The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, the world’s longest-running educational organization devoted to the study of horror history, theory and production, is pleased to announce the Spring 2019 lineup of classes for our London branch, led by some of the genre world’s most renowned critical, literary and filmmaking luminaries and taking place at London’s epicenter of underground culture, The Horse Hospital.
We begin with a genre-hopping exploration of what unlicensed international remakes can tell us about processes of cultural globalization; a history of the French Grand Guignol Theatre; a study of the 1940s ‘Paranoid Woman’s Film’ and its relationship to other horror trends by one of the genre’s preeminent scholars; a journey into the undiscovered realm of African literary horror; and we close the season with a study of the dark art of writer, painter and filmmaker Clive Barker.
Students can buy full semester passes, available via our registration page HERE, or tickets to individual classes. Students who complete both fall and spring semesters in a given year will receive a 2019 diploma and graduation gift in May.
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies – London Venue: Horse Hospital Address: Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD https://www.thehorsehospital.com/
FULL CLASS DESCRIPTIONS FOLLOW BELOW.
January 10: INTERNATIONAL REMAKESPLOITATION: THE HORROR MEME FROM THE TURKISH EXORCIST TO DRACULA IN PAKISTAN
with instructor Iain Robert Smith
This lecture will introduce students to the world of horror ‘remakesploitation’ – international exploitation remakes of successful horror films that were often unlicensed and aimed primarily at the domestic market. For example, in 1974 the celebrated Turkish filmmaker Metin Erksan directed ?eytan, a near shot-for-shot remake of The Exorcist (1973), albeit with the Catholic iconography replaced with equivalents from Islam. This was part of a global trend for producing unlicensed reworkings of William Friedkin’s film including the blaxploitation film Abby (1974), the Italian-American rip-off Beyond the Door (1974) and the re-release of Mario Bava’s Lisa and the Devil with additional scenes under the title The House of Exorcism (1974). Similarly, in 1967 the Pakistani director Khwaja Sarfraz produced a loose remake of Dracula (1958) titled Zinda Laash that recreated many elements from the Terence Fisher Hammer film but with the notable addition of ‘item girl’ dance sequences – thereby creating one of the most unique adaptations of Bram Stoker’s novel.
Surveying a range of examples of horror remakesploitation from around the world, this lecture uses Richard Dawkins’ concept of the ‘meme’ – a cultural equivalent of the biological gene that spreads and mutates in a manner analogous to evolution – to explore what these films can tell us about processes of cultural globalization. What changes were required, for example, when the Ramsay Brothers reworked Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) in their Bollywood film Mahakaal (1993)? Or when filmmaker Mehmet Aslan directed a Turkish remake of Sergio Martino’s classic giallo The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh (1971)? Or when Sanjay Gupta produced an Indian remake of Oldboy (2003)? Illustrated with numerous clips and posters from this international phenomenon, this class will investigate these processes of cross-pollination to explore how the horror genre adapts and mutates as it travels around the globe.
February 7: HORROR AND HILARITY: THE LEGACY OF THE GRAND-GUIGNOL
with instructor Richard J. Hand
Hidden at the end of cobblestoned alley in Pigalle lurked a little theatre which was home to the smallest stage in Paris. This was the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol (1897-1962), the legendary ‘Theatre of Horror’. In a district famous for its brothels, streetwalkers and gangsters, the unique Grand-Guignol had a loyal local fanbase and drew in many nervous visitors from further afield. Originally, its repertoire was slice-of-life realism, but it soon discovered what its audience really wanted: a little slice-of-death and a delirious mixture of sang, sperme et sueur (blood, sperm and sweat). Sure enough, the Grand-Guignol’s intense evenings of short plays, interspersing horror with comedy, took its spectators on a journey into the depths of depravation and graphic reality as they watched dramas frequently based on true stories which showed them the effects of sulphuric acid thrown in a face… Or a prostitute skinned alive as her client watches in ecstasy… Or a man cleave off his own hand and hand it to his triumphant wife… Or a suicide bomber who decides to self-detonate… Or brain surgery going gruesomely wrong… Or nipples cut off with scissors… Members of the audience might vomit or lose consciousness requiring the theatre’s very own doctor to revive them… At the same time, other spectators roared with laughter or found their private pleasures in the grilled booths at the back of the auditorium…
Such is the legend of the Grand-Guignol and it masks the brilliant sophistication of its craft: the writers, actors and technicians who with exquisite finesse co-created this extraordinary, salacious and thrilling theatre. The original Grand-Guignol is long gone now, nothing but a ghost. But the phantom of this unique theatre casts a long shadow with an incalculable influence over subsequent popular horror in film, television, radio, comic books and, of course, theatre. The Grand-Guignol remains an essential antecedent to live horror performance of all kinds, from immersive experiences and Halloween shows to the work of contemporary companies such as Molotov Theatre Group (Washington DC) which continue to keep the classic Grand-Guignol repertoire alive.
In this talk, the academic and theatre director Richard Hand will take you on an intimate journey into a night at the Grand-Guignol, recounting the shocking stories, vivid personalities and ingenious tricks of the original theatre before exploring the theatre’s profound legacy and abiding influence over subsequent horror culture.
March 7: THE PARANOID WOMAN’S FILM
with instructor Mark Jancovich
This class will introduce students to the horror films of the 1940s through those films often described as examples of the paranoid (or Gothic) woman’s film. These films, which emerged in response to the phenomenal success of Hitchcock’s Rebecca, feature a woman in love with a potential murderous lover. Although the cycle begins before the war, its key period of productivity was during the war years, and it can therefore also be seen as a key genre associated with changes in the audience during this period. With many men away fighting the war, women were encouraged to disassociate with domesticity in favour of war work and this changed the nature of the cinematic audience. Rather than simply going to the cinema as part of a couple or a family, Hollywood was overwhelmed by the new audience of women that were going to the cinema in groups or alone, and these changed circumstances encouraged these female audiences to play with new forms of femininity. The films therefore exhibit these ambivalent relationship to both the home and the world beyond in both of which require their female leads to turn detective.
We will therefore begin with a discussion of Rebecca as a key text within this cycle. It will examine the ways in which these film plays with their heroines’ struggle to make sense of their husbands; and the ways in which these women find themselves unable to tell whether these husbands love or hate them, a uncertain which motivates their investigative narratives.
We will then move onto other examples of the genre, such as another Joan Fontaine classic, the 1944 adaptation of Jane Eyre, which was (like Rebecca) explicitly understood as a horror film at the time. This will also be used to illustrate another key feature of the period, that these were not low budget horror films but major prestige studio productions, and ones that sought to acquire associations with legitimate culture. We will also look at Gaslight in this context, a film that sweep the academy awards in the 1945.
The class will then move on to explore the ways in which these materials were linked to another key feature of the period, film noir, which is often seen as distinct from the paranoid woman’s film, although neither of these terms existed at the time, and the films that are now associated with these two categories were usually identified with being part of the same category in the 1940s: the horror film. The class will therefore look at Phantom Lady (1944), a film often seen as a classic of film noir but one which was produced by a woman, Joan Harrison, who had also been one of Hitchcock’s key collaborators. Although often seen as a film noir, this film features a female, rather than a male, detective (film noir is often distinguished from the paranoid woman’s film on the basis that the former is supposed to be male centred and the latter female centred), and one that features another key aspect of these films, a focus on psychological horror: the heroine’s antagonist is a psychologically deranged killer.
Finally, the class will end with a consideration of Val Lewton’s films. Lewton is often read as both a low budget filmmaker and as one of the key contributors to the horror film in the period. However, through an examination of his first film, Cat People (1942), the class will explore how Lewton’s films feature many of the elements discussed above: a female detective, psychological horror, and an attempt to acquire associations with legitimate culture. We will therefore examine its associations with Rebecca and Jane Eyre, on which Lewton had been a script editor before being hired to produce films for RKO.
April 11: AFRICAN HORROR: SHADES OF SUPERSTITION
with instructor Nuzo Onoh
This lecture aims to introduce students to the African Horror literary genre. While African Horror films have made great strides in recent years, thanks to the Nollywood film industry and the South African Horror Film Festival, African horror literary fiction is still to take its rightful place in the commercial horror market. We shall examine the term “African Horror”, and how it is portrayed by the popular media before discussing its place as a bona-fide literary genre, similar to other regional horror genres and its classification by distributors. We shall also discuss what constitutes African horror, and what makes it different from horror fiction written by people of African descent.
With over 4000 African tribes and counting, it would be impossible to study African Horror under one uniform blanket as each tribe has its own unique culture and lore. Therefore, I shall focus on the West African (specifically, Nigerian) region in discussing the evolution of African Horror from folk tales under the moonlight to early written works such as Amos Tutuolas’s The Palmwine Drinkard (1952), Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa’s Indaba, My Children: African Folktale (1964), to later African Horror works such as Ben Okri’s The Famished Road (1993) and Nuzo Onoh’s The Sleepless (2016). We shall also examine the mythos of African Horror, the lore, the superstitions that surround death, burial rites and the afterlife in African communities and the role colonialism, Christianity, politics, poverty and globalisation have played in creating situations that give rise to evils such as the harvesting of Albino body parts, the killing of child witches and the kidnapping of humans for witchcraft or political motives. These true-life horrors have all been bred by superstition, and these superstitions form the ethos behind most African Horror literature.
We shall discuss the relevance of African horror to the genre pool, especially as relates issues of negative stereotyping of the continent and the prevalence of poverty and other true-life horror situations in the continent which has led some critics to question the relevance of African Horror genre amidst these real life problems. I shall illustrate with video clips, images and press articles in an interactive session with the students. It is my hope that the students will accompany me on this unique journey into the deep mysteries of African culture and understand this emerging horror genre and the various shades of superstition that drive the African Horror narrative.
May 9: HELLBOUND HEARTS: THE DARK ART OF CLIVE BARKER
with instructor Sorcha Ni Fhlainn
A polymath of considerable artistic importance in the horror genre, Clive Barker has been a mainstay in horror culture since the mid-1980s, and has won critical and fan appreciation for his various strange and often beautiful creations, which have been curiously overlooked outside of horror circles. This class will examine his uniquely abject and original artistry, beginning with the splatterpunk delights of Books of Blood (1984-5), The Damnation Game(1985), and The Hellbound Heart (1986) through to his fusions with the dark fantastic and YA fiction in Weaveworld (1987), The Great and Secret Show(1989), and Abarat series(2002 -), among other popular titles. Barker’s own films, as a writer and director, in the 1980s and 1990s will also be examined to analyse their familiar Barkerian elements (sex, death, religion, belonging, selling one’s soul) alongside themes and motifs on monstrosity, cultural rejection, secret desires and appetites, torment and the limits of excess and power. With the aid of clips, sketches, posters, and archive material, in this lecture I will trace and present core themes and ideas that run riot throughout his fiction and film, and invite you to (re)discover Barker’s enduring legacy and unique contribution to horror culture.