Horror Favourites – Iain Robert Smith

The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies returns for our 2019 Spring semester with a one of a kind class on international horror ‘remakesploitations’ discussed through the lens of the popular ‘meme’ concept to explore what these films can tell us about processes of cultural globalization.

Author Iain Robert Smith uses examples ranging from the Turkish EXORCIST-inspired ?EYTAN to Pakistani director Khwaja Sarfraz’s unique spin on Dracula, ZINDA LAASH, to examine the wide scope of cross-pollination and how the horror genre fluidly adapts and mutates as it travels around the globe. More info on the class can be found HERE

Iain Robert Smith is a Lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College London. He has published extensively on cult and horror cinema, with a particular emphasis on international remakes. He is author of The Hollywood Meme: Transnational Adaptations in World Cinema (EUP, 2016) and co-editor of the collections Transnational Film Remakes (with Constantine Verevis, EUP, 2017) and Media Across Borders (with Andrea Esser and Miguel Bernal-Merino, Routledge, 2016). He is also the co-founder of the Remakesploitation Film Club and he is currently working on a book about global cult cinema.

Below Iain Robert Smith tells us all about his favourite horror film:

“While I love many different kinds of horror cinema – from silent classics such as Nosferatu (1922) through to contemporary gems such as Get Out (2017) – my tastes tend to congregate around the cultier end of the spectrum. I was a teenager in the ’90s and I distinctly remember watching Moviedrome on BBC2 and being introduced to some amazing, mindbending films. That series really helped shape the kind of horror fan that I became. I was never a huge slasher fan and my pretentious teenage self tended to avoid all the major 80s horror franchises, but the weirder stuff like early David Cronenberg or Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls (1962) particularly resonated with me. Since then, I have learned to appreciate the joys of Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers but at that time my sights were firmly set on the more bizarre and esoteric branches of the genre.

Indeed, out of all the horror films that I watched in those years on the tiny television set at the end of my bed, the film that has stuck with me the most – and that I consider not only my favourite horror film, but my favourite film of any genre – is David Lynch’s midnight-movie classic Eraserhead (1977). Strangely, though, it was also a film that I didn’t really care for on my first viewing. I’d read about its nightmarish, surreal qualities but initially I found the pacing to be too slow for my liking, and the relatively limited dialogue and action meant that I began drifting off. Nevertheless, there were a few sequences that stuck with me after that first incomplete viewing – the ‘chicken scene’ and the Lady in the Radiator song in particular – and I began returning to the film again and again in the subsequent weeks. Each time I viewed it, I found myself gradually appreciating it a little more and then finally when I saw it on the big screen (at the Grosvenor Cinema in Glasgow) I realised that it was actually Lynch’s masterpiece.

Despite watching the film over 20 times, I would still struggle to describe the plot to you but that doesn’t matter. With this film, it is all about the visceral feeling that it evokes in the viewer – like a nightmare that you can’t quite fully comprehend. The combination of stark black-and-white photography, surreal imagery and intense sound design coalesces into something genuinely dreamlike and otherworldly and I’ve never been able to shake it. When Twin Peaks returned in 2017, one of the things I most enjoyed about the new series was Lynch’s return to the aesthetic of his early work. Episode 8 in particular felt like the closest thing Lynch has produced to Eraserhead in decades, and it is no coincidence that I think it may also be my favourite ever episode of television. While my relationship with Eraserhead has changed over the years – not least because my wife and I have recently had a baby daughter so the parenting sequences are a little more horror-inducing than when I first watched it! – I nevertheless think Eraserhead is as close as we will ever get to a perfect film.”

Find out more info about The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies HERE and check out Miskatonic Institute: Remakesploitation! The Horror Meme below:

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