) and John Parker’s Dementia aka Daughters of Horror (1955) —exploring the serial killer story. Godard’s Alphaville (1965) and Ed Wood Jr.’s Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) — a comparison of cast and similar iconography over both works. Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969) and Charles Brabin’s Beast of the City (1932) — a look at the depiction of violence; realism vs expressionism. And finally, an exploration of autopsy as performance and in cinema, the trained hand vs. the Outsider.
October 13: Miskatonic at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival: Big Scares on the Small Screen: A Brief History of the Made-for-TV Horror Film
Instructor: Amanda Reyes
Although rarely held in high regard by critics, the made for television horror film remains an intriguing artifact of network programming. Any subgenre was up for grabs, and the output was disparate, vast, and surprisingly subversive, often producing a collective memory (or trauma, depending) shared by millions of viewers. Join us for a retrospective on the golden age of the telefilm and beyond. This event will be hosted by Amanda Reyes, editor and co-author of Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium: 1964-1999.
The Brooklyn Horror Film Festival is a premier east coast genre festival that embodies the spirit of Brooklyn. Taking place in venues throughout the borough, we showcase the best new independent films, throw parties, host events, and more. http://brooklynhorrorfest.com
October 25: Dan Curtis: Old School/New School
Instructor: David Bushman
Note: This class takes place at the Paley Center for Media
In the early 1970s, just before Hollywood auteurs like Wes Craven and John Carpenter invented the modern horror film, eschewing old-school, fantastical monsters for gritty, politically edged stories aimed at excavating our deepest anxieties, producer/director Dan Curtis dominated television horror with a series of programs reinterpreting traditional genre tropes for what novelist Don DeLillo famously referred to in Running Dog as “the of conspiracy, the age of connections, links, secret relationships.” Although major newspapers almost unfailingly remembered him first and foremost in his 2006 obituary as the man who brought the epic World War II-themed miniseries The Winds of War and War and Remembrance to television in the 1980s, with their graphic depictions of concentration camp existence, Curtis had earlier built his reputation as a purveyor of a different kind of horror – first with the Gothic-turned-supernatural daytime soap Dark Shadows (1966 to 1971) and then with a series of TV movies and specials airing between 1968 and 1975, including The Night Stalker, The Night Strangler, Trilogy of Terror, and adaptations of such classic monster tales as Dracula, Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Turn of the Screw, andThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Knowingly or not, Curtis – praised by Stephen King in Danse Macabre for an “unerring, crude talent for finding the terror place inside you and squeezing it with a cold hand” – tapped into the zeitgeist of the time – the turbulent sixties, the paranoid seventies – by imbuing classical, literal monsters with human dimensions, beginning with Dark Shadows, whose conflicted, Hamlet-esque vampire, Barnabas Collins, spoke to the outlaw culture of the late sixties just as the antiheroes of Bonnie and Clyde and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid did, and paved the way for a stacked roster of tortured successors, including Angel and Spike (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Stefan Salvatore (The Vampire Diaries), and Edward Cullen (Twilight).
With The Night Stalker (1972), scripted by horror legend Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Twilight Zone), Curtis once again turned to the classic creature of the night, in this case a vampire terrorizing young women on the streets of Las Vegas, but, in the age of Watergate, stirred in a political cover-up, foreshadowing a rash of literary and cinematic paranoid thrillers and mesmerizing a young viewer by the name of Chris Carter, who, twenty years later, would create The X-Files.
Join us as we explore these and other titles in Curtis’s horror oeuvre, exploring his thematic and aesthetic preoccupations, his evocation of the times, his own influences, and his influence on the men and women who have followed in his footsteps by finding the terror place inside us and squeezing it with a cold hand.
November 13: Ha! Aaah! The Painful Relationship Between Humor and Horror
Instructor: David Misch
From 1920’s Haunted Spooks to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the genre of horror-comedy has never really, you should excuse the expression, died.
Yet humor and horror seem pretty different; one’s a pie in the face, the other’s an axe in the skull. It’s obvious why watching someone being torn asunder would be horrible but why is the endless suffering of the Three Stooges funny? Could there be any congruencies between funny and fear, snickers and screams, gore and gags, slapstick and slaughter?
This class proposes – carefully while remaining alert and well-armed – that the two genres are not mortal enemies.
For one thing, people in pain are a perennial part of every art; to be fascinated with human suffering is to be human. Both comedy and horror can show us how to live (and, of course, die); from Psycho we learn that Death can come to anyone at any time. Also, to always shower with a friend.
The class will examine horror’s relationship with philosophers’ explanations of comedy: Immanuel “Carrot Top” Kant’s Incongruity Theory (it’s funny when two things that don’t go together go together); Sigmund “Shecky” Freud’s Relief Theory (comedy is a rapid expulsion of tension); Thomas “Nutso” Hobbes’s Superiority Theory (“You’re in pain and I’m not – ha!”); Henri “Giggles” Bergson (comedy requires “a momentary anesthesia of the heart”); and Mel Brooks (“Tragedy is when I cut my finger; comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die”).
We’ll explore the mechanics of both using video clips and examples ranging from Frankenstein and Dracula to Abbott & Costello, and try to figure out what makes us laugh and/or scream.
We’ll see that both genres love loss of control, anarchy, the breakdown of rules and conventions – the beast within us set free. And both exploit our paradoxical feelings about helplessness: seeing someone out of control can be hilarious (a clumsy person falling) or horrifying (a clumsy person falling into a snake-pit suspended over a shark-pit next to a zombie zoo).
Both humor and horror also share a mordant view of our relationship to pain; an obsession with the human body and its multifarious fluids; and a subtext of death and transcendence underlying the eviscerated flesh and fart jokes. What could be more blood-curdlingly fun?
December 11: The Frequency of Fear: The Power and the Glory of the Motion Picture Soundtrack
Instructor: Dean Hurley
Cinema has long tapped into the fundamental devices of fear in its employment of sound. Even before the advent of the loudspeaker and synchronized motion picture sound, organs and pianos collided tense sonic energy against images in the physical spaces of film exhibition parlors and nickelodeons. As humans, the audible sliver of the frequency spectrum provides a unique window into concepts of how energy and vibration physically manifest and affect the matter of our material world. After all, sound is simply vibrational energy we can hear. How we’ve arrived at organizing frequencies into the form of modern music is a mystery itself, dating back 5,000 years and involving ‘sky god visitors’ who bestowed humanity its system of measurement. Understanding our physiological experience of sound and its relation to our universe can illuminate and unlock a deeper understanding of the design of sound and music for the motion picture.
Journeying through concepts of cymatics, standing wave levitation, musical tunings, as well as film examples, demonstrations, and dissections of modern mix sessions, The Frequency of Fear guides its participants through an awakening in understanding the spiritual power of sound both onscreen and beyond.
FULL CLASS DESCRIPTIONS – LONDON:
September 13: Drag Me to Hell: Representations of Drag and Transvestism in Horror Film and Television
Instructor: Sarah Crowther
From Ed Wood’s Glen Or Glenda (1953) to the Boulet Brothers’ Dragula (2017-), drag and transvestism have appeared as a recurring theme in genre cinema and television. This history of representation could be argued to have been broadly delineated into two categories: the ‘deviants’ and the divas. Appropriately, perhaps, the double-Ds. A recurrent representation of cross-dressing/gender subversion in horror has been that of the opposite gender embodying the protagonist’s murderous or ‘deviant’ impulses.
Simultaneously, however, some of genre cinema’s greatest anti-heroes have simply just been transvestite (get over it), or played by iconic drag queens. This lecture will explore key cinematic and televisual genre representations, identifying shared symbolic themes and imagery. Progression of representation will be considered in the context of societal change and increased visibility.
The lecture will explore scenes from films which may include A Blade in the Dark (1983), Sleepaway Camp (1983), Homicidal (1961), Der Samurai (2014), Psycho (1960), Switchblade Romance (2004), Dolly Deadly (2016) and Dressed to Kill (1983), alongside the televisual delights of RuPaul’s Drag Race (2009-) and Dragula (2017-). There may also be a Divine sprinkling of John Waters and the chance to chew over O’Brien/Curry’s Frank’n’Furter.
We will explore the two key categories of representation, while also considering those who fall in between, and what that difference signifies. Angela, Linda, Bobbi, Warren… Male to female and female to male transvestism will be explored. Are there thematic links between drag and horror and what are the recurrent elements? The culture of subversion? Of extremity? The ‘fear of the other’ which is a recurrent narrative driver in genre cinema? In contemporary society where representations of drag are crossing into the mainstream (RuPaul’s Drag Race, 2009-) and cross-dressing represents less of an extreme counter-cultural revolt, what has been the impact on that relationship? And did some of the more progressive filmmakers representing drag reflect this in earlier representations?
October 11: Live From Miskatonic: Stephen Volk in Conversation
Moderator: Sean Hogan
Screenwriter and author Stephen Volk is perhaps best known for writing the notorious BBC Halloween hoax Ghostwatch, which spooked the nation, hit newspaper headlines and prompted questions to be asked in Parliament. However, his many other notable screenplays include those for the films Gothic (directed by Ken Russell), The Guardian (directed by William Friedkin), the BAFTA award-winning The Deadness of Dad, and The Awakening, while his other TV credits range from Afterlife to the recent Midwinter of the Spirit. In addition, he is also a renowned prose author of novellas and short fiction, winning British Fantasy Awards for his collection Monsters in the Heartand his novella “Newspaper Heart”. Arguably his most acclaimed work of fiction so far has been the 2013 novella Whitstable, a story featuring legendary horror icon Peter Cushing. He followed this in 2015 with another novella, Leytonstone, about the early life of Alfred Hitchcock, and will be completing his Dark Masters Trilogy this year with the publication of Netherwood, a fictional account of an encounter between famed black magic author Dennis Wheatley and notorious mystic Aleister Crowley.
During this exclusive event, Stephen Volk will discuss his career and work with screenwriter and filmmaker Sean Hogan. Covering both his film and TV credits as well as his prose fiction, the pair will look at the differences between writing for film and television; his contrasting screenwriting experiences in the UK and the US; the process behind writing fictionalised biographical works such as Gothic and the Dark Masters Trilogy; discuss the stories behind the creation of some of his most famous/infamous credits; examine why and how he built a successful prose career away from screenwriting; and talk more broadly about the methodology of representing the supernatural onscreen and what horror is actually ‘for’. The evening will end with a Q&A session with the audience, and should provide an invaluable insight into writing for page and screen by an acknowledged master of the forms; no aspiring writer should miss the chance to learn from Stephen Volk’s hard-earned experience across a wide range of writing disciplines.
November 8: Cabinet of Curiosities: The Strange Case of the Scala cinema
Instructor: Jane Giles
‘A country club for criminals and lunatics and people that were high… ’
This was how the Pope of Trash John Waters described London’s Scala cinema, a hallowed venue beloved of film freaks but forced to close in 1993. The Scala’s deep roots were in the site of an old brewery in 18thcentury Fitzrovia, a concert hall which was rebuilt in 1905 as an ornate folly of a theatre. The Scala theatre housed both the birth of colour cinema and an exclusive year-long run of the racist epic Birth of a Nation, as well as onstage appearances by resident Bohemian Quentin Crisp, Kenneth Williams as a Lost Boy and Sean Connery, unplaced in the ‘Tall Men’ category of the Mr Universe competition, 1953. Fast-forward to 1976: the Fitzrovia site is occupied by a soon-to-be-bankrupt socialist film collective, but overtaken by a teenage punk who transformed it into the legendary and notorious Scala cinema.
Unique to the Miskatonic Institute, a cache of rare archival documents, architects’ plans, drawings, photographs and other ephemera will form the visual backdrop to a guided tour of the Scala, which moved from Fitzrovia to the defunct Primatarium in King’s Cross, 1981. Specialising in an alchemical mixture of horror, music and LGBT films, Psychotronic and Kung Fu, the Scala pushed back against censorship in all of its forms, culminating in a devastating law suit. The soundtrack to the lecture will feature the Scala’s jukebox and intermission music, 1978-1993.
December 13: Roads to Hell: The Highway Horror Film
Instructor: Bernice M. Murphy
This class will introduce students to the ‘Highway Horror Film,’ an overlooked sub-genre of the wider American horror tradition which articulates profound unease about the transitory nature of modern American life, as well as the wider impact of mass automobility. The post-1956 construction of the Interstate Highway System (IHS) represents one of the most dramatic innovations of post-war American society. This ground-breaking new network of federally constructed roads provided Americans with a freedom to move around the entire nation that had previously been denied to them. In addition, the car assumed the vitally important practical and symbolic function it holds to this day. As we shall see, both these innovations are questioned in Highway Horror. In these films, the American landscape is by dint of its very accessibility rendered terrifyingly hostile, and encounters with other travellers (and with those whose roadside businesses depend on highway traffic) invariably have sinister outcomes.
We will begin with a discussion of one of the foundational ‘Highway Horror’ movies, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), focusing on the relationship between the film and the emergence in the 1930s of the motel as a new kind of roadside business. We’ll also explore the reasons why these locations are so often associated in American popular culture with criminality and murder. Psycho-influenced films such as Vacancy (2007) will be mentioned, as will motel-based explorations of identity dissolution such as Bug (2006) and Identity (2003).
Then we’ll move on to the second major theme in the sub-genre: the ‘highway nemesis’ narrative, in which in which middle-class male road users are forced to engage in deadly cat-and-mouse battles with monstrously aggressive blue-collar adversaries, as in Duel (1971), Race With the Devil (1975), The Hitcher (1986), and Joy Ride (2001). Next, the idea that the freedom of movement and culture of anonymity associated with the highways makes them an ideal killing ground for the serial killer will be discussed, with a focus on the theme of compulsive mobility in films such as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986), Kalifornia (1993) Freeway (1996) and Death Proof (2007). Finally, the seminar will conclude with a consideration of the fourth and final ‘Highway Horror’ strand, which features films in which the protagonists are killed or seriously injured in car crashes, but find themselves trapped in a purgatorial space between life and death, as seen in Carnival of Souls (1962), Dead End (2003), Reeker (2005), Wind Chill (2007) and the recent anthology Southbound (2015).
MISKATONIC AT THE MOTEL X INTERNATIONAL HORROR FILM FESTIVAL
Dissecting New French Extremity: Xavier Gens and Pascal Laugier in Conversation
Moderator: Jon Towlson
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies presents Xavier Gens (Frontier(s), The Divide, The ABCs of Death, The Crucifixion) and Pascal Laugier (Martyrs, The Tall Man) in person for this live onstage conversation at Lisbon’s Motel X International Horror Film Festival. They will discuss the history of French horror cinema, New French Extremity and its influence on the horror genre (including on their own recent films – Laugier’s Ghostland, screening at this year’s Motel X ) inside and outside of France. The discussion will be moderated by Miskatonic instructor Jon Towlson, Starburst critic and author of Subversive Horror.
Getting the Fear: GHOST STORIES’ Andy Nyman in Conversation
Moderator: Stephen Thrower
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies and the Motel X International Horror Film Festival welcome Andy Nyman, co-writer/director of the chilling and unsettling new British film Ghost Stories, in a discussion moderated by Stephen Thrower.
Ghost Stories began life as a stage play written by Nyman and The League of Gentlemen‘s Jeremy Dyson, which premiered at the Liverpool Playhouse in 2010 before transferring to London for a year’s run at the Duke of York Theatre. Their successful film version opened at the London Film Festival in 2017. The project sees the confluence of two artistic influences: the British ghost story tradition, and the Amicus portmanteau horror films of the 1960s and 1970s. From these elements, Dyson and Nyman have created a story that engages with some of the deeper currents of the supernatural tradition: belief vs. doubt, psychological explanations vs. supernatural explanations, and the role of traumatic guilt in shaping a person’s outlook and character. These rich themes are present in many of the best British ghost stories and find a vivid echo in Dyson and Nyman’s storytelling.
Topics of discussion will include the process of adapting a stage play to the screen, the different challenges inherent in scaring a live audience vs. a cinema audience, and the personal journeys of the two writers in realizing their project, first as a stage play and then as a movie. Discussion will also delve into the storytelling traditions from which the film draws, and the techniques employed by horror filmmakers to frighten or disturb the viewer. For instance, pivotal to Ghost Stories is the notion of skepticism, a feature of many classic ghost stories in which the protagonist is frequently someone who does not believe in the supernatural. Why is the skeptic such an important figure in ghost stories? How is it that one can scare or unsettle an audience who do not always believe in the premise of the fiction? Do psychological readings of classic ghost stories distort the text, or are the stories ripe for interpretation along such lines? What makes the short story (and the portmanteau film format) so well suited to the horror genre? And given the nature of cinema, in which the demand is for things to be seen, how can filmmakers retain the element of ambiguity or uncertainty, an element that is so important to the creation of uncanny moods in literary ghost stories?
Since 2001, Andy Nyman has worked in close collaboration with psychological illusionist Derren Brown, conceiving and writing his hugely popular stage and TV spectaculars: these sometimes shocking and controversial shows gleefully manipulate the forces that shape an audience’s perception of reality. What is it that draws he and his collaborator Jeremy Dyson to dark and horrific subject matter? And in what way does their black sense of humour counterpoint their taste for the nightmarish and disturbing?