After successfully closing out the fall season with author Maura McHugh’s class investigating codes and signs in David Lynch’s TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (complete with complimentary doughnuts!), The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies – London returns to the Horse Hospital from January-May 2017 for another semester of film classes on a range of esoteric topics, led by some of the horror world’s most renowned critical luminaries.
Lindsay Hallam launches the season in January with her lecture on revenge in Australian exploitation cinema, followed in February by returning instructor Jasper Sharp, who will explore the outer edges of Japanese fantastique cinema, which remain little known outside the country. In March, Jon Towlson will reveal the true gruesomeness of 1930s American horror productions before censorship changed audiences’ perception of them. In April, television scholar Amanda Reyes will fly over from Texas to present a class on the golden age of US Made-for-Television movies, joined by select contributors to her new book Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium 1964-1999. And we’ll be closing the season with an examination of colonial-shaped fantasies of voodoo savagery in Haiti by John Cussans, author of a book on the subject. This last class will also act as the graduation ceremony for those who have been with Miskatonic for the full 2016/2017 school year. Course descriptions and instructor bios are available below.
The spring 2017 semester will also mark the debut of the Diabolique Scholarship – through an arrangement with Diabolique Magazine, which re-launches its print version in March 2017, Miskatonic London will be offering up to five students the opportunity to attend the entire semester free of charge, subject to a juried application process. For more information on how to apply for the scholarship, see the registration page at www.miskatonic-london.com.
Named for the fictional university in H.P. Lovecraft’s literary mythos, The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies is a non-profit, community-based organization that started in Canada, founded by Kier-La Janisse in March of 2010. Miskatonic London operates under the co-direction of Kier-La Janisse and Virginie Sélavy.
All classes take place at the historic Horse Hospital, the heart of the city’s underground culture. Registration for the full spring 2016 semester is £40.
Individual class tickets are £10 advance / £11 on the door / £8 concessions. See below for the full course descriptions.
For further information, images or interview requests, please contact Miskatonic.firstname.lastname@example.org
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies – London
Spring 2017 Semester: monthly classes from January to May 2017
Dates: 19 January, 16 February, 16 March, 20 April, 18 May
Time: 7-10pm (Doors at 7, classes begin shortly thereafter)
Venue: Horse Hospital
Address: Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD
Prices: £10 advance / £11 on the door / £8 concs / £40 full semester ticket
Full semester tickets and individual tickets available now at www.miskatonic-london.com
“NATURE FOUND THEM GUILTY”: REVENGE IN AUSTRALIAN EXPLOITATION CINEMA
19 January, 2017 – 7-10pm
Instructor: Lindsay Hallam
In the 1970s the Australian film industry underwent a boom that is still unprecedented to this day, experienced two-fold with a strain of respectable arthouse period dramas, and a bunch of down-and-dirty, violent and sexy exploitation films. This lecture will explore how Australian horror cinema of this period incorporates a subversive streak that critiques Australian history and culture through the theme of revenge. It is a theme that is prevalent throughout these films, in particular in the spate of eco-horror films, exemplified by the likes of Long Weekend (1978), and Razorback(1984), where nature itself, often in the form of a rampaging nonhuman animal, seeks to avenge the past exploitation and abuse perpetrated against the land and its native inhabitants.
As well as nature seeking revenge, the fight for survival against human or supernatural forces is also presented in films such as Wake in Fright (1971), The Cars That Ate Paris (1974), The Last Wave (1977) Patrick (1978), Roadgames (1981), and Fair Game (1986), and vengeance even comes from beyond the grave in Next of Kin (1982) and BeDevil (1993). Given that Australia’s colonial past is one that encompasses genocide of the indigenous population, mass animal extinction, environmental destruction, and the glorification of masculine ‘mateship’ that carries a nasty undercurrent of misogyny, this lecture will discuss how it is in these revenge narratives that the darker aspects of Australian national identity are explored and indicted. The class will further investigate how this fascination with revenge for past (and present) wrongs still continues in contemporary Australian genre cinema, in films such as Dying Breed (2006), The Horseman (2008), The Loved Ones (2009), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and Red Christmas (2016).
About the Instructor:
Lindsay Hallam is a Senior Lecturer in Film at the University of East London. She is the author of the book Screening the Marquis de Sade: Pleasure, Pain and the Transgressive Body in Film (McFarland 2012), and has directed the documentary Fridey at the Hydey (2013). Lindsay has contributed to the collections Trauma, Media, Art: New Perspectives (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010), Dracula’s Daughters: The Female Vampire on Film (Scarecrow Press, 2013), Fragmented Nightmares: Transnational Horror Across Visual Media (Routledge, 2014), Critical Insights: Violence in Literature (Salem Press, 2014), and the journals Asian Cinema, Senses of Cinema, Cine-Excess and Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies. She is interested in all aspects of horror cinema, having written on topics such as female vampires, torture porn and post-9/11 trauma, mad science films, Italian horror, Australian eco-horror, and the television series Twin Peaks.
LOST TREASURES OF JAPANESE GENRE CINEMA
16 February, 2017 – 7-10pm
Instructor: Jasper Sharp
Very little of Japan’s vast cinematic output has made it onto foreign shores, perhaps not too surprising given that its industry stretches right back to the genesis of the medium and turns out on average about 500 titles a year. Genres such as sci-fi, horror and fantasy have generally been well represented abroad, but the boom in J-horror films in the wake of titles such as The Ring (1998) and Audition (1999) have crowded out discussions about how and when the fantastique first took root in Japanese cinema.
In this illustrated talk Jasper Sharp will explore the out reaches of Japanese fantasy cinema, from the embryonic trick films of “The Father of Japanese Film” Shozo Makino through oddball homegrown sub-genres such as the prewar “ghost cat” (bakeneko or kaibyô) films and the ama cycle of sexy pearl diver films such as Girl Divers at Spook Mansion (1959), some long-lost Japanese takes on the movie monsters of Universal Studios, the pink film-horror of directors like Tetsuji Takechi and Kinya Ogawa and much, much more, all peppered with a liberal amount of clips of some truly bizarre titles that remain either unseen or unseeable to modern audiences outside of the country.
About the Instructor:
Jasper Sharp is a writer, curator and filmmaker. He is the co-founder of Midnight Eye.com, since 2001 the premier online resource in the English-language about Japanese cinema. His book publications include The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film (Stone Bridge, 2003), joint-written with Tom Mes, Behind the Pink Curtain (FAB Press, 2008) and The Historical Dictionary of Japanese Film (Scarecrow 2011). His writing has appeared in publications all over the world, including Sight & Sound, The Guardian, Variety, The Japan Times, Kateigaho and Film International, and he has contributed liner essays, commentaries and interviews to numerous DVD releases. He has curated high profile seasons and retrospectives with organisations including the British Film Institute, Deutches Filmmuseum, Austin Fantastic Fest, Cinematheque Quebecois and Thessaloniki International Film Festival. Between 2010-14, he was the director of Zipangu Fest, established to showcase Japanese independent film in the United Kingdom, and between 2014-2016, the artistic director of Asia House Film Festival. He is the co-director, with Tim Grabham, of The Creeping Garden (2014), a documentary about slime moulds and the people who study and work with them, to be released by Arrow early in 2017, and the author of the book of the film, The Creeping Garden: Irrational Encounters with Plasmodial Slime Moulds (Alchimia Publishing, 2015).
SYNTHETIC FLESH/ROTTEN BLOOD: THE TURN TO GRUESOMENESS IN AMERICAN HORROR FILMS, 1931-1936
16 March, 2017 – 7-10pm
Instructor: Jon Towlson
Critics have traditionally characterised classic horror by its use of shadow and suggestion. Yet the graphic nature of early 1930s films only came to light in the home video/DVD era. Along with gangster movies and ‘sex pictures’, horror films drew audiences during the Great Depression with sensational screen content. Exploiting a loophole in the Hays Code, which made no provision for on-screen ‘gruesomeness’, studios produced remarkably explicit films that were recut when the Code was more rigidly enforced from 1934. This led to a modern misperception that classic horror was intended to be safe and reassuring to audiences.
Taking a fresh look at the genre from 1931 through 1936, this class examines ‘happy ending’ horror in relation to industry practices and censorship. Early works like Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) and The Raven (1935) may be more akin to the modern Grand Guignol of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Hostel (2005) than many critics believe.
Tracing the development of classic horror to the deployment — and subsequent censorship — of on-screen ‘gruesomeness’, Jon Towlson will illustrate the discussion with memos, letters and censorship reports from the studio archives and other research conducted for his new book, The Turn to Gruesomeness in American Horror Films, 1931-1936 (McFarland, 2016). Aspects of the topic to be covered in the class will include:
- The emergence of the 1930s cycle in an industrial context, showing how various stresses during the Great Depression, such as censorship controversy over sex and crime films, declining audiences and growing opposition to unfair business practices, formed a backdrop of ideological rupture and contradiction in the lead up to horror’s first golden age;
- The ways in which cash-strapped studios pushed for increasingly gruesome and sensational screen content to attract audiences, whilst simultaneously placating the Hays Office with moral endings; critics of the genre at the time called such studio tactics ‘Five Reels of Transgression Followed by One Reel of Retribution’;
- The pervasive influence of Grand Guignol on the thirties cycle: how filmmakers deployed gruesomeness and brutality through the use of offscreen space, monster make-up, sound, and shadow play;
- The changing ways in which the Hays Office responded to gruesomeness in the 1930s, from relatively light interference in the early days to heavily influencing the allowable level of gruesomeness from July 1934 following the Reaffirmation of the Production Code;
- How pre-Code horror films were censored for reissue after 1935, and the implications of these becoming the only known versions by a whole generation of fans in the 1950s/1960s;
- Why many modern critics have misread the 1930s cycle, and how a re-evaluation of thirties horror based on its transgression has only recently begun to take place.
Jon will be signing copies of his book, The Turn to Gruesomeness in American Horror Films, 1931-1936 after the class.
About the Instructor:
Jon Towlson is a film critic and the author of THE TURN TO GRUESOMENESS IN AMERICAN HORROR FILMS, 1931-1936 (McFarland, 2016), CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (CONSTELLATIONS) (Auteur/Columbia University Press, 2016) and SUBVERSIVE HORROR CINEMA: COUNTERCULTURAL MESSAGES OF FILMS FROM FRANKENSTEIN TO THE PRESENT (McFarland, 2014). He is a regular contributor to Starburst Magazine, and has also written for the BFI, Paracinema, Exquisite Terror, Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies, Shadowland Magazine, Bright Lights Film Journal, Offscreen and Digital Film-Maker Magazine. Jon contributed to the recent edited collection LOST SOULS OF HORROR AND THE GOTHIC (eds. Bernice M. Murphy & Elizabeth McCarthy, McFarland, 2016). He is currently writing a monograph on the film CANDYMAN for Auteur/Columbia University Press. www.subversive-horror-films.com. @systemshocks
TELE-TERRORS: THE REAL AND IMAGINED HORRORS INSIDE THE MADE-FOR-TELEVISION MOVIE
20 April, 2017 – 7-10pm
Instructor: Amanda Reyes
Often considered the bastard step-child of the theatrical motion picture, TV movies have long been relegated to the dusty corners of our childhood memories. However, despite its scorned status, telefilms could be thoughtful and, at times, subversive. And, in this compact, mass marketed form, the TV movie reached millions of viewers, generated discussion, and aided in the development of our collective consciousness.
Some of the dismissive tone of critics may come from the fact that made for TV films look surprisingly superficial, relying heavily on B movie film techniques to produce and market themselves. Using tawdry titles such Satan’s School for Girls (1973) or salacious taglines like, “He’s found the perfect prey… A young defenseless human” (Savages, 1974), telefilms sought to grab audiences by any means necessary. And, it was this desire to entertain and win Nielsen rating points that allowed the medium to cross over into a wide spectrum of sub-genres, tackling everything from the supernatural to the very real terrors of everyday life. This lecture offers an exploration into several facets of the made for television movie, surveying its cultural touchstones and analyzing the influence the telefilm had on Americans during the run of the network made for television movie produced between 1964 – 1999.
This class will be taught by visiting TV scholar Amanda Reyes, along with select contributors to her new book Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium 1964-1999 from Headpress, who will have copies available for sale at the event.
About the Instructor:
Archivist by day, film lover by night, Amanda Reyes is also a freelance author who has been published online and in print. She recently edited Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium: 1964-1999 (Headpress, 2017) which celebrates the made for television film, and expands upon her TV movie-centric blog Made for TV Mayhem and its companion podcast.
CHIMERICAL OPTICS: HAITI, COLONIALISM AND VOODOO TERROR
18 May, 2017 – 7-10pm
Instructor: John Cussans
Since the first descriptions of bizarre ceremonies witnessed by the French colonial historian Moreau de Saint-Méry, Haitian Vodou has been characterized by most European and American commentators as a deplorable and dangerous African atavism that, if allowed to flourish, could eventually corrupt and destroy the economic and social order of the New World. Such omens were spectacularly affirmed by the Haitian Revolution of 1791, which, according to legend, was triggered by a Vodou ceremony in which a blood-sacrifice was offered to the “demon gods”, and the slaves, in a state of trance-like possession, butchered their white masters in a “racial holocaust”. Since then Haiti has held a special place in colonial imaginings of all that is macabre, sinister and maniacally savage, a land of irredeemable barbarism and “Voodoo Terror”. This class will trace a history of such representations, discussing how they continue to shape xenophobic and neo-colonial imaginings of Haiti as a country mired in superstition and incapable of enlightened self-governance, and the importance of the zombie figure for these “chimerical optics”.
John Cussans’ book Undead Uprising: Haiti, Horror and the Zombie-Complex will be available for purchase from Strange Attractor at the event.
About the Instructor:
John Cussans is an artist, writer and researcher based in London. Since 2009 he has been involved with the Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, often working with the Haitian video collective Tele Geto. He is the author of Undead Uprising: Haiti, Horror and the Zombie-Complex (Strange Attractor).