Stacey Abbott – University of Roehampton

When the Subtext Becomes Text: The Purge takes on the American Nightmare

In his seminal ‘An Introduction to the American Horror Film’,  Robin Wood claims that 1970s horror ‘is currently  the most important of all American genres and perhaps the most progressive, even in its overt nihilism’ (1984). This analysis and interpretation of the ferocity of much of 1970s American horror cinema as the expression of the rage and confusion of a nation in crisis has become an established critical frame through which to interpret the significance of horror cinema. In contrast, critical responses to the American horror genre at the turn of the millennium suggested that the genre had been reduced to commercially driven remakes, sequels, and pastiches, empty of meaning and/or progressive readings.

The aim of this paper will be to consider how The Purge series – The Purge (2013), The Purge: Anarchy (2014) and The Purge: Election Year (2016), one the one hand a carefully conceived and authored trilogy and on the other a commercial franchise with further plans for a prequel and a television series – offers an insightful template for the consideration of the place of ‘The American Nightmare’ within discourses around contemporary horror cinema, authorship and American culture.  While Wood saw an unconscious channelling of cultural rage through horror cinema, The Purge puts The American Nightmare under the spotlight by offering an overt critique of racism, Christian fundamentalism, and Neo-Liberal patriarchal authority, showing that the subtext has in fact become text. Yet The Purge is also a lucrative franchise capitalising upon the global popularity of this critique and this paper will consider the progressiveness of this formula for horror within the light of the franchise’s commercial imperatives.

Stacey Abbott is Reader in Film and Television Studies at the University of Roehampton. She is the author of Celluloid Vampires (2007), Angel: TV Milestone (2009), and Undead Apocalypse: Vampires and Zombies in the21st Century (2016), and co-author, with Lorna Jowett, of TV Horror: The Dark Side of the Small Screen (2013). She has written extensively on cult film and television with a particular focus upon twenty-first century horror.

Speaking as part of ‘Make America Hate Again: Horror & US Politics’

Filipa Antunes – University of East Anglia

It Takes Many Forms… Why Isn’t Children’s Horror One?: Child Heroes and the Problem of 1980s Nostalgia

What space can children occupy in horror? The question circulates in many of the genre’s recurrent debates, including regulation and morality, but it is especially relevant to understandings of the genre’s self-image. A period of particular significance here is the 1980s, when a controversial trend of films aimed at children disrupted assumptions about the genre’s ethos (Antunes, forthcoming). Children’s horror films continue to be made, often problematically (Lester, 2016), but they now exist alongside a much more ambiguous kind of text, which features child heroes and tells child-focused stories but also rejects child audiences, e.g. Stranger Things (2016- ).

This paper argues that child heroes today function primarily as props, specifically used to signal the 1980s. Childhood thus functions like any other period detail. Taken out of their cultural context, these representations do not address any of the 1980s-specific issues (now resolved, in any case), nor do they speak to contemporary children and their issues (as they did in the 1980s films that serve as inspiration today). As an example, the paper examines It (2017), noting how its representations distance the film from the socio-cultural debates raised in the book (1986) and TV miniseries (1990), while also preventing It from addressing important contemporary issues about children, and about their relationship to the genre. Or more precisely, It obliquely addresses the latter by simply affirming horror as a genre exclusive to adults. This, I argue, is the elephant in the room today: a celebration of horror’s most child-friendly period, complete with the veneration of all its childhood icons, incongruously attached to a rejection of the notion that children could be legitimate participants in the genre.

Filipa Antunes is a lecturer at the University of East Anglia. Her monograph, “Children Beware! Horror, ratings, and the making of pre-adolescence” is forthcoming with McFarland. Her work has been published in Journal of Film and MediaJournal of Children and Media and others. She also writes for the multi-authored American Childhoods blog, often with a horror focus.

Speaking as part of ‘From Under the Bed: Childhood & Nostalgia’

Heather Askwith – University of Sunderland

Interference: Technology Making the Body ‘Other’ in Black Mirror

From its first season in 2011, Black Mirror has tackled the role of technology in our lives and presented it as a source of horror. This paper seeks to discuss and explore the ways in which technology becomes a part of the human body in the series – from ‘The Entire History of You’, where a ‘grain’ placed inside the skin becomes a way to rewind memory, through to the most recent offering of ‘Arkangel’, where technology is placed within a child as a method of keeping her safe.

This paper argues that wherever technology interferes with the body in Black Mirror, there is a shift from the moment where the technology is presented as ‘Other’ to the body becoming abject as a result of the interference. In Black Mirror, when the homogeneity of technology becomes the norm, our bodies become strange and unpredictable things: for example, the behaviour of Bryce Dallas Howard’s character in ‘Nosedive’ or the desertion of the aging, abject body for a life within a computer in ‘San Junipero’. I will seek to place Black Mirror within the cultural landscape of horror, with origins in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) and pitstops within horror’s lengthy history of fearing scientific development and its interference with our humanity.

Heather Askwith is currently studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Sunderland, producing a practice-led piece which focuses on the horror genre through three narrative strands in different time periods and styles. In 2017, she was awarded with the Northern Writers’ Award.

Speaking as part of ‘Terror 404: Technophobic Narratives’

Alison Bainbridge – Northumbria University

Communal Nightmares: Fan Responses to Creepypasta Narrative in Dathan Auerbach’s Penpal

Published in novel format in 2012, Dathan Auerbach’s Penpal is just one example of a growing number of creepypasta horror stories published across media platforms. First appearing as the creepypasta ‘Footsteps’ on the No-Sleep subreddit, and then performed on the No-Sleep Podcast in two special episodes dedicated to the original story and its sequels, Penpal has received both fan and critical acclaim and was optioned for film rights in 2012 following the novel’s publication. In this paper, I will be examining the transmedia productions of Auerbach’s novel, with a particular focus on the impact that fan responses have had on the narrative, including the Kickstarter campaign which funded the book’s publication. By placing Penpal in the context of a creepypasta narrative, I will show that the book’s reliance on the format of an internet campfire story and its basis on the author’s own nightmares and memories give the novel a degree of relatability which furthered its popularity.

This relatability – the novel’s basis on what can be described as a “communal nightmare” of stalking and child kidnap – is at the heart of, not only creepypastas, but successful mainstream horror films and novels such as Get Out (2017) and Hex (2013). Instead of witnessing the nightmare from a third person perspective, however, the first person narration typical of stories written in creepypasta format allows the narrator’s fears to become those of the audience; allows the impossible memories of the author to become the experiences of those reading or listening to them. I will argue that Auerbach’s Penpal and the creepypasta collections it forms a part of invoke an immediate and intimate sense of horror in the audience that is more similar to that of a participant than a witness, and that this intimacy allows for a greater sense of power in the audience’s decision to consume creepypasta-based media.

Alison Bainbridge is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Northumbria University. Her research interests include the representations of time and place in horror podcasts, the use of sound effects in contemporary Gothic literature, as well as online fan practises. She also writes short horror fiction, and is shortly to be published in the online journal Revenant.

Speaking as part of ‘Terror 404: Technophobic Narratives’

Liam Ball – University of Sheffield

Sheilas Behind Bars: Prison Horror and Gender Hierarchies in Hounds of Love

Prison narratives are prevalent in Australian cinema, not least in the national horror tradition. In Wake in Fright (1971)—generally considered the progenitor of the Australian New Wave—a teacher is stranded in a remote outback settlement that quickly becomes a makeshift prison of toxic masculinity and social depravity. Scores of subsequent Australian horror films have similarly employed prison narratives to comment upon aspects of Australian culture; the convention invariably invokes Australia’s origins as a penal colony, and, as with many prison-based narratives irrespective of genre, the setting can function as a microcosm for wider society. Hounds of Love (2016) – in which a teenage girl is kidnapped, imprisoned, and abused by a childless couple – is proof the tradition remains a potent convention in Australian horror storytelling today. This paper will thus interrogate the position Hounds of Love occupies in the Australian prison horror tradition and how this informs the text’s sociocultural commentary.

To formulate its argument, the paper will apply genre analysis and the study of gender hegemonies to readings of relevant Australian prison horror texts: Wake in Fright, Fortress (1985), and Wolf Creek (2005). It will then provide a close reading of Hounds of Love as informed by these analyses, arguing that the text adapts and subverts several prison horror conventions to provide an incisive and timely commentary on contemporary Australian society. The paper’s ultimate aim is to highlight the pervasive engagement with gender hegemonies in the Australian prison horror film –heretofore unremarked upon in scholarly analysis – and to supplement the recent drive to legitimise the Australian horror film as a valuable tradition in the study of film and culture.

Liam Ball is an MA student in English Literature and Film Studies at the University of Sheffield; he attained a BA (Hons) degree in Film Studies at Sheffield Hallam University. His academic interests include the study of gender hegemonies and the cultural analysis of popular genre cinemas, with a particular focus on twenty-first century Australian horror cinema.

Speaking as part of ‘Gore Around the Globe: International Horror Cinema’

Kev Bickerdike – Sheffield Hallam University

“It’s a bloody heritage place”: Violent Identity Formation within Sightseers

Ben Wheatley has established himself as a prolific British cinematic presence, and his films consistently capture the seething, profound dangers that lurk beneath the often mundane British psyche. With Sightseers he takes us out to the caravan sites and places of heritage within the northern rural landscape, taking cues from two canonical vacation tales: Withnail and I and Nuts in May (although perhaps subconsciously with the latter; Wheatley claims to have watched it for the first time just prior to shooting his own film). Like the above films, Sightseers explores the inevitably underwhelming British countryside holiday: disappointing largely because of idealised spatial expectations that are rarely met.

Whilst protagonists Chris and Tina may not have gone on holiday by mistake, both have motivations that are not entirely relaxational and this paper will examine those motivations, and how space is, dualistically, both the recipient of identity politics and the source of identification itself, making particular reference to the human geography of Edward Relph.  Whilst the holiday is an attempt on the part of Chris to gain respite from the hierarchical class structures that permeate the urban environment, and Tina seeks to escape a domestic situation dominated by her manipulative mother, neither are able to redefine themselves within the rural spaces they encounter, and the differences between their imagined, cognitive spaces versus the existential spaces they encounter lead to violent attempts at identity formation.

Kev Bickerdike is a first year PhD researcher at Sheffield Hallam University, undertaking a project entitled ‘British Horror Cinema and the Production of Space’. His project examines how horror cinema reflects the ways in which various spaces are produced, and how identity is both derived from, and imposed upon space.

Speaking as part of ‘A Killer Kingdom: Modern British Horror’

Emily Brick – Manchester Metropolitan University

“When witches don’t fight, we burn”: Witchcraft in Contemporary Horror Television

This paper will explore depictions of witchcraft in contemporary horror television.  The depiction of witches has always been ambivalent and crossed generic boundaries. Beyond horror, witches also feature in children’s literature (The Wizard of Oz [1939], The Witches [1990], Harry Potter [2001-2011], the Narnia series [2005-2010]); romance (Practical Magic [1998], The Love Witch [2015]); comedy (Hocus Pocus [1993], Bewitched [2005]); fairytales (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs [1937], Sleeping Beauty [1959], Maleficent [2014]); teen film and television (The Craft [1996], Sabrina the Teenage Witch [1996-2003], Twitches [2005], The Secret Circle [2011-2012]) and historical drama (Haxan [1922], Witchfinder General [1968], The Witch [2015]). Witches are uniquely positioned in popular culture as both monsters and heroines. Many of these non-horror texts use notions of the monstrous and horrific in their depiction of witches and witchcraft. Witches are most commonly depicted as female and their historical mythology and depiction on screen are intrinsically linked to feminism and the monstrous-feminine.

Witches were last prominent on screen in the 1990s and reboots of two significant texts from this era, The Craft and Charmed (1998-2006) have now been confirmed.  Witches have also re-emerged on horror television in shows such as Midnight: Texas (2016-2017), Salem (2014-2017), American Horror Story: Coven (2013), True Blood (2008-2014), Witches of East End (2013-2014) and The Originals (2013- ). This paper will examine the ways in which this recent wave of television shows explore the ambiguous relationship between witchcraft and monstrosity looking specifically at generic motifs, the shifts in representations of gender and the way in which traditional filmic tropes of witches as monsters are adapted for the narrative demands of television.

Emily Brick is Senior Lecturer in Film and Media at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her research is centred on monstrous, transgressive and killer women in film and television.

Speaking as part of ‘It Lives Again: Modern Monsters’

Lee Broughton – Independent Scholar

Mapping and Assessing the Generic Aesthetics and Narrative Qualities Found in Feature Length Horror Films Shot on iPhone Cameras

In the latter half of 2017, the news that director Steven Soderbergh had secretly made a horror film, Unsane (2018), which was shot entirely on an iPhone, provoked much excitement amongst on-line movie news outlets.  At the time of writing, Unsane has yet to be released but Soderbergh’s reputation for innovation and his work on HBO’s much-publicized and soon-to-be-broadcast ‘Mosaic’ – a TV show that will allow spectators who possess the requisite smart phone apps to enjoy an interactive viewing experience that will shape the direction of the show’s narrative – has in turn prompted much in the way of anticipation with regard to Unsane.

Feature length horror films shot on iPhones are not an entirely new phenomenon but the use of this new and potentially democratising technology brings its own challenges for independent filmmakers, who are already working to overcome the limits set by their films’ low budgets.  Certainly it would be unfair to assume that the use of iPhone technology should automatically result in new generic aesthetics or novel horror narratives.

This paper will analyse the generic aesthetics and narrative qualities of three key post-2010 horror films that were shot on iPhones: Pablo Larcuen’s Hooked Up (2013), Chris Alexanders’ Queen of Blood (2014) and Juan Ortiz’s Jennifer Help Us (2014).  In doing so it will map the established generic aesthetics that the films have drawn upon (digital found footage films from the 2000s, Euro-horror vampire films from the early-1970s and American independent slasher-horror films from the late-1970s respectively) while considering notions of nostalgia and parody. It will also seek to determine whether these iPhone horror films bring anything discernibly new to the genre.  For example, in this regard I will argue that Queen of Blood effectively brings the filmic properties of “slow cinema” to the horror genre.

Lee Broughton is a freelance writer, critic, film programmer and lecturer in film and cultural studies.  He is the author of The Euro-Western: Reframing Gender, Race and the ‘Other’ in Film (2016) and the editor of Critical Perspectives on the Western: From A Fistful of Dollars to Django Unchained (2016).  Lee edits the Current Thinking on the Western blog and is the convener of the International Scholars of the Western Network. He is currently writing a book that examines the representations of north and south that are found in Italian Westerns. His research interests include the Western, horror films and cult movies more generally.

Speaking as part of ‘Broken Lenses: Found Footage Aesthetics’

Andreas Charalambous – Anglia Ruskin University

The Monster of Capitalist Industry

The increasingly prevalent integration of modern technologies into the contemporary capitalist system has led to a more efficient and economical industry, which Donna Haraway has termed the New Industrial Revolution. Echoing social anxieties present during the original Industrial Revolution, this has caused significant social reverberations through the obligatory repositioning of gender, class, and race for the consequently redundant labour force. As the dehumanised monster of capitalist industry – economically castrated and experiencing feminisation through poverty – the family unit is enabled to operate outside of mainstream social and secular conventions in establishing its own perverse economic system to replace that which had instigated their subsequent monstrosity.

The intention of this paper is to examine the popular horror trope of the monstrous family – such as that which features in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974); its subsequent sequels/remakes/prequels; and Wrong Turn (2003) – to give but a few examples. This examination will consider the shifting dynamics of the family unit as they deal with the affects of their forced castration and feminisation. Acknowledging the previous system, the monstrous family’s main challenge is to reorganise the unit’s hierarchy with a repositioning of genders in order for their perverse economic system to thrive – giving new meaning to the mantra, “The family that slays together, stays together.” The tagline used in the marketing material for 1974’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, poses the question; “Who will survive and what will be left of them?” –a question that is just as relevant for the deranged family unit as it is for their victims.

Andreas Charalambous is a Film and Media lecturer from London, who is currently undertaking PhD research on monsters in horror cinema entitled ‘Horror Monsters: From Devolution to the Transhuman.’

Speaking as part of ‘It Lives Again: Modern Monsters’

Stephen Curtis – Independent Scholar

Controlling Your Fear: Reading the Generic Fusions of Contemporary Horror Games

Horror games have always been heavily influenced by their cinematic cousins. Graphics, audio design, characterisation, and plot have often been clearly derived from the most popular movies of the time. Some of the most successful horror franchises have an even closer relationship with films. Silent Hill and Resident Evil must now be considered as multi-media creative worlds in which the confusing mix of overlaps and inconsistencies shape audience engagement and enjoyment. In this paper, I argue that contemporary horror videogames are created by, and aimed at, horror aficionados. This intended audience can be expected to bring both gaming and cinematic knowledge to their ludic experience. For this reason, game designers can use this assumed understanding to trick the player. The kinds of twists that have characterised postmodern horror films ranging from Scream to Cabin in the Woods are applied in order to retain player interest.

The relationship between game and film is not just a matter of narrative design, however. The techniques of horror cinema used to create feelings of dread and unease are intensified through the immersive experience of playing. In games such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Outlast, this experience relies on the player character being unarmed and vulnerable, whilst the likes of Dead Island, Doom, and Dying Light instead empower the player to fight against hordes of enemies. These games exist within relatively stable generic conventions and the player enjoys them in part because of their conformity. Other titles take the expectations and prior knowledge of the player and deliberately subvert them, leading to uncertainty and the fusion of multiple subgenres. I will examine the ways in which Resident Evil VII and Until Dawn rely upon this generic fusion to create their distinctive horrorscapes and explore the ways in which this approach can be seen to push the boundaries of fear.

Stephen Curtis specialises in the darker aspects of Early Modern Literature, and is currently working on monographs concerning the representation of blood in Early Modern tragedy and culture and Early Modern Horror. This research interest comes from a lifetime spent immersed in horror fiction, films, and games. He has presented on a wide range of contemporary Gothic and horror topics, ranging from death in videogames to the particular horrors to be found on British farms. He tweets at @EarlyModBlood and is always happy to chat about blood and all things horror.

Speaking as part of ‘Eyeballs and Eardrums: Horror’s Formal Qualities’

Pembe Gozde Erdogan – Independent Scholar

Turkish Art-house Horror: Can Evrenol’s Nightmare-scapes

This paper aims to analyse Turkish horror director Can Evrenol’s two films Baskin (2015) and Housewife (2017) from a cultural standpoint. Evrenol wears his horror influences on his sleeve and he can be labelled as ‘postmodern’ with his nightmarish, gory and disturbing images that evoke many different influences from the genre of horror like giallo films, gore movies and slashers. With his camerawork and his approach to horror, Evrenol is the first of his kind for Turkish horror cinema. This paper, however, aims to explore what type of a cultural/historical moment inspires a director like Evrenol and his subject matter and style. Evrenol’s nightmarish and ‘bizarre’ films can be seen as abject manifestations of contemporary socio-political atmosphere in both Turkey and the rest of the world. Can Evrenol marries European/American horror aesthetic with a Turkish sensibility. If, as most horror scholars agree, horror reflects the social fears and anxieties of its time, what do Evrenol’s films tell us about the anxieties of a geography trapped between Europe and Middle East; a geography that is going through immense change under political conservatism and religious fundamentalism? Evrenol is another proof that the horror genre is still one of the most apt tools to revisit, reassess, distort, reflect and criticise current sociological, political and cultural problems in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

Pembe Gozde Erdogan is an independent scholar currently residing in Cardiff. Her research areas include horror film and television, cultural studies, popular culture and drama.

Speaking as part of ‘Gore Around the Globe: International Horror Cinema’

Stella Gaynor – University of Salford

“We want to out HBO, HBO” said Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO: Micro-genres, money shots and murder in Netflix’s Hemlock Grove

In 1997 in Silicon Valley, California, Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph founded Netflix, a DVD sales and rental company. Only 12 months later they dropped the sales part of the business, and focused on DVD rental by mail. Come 2007 and Netflix expands into online streaming of its movie library. 2013 saw Netflix begin to make its own original ‘television’ drama (House Of Cards, 2013- ). While scholars and critics have wailed that we are approaching the death of TV many times over the last fifty years,TV has always survived. But it was Netflix and their move into both the streaming of movies and creating its own original drama, that gave television as we know it, its biggest threat yet. This paper will examine what it is that makes Netflix so successful, how this gave the rest of the television industry ‘the fear,’ and what the model of Netflix means for the development of horror.

Using the first season of Hemlock Grove (2013-2015) as a case study, this paper will explore exactly what Hastings meant when he said “we want to out HBO, HBO.” Looking specifically at Hemlock Grove, I will explore how and why Netflix used horror to expand its original drama output. Television scholars before have explored in great detail the concept of the genre hybrid in relation to TV drama. In this paper I will push this idea further, and demonstrate how Netflix instead uses much more complex micro-genres. Hemlock Grove, ostensibly a werewolf drama, in the context of the online streaming platform with vast amounts of data to mine, and through its use of micro-genres, twists together werewolves, vampires, extreme abjection and body horror, with a psychosexually driven serial killer in there for good measure. Taking into account the horror TV and film offerings in the years after 2010, Netflix gave us Hemlock Grove. This paper will unlock through industrial analysis, exploration of the Netflix methods and models, and textual analysis of Hemlock Grove, what a horror serialisation is, and can be, in the sprawling world of the online streaming service.

Stella Gaynor is in the third year of her PhD, and is staring down the barrel of the final scary months leading to submission. Her research centres on the contemporary horror drama on American Television, and how recent changes in the TV industry have impacted upon horror. Stella also teaches media studies modules at the University of Salford and is a professional makeup artist.

Speaking as part of ‘Static Shocks: Contemporary Horror TV’

Janet K. Halfyard – Birmingham Conservatoire

Sound and Fury: Noise as the New Music of Horror

A recurrent feature of horror scoring for both film and television in recent years has been the use of noise in places where music would previously have been used. In the twenty-first century, one of the important changes in film and television music has been its means of production. Whereas in the twentieth century,  composers might have sat at a piano writing notes on paper, whilst sound designers recorded the sounds of themselves mashing vegetables and walking on custard powder, now both are likely to be spend most of their time sitting at a computer using identical software programmes to borrow, create or manipulate samples – the technologies of these two activities have converged, creating the clear potential for noise to start impinging on the sonic territory  traditionally reserved for music in film.

The distinction in relation to horror scoring is complicated by the extent to which musical analogues for noise are often employed as a musical signifier of horror itself – glissandos, drones, stings and stabs, and tightly packed clusters of notes are all musical devices that push instrumental sounds across the boundary from music to noise as can be heard, for example, in Harry Manfredini’s scores for the original Friday the 13th films.

Nonetheless, the noise of contemporary horror ‘scores’ operates somewhat differently in terms of both effect and affect. We react to noise differently than we do to music – as I have explored in previous papers at this conference, noise as a term is almost always a pejorative; and tends to indicate something unwanted, a disruption in the sonic signal. In this paper, I examine how noise is being used in recent film and TV, sometimes entirely replacing conventional musical scoring, looking at ideas of sonic overload, sonic misdirection, and diegetic ambiguity, with examples from the films As Above, So Below (2014) and Darling (2016); and the TV series Hannibal (2013-2015), Preacher (2016- ) and Twin Peaks: the Return (2017).

Janet K. Halfyard is Director of Undergraduate Studies at Birmingham Conservatoire (Birmingham City University). Publications include Danny Elfman’s Batman: a film score guide (2004), Music, Sound and Silence in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2010), The Music of Fantasy Cinema (2012) and a variety of essays on music in horror and fantasy in journals and edited collections. Her monograph, Sounds of Fear and Wonder: Music in Cult TV was published by IB Tauris in 2016, and focuses in particular on music and sound in horror and supernatural TV shows.

Speaking as part of ‘Eyeballs and Eardrums: Horror’s Formal Qualities’

Lindsay Hallam – University of East London

“Drink full and descend”: The Horror of Twin Peaks: The Return

In a press conference held before the new season of Twin Peaks (2017) went to air, co-creator David Lynch claimed that the story of Laura Palmer’s last seven days, shown in the film prequel Fire Walk With Me (1992), which was a critical and commercial flop upon initial release, would be very important to the show’s new iteration. This is a telling statement, as Fire Walk With Me has a decidedly different tone and mood than the original series, shifting away from the show’s parodic play with the tropes of soap opera and police procedural toward the conventions of horror cinema. As the latest season of Twin Peaks unfolded, it became clear that creators David Lynch and Mark Frost were bringing something completely new to the screen, continuing to confound viewers. Although the original series garnered a cult following, the new series refused to indulge in pointless nostalgia and fan service.

The element of horror, so central to Fire Walk With Me, is still prevalent in the recent third season, and in this paper I will examine the use of horror conventions within Twin Peaks: The Return, and I will argue that horror is a central element of Lynch’s oeuvre – much of which is referenced within the new season itself. Twin Peaks: The Return thus constitutes a culmination of Lynch’s work across the mediums of film, television, and visual art, blurring the lines between these forms of traditional media while also expanding into new digital media and online forms. This formal hybridity has even led to a fierce debate over whether the new Twin Peaks should be considered as television or cinema, a discussion which can be expanded in relation to many new forms of contemporary horror.

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 (2012), and directed the documentary Fridey at the Hydey. She has contributed to the collections Trauma, Media, Art: New Perspectives (2010), Dracula’s Daughters: The Female Vampire on Film (2013), Fragmented Nightmares: Transnational Horror Across Visual Media (2014), Critical Insights: Violence in Literature (2014), and the journals Asian Cinema, Senses of Cinema, 16:9 and Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies.

Speaking as part of ‘Static Shocks: Contemporary Horror TV’

Liam Hathaway – De Montfort University

The Post-Post-Apocalypse: The ‘Quiet Apocalypse’ in Contemporary American Horror

Following highly influential works such as George A. Romero’s Dead saga (1968-2009), George Miller’s Mad Max films (1979-2015), in addition to standalone features such as The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), The Last Man on Earth (1964), A Boy and His Dog (1975) and so on, the post-apocalyptic film has become a mainstay of genre cinema. Explicating the popularity of this subgenre, Samuel Weber asserts that, “Ever since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when it first became apparent that human beings had acquired the power to destroy life on earth […] apocalyptic thoughts and images have increasingly proliferated” (Weber 2015). Though not limited to the nuclear holocaust scenario Weber references, the post-apocalyptic film has changed over the years, as zombies, diseases, alien invasions, ecological collapse, celestial impacts and other immense threats have all endangered human existence onscreen.

In recent years, a new variation of the cinematic post-apocalypse has emerged in American cinema: the ‘quiet apocalypse’ film. With scant exposition for the cause of the apocalypse, sparse action and a general lack of traditional post-apocalyptic motifs, the focus in these films is generally limited to interpersonal conflicts and breakdowns in communication, often within claustrophobic environments. Meanwhile, the apparently more significant dangers of these ravaged worlds – zombies, disease-carriers, aliens – remain noticeably absent. As I intend to illustrate with this paper, the ‘quiet apocalypse’ indicates a realisation that post-apocalyptic films need not rely on overt genre tropes in order to subtextually articulate anxieties prevalent throughout society – such as cultural malaise, racial tensions and terminal illness. Following a brief history of post-apocalyptic cinema, I will begin examining my case studies: the progenitor of this particular subgenre, Jeremy Gardner’s The Battery (2012), Henry Hobson’s Maggie (2015), and, finally, Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes at Night (2017). Additionally, I will make relevant references to other pertinent examples of what should be considered ‘quiet apocalypse’ films.

Liam Hathaway recently began his PhD, an eco-cultural investigation into killer bug films, at De Montfort University. While he is interested in all kinds of film, his key research areas are eco-horror, body-horror, neo-noir, science-fiction, and, in particular, how genre films can diversely reflect the cultural moment.

Speaking as part of ‘Stars and Strife: Contemporary American Horror’

Alice Haylett Bryan – King’s College London

“You have absolutely no control over your mind and body anymore”: Pregnancy, Autonomy and Prepartum Anxiety in Alice Lowe’s Prevenge

The 2016 horror comedy Prevenge was born out of actor Alice Lowe’s need to keep working during her own pregnancy. Faced with a long period of unemployment due to the imminent changes to her body, Lowe decided to take matters into her own hands and write a screenplay for a film that she could star in whilst pregnant. This paper will explore the position of Prevenge as a text of prepartum anxiety. The loss of autonomy that comes with pregnancy and parenthood is amplified through a horrific tale of psychosis, murder and mourning. Although thankfully only a few women will suffer such a severe mental illness during pregnancy, the loss of control over your body and life that feeds Ruth’s psychosis is one felt consciously or unconsciously by all expectant mothers. As her midwife informs her, Ruth needs to be “[R]uthless” in her attempts to keep her unborn baby safe and well: she needs to selflessly put another life before hers, even though that other life can cause sickness, pain and permanent changes to her body and lifestyle. At the same time, throughout pregnancy women are constantly told that their body will know what to do, that it can grow and deliver the baby almost as though it is a machine or organism removed from the mother’s control.

It is this experience of alterity faced by expectant mothers that led Julia Kristeva to claim that pregnancy is a form of ‘institutionalised psychosis’, as the inability to separate self and other, usually a sign of metal instability, is instead socially accepted. This paper will critically engage with Kristeva’s work on pregnancy to unpack the prepartum anxiety read into the film, providing a psychoanalytic interrogation alongside its textual analysis.

Alice Haylett Bryan received her PhD in Film Studies from King’s College London in 2017, where she submitted a thesis on womb phantasies in horror and extreme cinema. Her recent publications include ‘“I Only Like Seeing Myself in Small Bits”: Catherine Breillat’s Reflections of the Female Body’ in Cine-Excess (2016), and ‘Surgery, Blood and Patriarchal Sex: Excision and American Mary’, in Transgression in Anglo-American cinema: Gender, Sex and the Deviant Body (2016). She currently teaches Film Studies at King’s College London.

Speaking as part of ‘A Killer Kingdom: Modern British Horror’

Neil Jackson – University of Lincoln

Twenty-first Century Euro-Snuff:  A Serbian Film and the Realist Horror Tradition

Thus far, scholarly discussion of A Serbian Film (2010) has focused upon its transgressive qualities, incorporating issues of reception, censorship and national identity. Such approaches have been bound by an evaluation of the film’s social, historical and cultural value amid a brace of condemnatory and censorious institutional responses. Claims for the film’s importance have ranged from discussion of its status as an allegorical work which addresses recent national trauma, to its properties as an ‘extreme’ object ripe for fan appropriation and debate. These are all eminently sensible methods through which we can begin to understand the varied discourses and strategies of a modern horror film which has instigated outrage, condemnation and suppression in a set of distinct national contexts.

To take discussion of the film into other areas, this paper considers its generic features, and more specifically, evaluates it as an evolutionary rendition of cinematic themes and tropes that were set in motion over 50 years ago. The twenty-first century has witnessed a distinctive upturn in the visibility and availability of images of real death, a situation accommodated significantly by rapid advances in digital technology and online access. However, although the film is fluent and sophisticated as a contemporary nightmare that explores the limits and consequences of human consumption, control and exploitation, it has also re-visited and re-interpreted the established mythology of the porno-snuff film at a time when the most resonant and familiar moving images of actual murder have been of hostages bound, beheaded and burned by ideologically motivated captors, in a conflict that continues to be fought on a shifting geo-political stage.

Therefore, this discussion of A Serbian Film will combine historical and textual methods to emphasise its status not only as a key example of the fictional snuff sub-genre, but also as a text which engages and interrogates a range of universal social fears and anxieties which have developed on several ideological platforms.

Neil Jackson is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Lincoln. He has published on horror and exploitation cinema in a variety of books and journals and is co-editor of Snuff: Real Death and Screen Media (2016). His article on the 1981 film ‘Exhausted: John C Holmes the Real Story’ appeared in Grindhouse: Cultural Exchange on 42nd Street and Beyond (2016). He recently contributed a chapter on ‘Forced Entry’ (1972) to the Routledge Porn Studies journal, and on the socio-cultural significance of the pornographer to the Routledge Companion to Media, Sex and Sexuality (2017). He is currently developing a book on the relationship between exploitation cinema and the Vietnam War.

Speaking as part of ‘Gore Around the Globe: International Horror Cinema’

Dawn Keetley – LeHigh University

Sleep and the Reign of the Uncanny in Post-Recession Horror Film

This paper argues that a principal preoccupation of the horror film over the last decade has been the uncanny human—the character bereft of reason and choice. What I call the “nonhuman human” stalks post-Recession era horror, which has been holding up multiplying dark mirrors, showing us reflections that both are and are not us, our own uncanny doubles. In this way, horror films of roughly the second decade of the twenty-first century, at every turn, challenge our conception of what the “human” is while at the same time delivering a visceral existential dread.

After defining this larger trend and briefly mapping its causes, my paper will then explore how recent horror films have exploited sleep disorders as one strand of uncanny horror. Jonathan Crary has called late capitalist society “an illuminated 24/7 world without shadows,” a world in which we are constantly working, consuming, watching, plugged in, a world fundamentally incompatible with sleep and darkness. Not surprisingly, the amount of time people in developed nations spend sleeping is plummeting; sleep medicine and sleep centres have grown exponentially; and sleep disorders and use of sleep medications are rapidly escalating. Horror film has taken up the anxiety surrounded an increasingly contested sleep, and there has been a rise in particular in plots that centre on sleep walking and sleep paralysis. Films such as Paranormal Activity (2007), The Break-In (2016), Insidious (2010), Dead Awake (2016), Slumber (2017), and Lights Out (2016) not only express late capitalist unease about the embattled terrain of sleep but also, more generally, show how the notion of a rational, volitional self is slipping away as we see, all around us, versions of ourselves walking and acting in ways of which we are unaware—bodies separate from minds.

Dawn Keetley is Professor of English, teaching horror and the gothic at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. She is the co-editor of Plant Horror: Approaches to the Monstrous Vegetal in Fiction and Film (2016) and of The Ecogothic in Nineteenth-century American Literature (2017) as well as the author of Making a Monster: Jesse Pomeroy, the Boy Murderer of 1870s Boston (2017). Keetley is currently working on a monograph on the uncanny in twenty-first century horror film and a collection of essays on Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017). She writes regularly for a horror website she co-created, www.horrorhomeroom.com.

Speaking as part of ‘Stars and Strife: Contemporary American Horror’

Lynn Kozak – McGill University

Fix the Broken Teacup: The Exorcist and a New Kind of American Television Horror

FOX’s The Exorcist (2016-) forces re-examining notions of heroism, queer kinship structures, and audience complicity in American broadcast television horror, especially in contrast with Hannibal (2013-5). Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal stands out for its colour-blind casting of long-established characters and for the homoerotic relationship between its two male leads, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). But throughout the series, the show presents queer family configurations as loci for destruction (Casey 2015) mostly because Hannibal cleaves closely to the quality-TV anti-hero (Mittell 2015). So the homoeroticism that the show skirts and finally expresses, leaves any “fannibal” with the hard question of where they want this to go. Will and Hannibal surviving their fall to become “murder husbands” feels just as repellant as Vince Gilligan’s final script direction for Breaking Bad: “He got away.”

The Exorcist presents a shift away from these dynamics, and it is especially invigorating in a country whose love affair with hideous men has culminated in its current presidency. The show’s two male leads, priests Tomas Ortega (Alonso Herrera) and Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels), have a close relationship that builds towards mutual support as they fight evil. The first season presents a heroic Mexican lead (still a rarity on American television) in Tomas, while also taking Chicago’s racial politics into play in its seemingly traditional depiction of the possessed white girl (Olson & Reinhard 2016). The second season innovates further, introducing foster-father Andy (John Cho) and his diverse foster-family, which, despite Andy’s possession, itself an innovation (Stanley 2018),reintegrates in the season’s finale. More, when Marcus discovers his own queerness, it brings him closer to God. Like Get Out (2017), The Exorcist shows us that horror can be successful when it gives us happy endings for marginalised heroes.

Lynn Kozak is associate professor at McGill University, Montréal, Canada. Current research focuses on serial poetics from epic performance to new media forms (especially television). Forthcoming work (2018) includes articles and book chapters on H.D.’s translations of Greek tragic choruses (with Miranda Hickman), characterisation and seriality in television crime procedurals, Hannibal (2013-5), and Homeric fandom.

Speaking as part of ‘Static Shocks: Contemporary Horror TV’

Shellie McMurdo – University of Roehampton

Old Trauma and New Horror?: The Contemporary Resonance of the Jonestown Massacre as Reimagined in The Sacrament

Multiple innovative voices have emerged from the horror genre in the last decade, one of these being Ti West, whose career began to gain traction in 2009 with the release of House of the Devil (2009); a satanic panic narrative with 1980s horror aesthetics. The focus of this paper, West’s The Sacrament (2013), is also imbued with horror nostalgia. Although in this case, not through the use of 16mm film or a retro title font, but through its grim reimagining of the 1978 Jonestown Massacre, which, with 914 dead, stood as the largest loss of American life in a single event until 9/11.

By using one of the most horrific cultural touchstones of the 1970s, a decade also well-known for its horror genre output, this paper will explore how The Sacrament works as a reimagining of an event that took place 40 years ago, while simultaneously engaging with multiple contemporary anxieties. The film, released in 2012, resonates with prescient themes such as media mistrust and fake news, as well as the fear of religious extremism that has permeated American culture since 2001. This paper will also demonstrate how The Sacrament provides a space to address the trauma of Jonestown, an event that has only been memorialised publicly in the last few years.

This paper will also investigate West’s decision to make The Sacrament as a fauxdocumentary, with the characters bearing witness to a massacre in the name of immersionist journalism. This choice not only positions the film as a visual interpretation of the controversial audio “death tape” reclaimed from the site of Jonestown, giving rise to the possible accusation of exploitative filmmaking, but also gives the narrative resonance in a contemporary culture fixated on recording both mundane and spectacular events alike.

Shellie McMurdo is currently a doctoral candidate and visiting lecturer at Roehampton University, where the working title of her research is ‘Blood on the Lens: Found Footage Horror and the Terror of the Real’. She has spoken at several conferences about the horror genre, and is currently preparing a journal article on American Horror Story and school shooters. In addition to found footage horror, her research interests include extreme horror cinema, true crime, online horror, and social media.

Speaking as part of ‘Broken Lenses: Found Footage Aesthetics’

Jason Middleton – University of Rochester

Free-Range Horror: Historicizing Childhood in Stranger Things and It 

A New York Times Op-ed titled “The ‘Stranger Things’ School of Parenting” argues that the collective fantasy into which the popular Netflix series (2016- ) taps is one of unsupervised childhood. By suggesting that the show reminds viewers of now-foreclosed possibilities for childhood autonomy and risky adventure, the piece joins a large body of recent work in journalism, sociology, and cultural criticism lamenting the ostensibly over-protected lives of contemporary children. Though more horrific than Stranger Things, Andy Muschietti’s It (2017) adaptation aligns with the TV show in lending itself to the view that the dangers the children face are a necessary and bearable price for the joys and glories of their adventures. Both texts can support claims that with increasingly supervised childhoods, kids—and we, as a society—have lost much more than we have gained.

As Fredric Jameson has established, nostalgia film represents a given period by speaking through the language of the period’s own representations of itself; the present’s past is always-already mediated. Historicity for Jameson is a perception of the present as history, the ability to step back from our present moment and grasp it as characterizable and datable. On the other hand, Jameson suggests that nostalgia film mobilises a vision of the past in order to process it in some allegorical fashion that reveals the difficulty or failure of historicizing the present. This paper explores how these texts’ version of the 1980s mediates both a conservative 1950s nostalgia in their source material (Spielberg’s films, King’s novel) as well as highly-charged debates about childhood in the present. Both show and film construct an image of the 1980s that attempts to resolve or mitigate the gendered and racial inequities in nostalgic evocations of childhood, even as they participate in those very logics.

Jason Middleton is associate professor in the English Department and the Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies, and director of the Film and Media Studies Program, at University of Rochester. His work on horror film includes an article on Hostel (2005) for Cinema Journal and a chapter on Saw (2004) in Cine-Ethics: Ethical Dimensions of Film Theory, Practice, and Spectatorship (2013). He is author of Documentary’s Awkward Turn: Cringe Comedy and Media Spectatorship (2014), and co-editor of Medium Cool: Music Videos from Soundies to Cellphones (2007). His work has been published in Feminist Media Histories, The Journal of Visual Culture, Popular Music, The Velvet Light Trap, Afterimage, Avidly, and Los Angeles Review of Books.

Speaking as part of ‘From Under the Bed: Childhood & Nostalgia’

Barbara Plotz – King’s College London

Horror East: The Representation of Eastern Europe in Contemporary Western European and North American Horror Cinema

Since the Enlightenment Eastern Europe has been positioned as Western Europe’s less civilized and less advanced Other. While the demise of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Iron Curtain has led to a partial integration of the two regions and an altered place of Eastern Europe in the imagination of the West, it has not necessarily undone perceptions of Otherness, as shown for instance in continuous public debates about the supposedly negative impact of Eastern European immigrants on Western European countries. Horror cinema has a longstanding tradition of representing the Other as monstrous and since the mid-Noughties a wave of Western European and North American horror films have built on the trope of the ‘‘monstrous East’’. Most of these films are set in Eastern Europe and feature Westerners as the protagonists who enter the region, to then fall victim to horrific experiences, while a few are set outside the region and feature Eastern Europeans acting as ‘‘agents of horror’’ in a Western European or North American setting. Examples include Hostel (2005), Severance (2006), Them (2006), Drag Me to Hell (2007), The Shrine (2010), and Chimères (2013).

This paper will be a preview of a project in which I will investigate these films and how they seem to re-enforce divisions between East and West on a textual level, while at the same time relying on an increasingly transnational film production culture. I will provide an overview of the films’ representation of Eastern Europe and its people, with a special focus on how existing stereotypes of ‘‘the East’’ are employed and how they become aligned with certain genre conventions of horror cinema.

Barbara Plotz holds a degree in communication studies and political science, and an MA in film studies. In 2016 she finished her PhD on “Fatness, Race and Gender in Contemporary Popular American Cinema” at the film studies department at King’s College London, where she is currently working as a teaching assistant.

Speaking as part of ‘Gore Around the Globe: International Horror Cinema’

Giuseppe Previtali – University of Bergamo

The Eye of the Machine: Fear, Power and Technology in Screencasting Horror

Lots of interesting contributions have been written on found-footage horror movies and on the ways in which technology and its narrative presence can become a vehicle for the representation and diffusion of fear. Assuming a Foucauldian perspective, the most intriguing element in movies such as The Blair Witch Project (1999), Paranormal Activity (2007), etc. is the fact that the grammar of fear is constructed using the same apparatus that constitute our contemporary mediasphere. In this sense, this kind of horror offer a peculiar point of view on the politic of the gaze that is inscribed within the technology that we use every day. Given that nowadays we are living in an historical moment where technology changes rapidly, we can expect to identify new trends in horror or specific films that deal with the innovations that concern the ways in which we see, produce and work with images. This is the case of screencasting horror, a new and yet unexplored subgenre that the paper will address to underline the new ways in which (new) technologies are used to create fear.

Screencasting horror appears to be the natural prosecution of the aesthetic that was typical of found footage horror, and yet the proper visual problem connected with it appears to be different: in this specific case we share the point of view of a machine (as in Unfriended [2014]), that is both a visual and killing apparatus. In this sense this kind of movies seem to resonate with some intriguing theoretical positions on the semantic consistency of the expression “to shoot” and on the role of operational images in contemporary visual culture (see Theweleit or Farocki). Therefore, the paper will address the aesthetical problems connected with the genre and will offer a first attempt to theoretically analyze a subgenre that has yet to receive this kind of attention.

Giuseppe Previtali is PhD candidate in Intercultural Humanistic Studies at the University of Bergamo, where he is developing a research project focused on the theme of filmed death. At the same university he is also Teaching Assistant and he lectures an interdisciplinary course on contemporary visual culture. He has attended several international conferences and published essays in various academic journals. He is author of the book (title translated from Italian): Pikadon: Memories of Hiroshima in Japanese Visual Culture.

Speaking as part of ‘Terror 404: Technophobic Narratives’

Michelle Risacher – Independent Scholar

Unmasking the Liberal Monster: The Politics of Horror in Get Out

Jordan Peele’s horror film Get Out (2017) made history as the first original screenplay written and directed by an African American to gross over $100 million at the box office. Get Out follows Chris, a black American, as he discovers a sinister conspiracy to transplant a white person’s brain into his body by his white girlfriend’s family. The film reinvents horror tropes to critique white liberalism as an ideology that masks subtle racism. Peele has mentioned in several interviews that such a critique was shaped by Bryan Forbes’ feminist horror film The Stepford Wives (1975), which follows a white female protagonist that is turned into a submissive robot by her husband. Peele even named The Stepford Wives as one of his favourite films because of “the way it deals with social issues about gender.” Indeed, Get Out takes inspiration from this feminist film by replicating its generic mixing of horror and social satire to dispel the myth of a post-racial society. While Get Out and The Stepford Wives each deal with a different social issue (racism and sexism respectively), they both locate these issues as originating from liberalism as a system which masks the violence enacted on marginalised bodies through progressive discourse. In a comparative analysis of Get Out and The Stepford Wives, I will demonstrate how liberalism obscures the shared interests of anti-racist and feminist politics and even puts the two in competition with one another. Ultimately, I argue for an intersectional reading of Get Out that acknowledges the horror film’s capacity to overturn the grounds on which we theorise oppression.

Michelle Risacher is an Independent Scholar in film and media studies, with research interests in feminism, queer theory, and the issues of temporality that inflect each. She has presented her scholarship at the undergraduate SCMS conference and the ACM Student Film Conference and Festival, where she was awarded first prize for her essay “Women’s Time: Analyzing Female Subjectivity in Maya Deren’s Witch’s Cradle.” She recently earned her BA in Film and Visual Culture from Grinnell College.

Speaking as part of ‘Make America Hate Again: Horror & US Politics’

Joshua Schulze – Independent Scholar

Demons in Depth: Horror Beyond the Frame in Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (3D)

This paper will pay close attention to Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015)as both the sixth entry in a popular horror franchise as well as representing new ways of thinking about horror and cinema. Drawing on critical approaches that include the work of Andre Bazin and Gilles Deleuze in their conception of the cinematic frame in its relation to reality and time, I will assess the significance of a film – whose predecessors firmly anchor their aesthetic and thematic sensibilities in being perceived as documents of reality – using digital 3D technology to visualise the titular paranormal activity. Through a discussion of its textual and affective properties, the film will be posited as highly contemplative towards both new technology and of documentary filmmaking itself.

I will refer throughout the paper to elements of structuralist film theory, in order to elucidate the franchise’s engagement with cinema as an art and the camera as a tool – specifically in terms of its limits and capabilities. For example, I will make reference to the oscillating fan camera in the third instalment and explore its indebtedness to Michael Snow’s Back and Forth (1967), using this comparison to demonstrate how the franchise synthesises several structuralist filmmaking principles (such as fixed camera positioning, the marked passage of time, rephotography, etc) with conventional narratology in the modern horror film. Using the series’ meticulous construction of a rational and palpable on-screen reality as a contextual backdrop, The Ghost Dimension uses stereoscopy to effectively grant the audience the ability to witness demonic activity before their very eyes. This violates the established principles of the series and provokes us to reconsider the rules of franchise filmmaking. Rather than being made to observe the activity’s effects on the characters and inanimate objects, we are instead forced to experience the causality, to see the activity before it becomes active – finding a source of terror that is both new and largely unprecedented in contemporary horror cinema.

Joshua Schulze is an independent scholar who graduated in Film and Literature from the University of Warwick. He has presented at conferences on topics such as globalization in the films of Bong Joon-ho, and class analysis in the short fiction of Stephen King and their film adaptations. His research interests revolve firmly around horror cinema, and he is currently developing a long-form project on the found footage genre.

Speaking as part of ‘Eyeballs and Eardrums: Horror’s Formal Qualities’

Caitlin Shaw – University of Hertfordshire

The Murk of the Past: Intersecting Victorian Imaginaries in Ripper Street, Penny Dreadful and The Alienist

Iris Kleinecke-Bates notes that the televisual depiction of Victorian London as “a grotesque cesspit of humanity” was, from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s, mainly restricted to gothic horror and to Dickens adaptations, while most others employed a “visual vocabulary” founded on the “safe and ordered image of the Victorian drawing room” (2014). Highlighted here are two opposing Victorian imaginaries which, until recently, have rarely intersected onscreen. The “safe and ordered” Victorian era has traditionally been presented in film and television costume dramas that favour authenticity and are associated with prestige and cultural heritage, while its apparent opposite is the gothic Victorian era that favours excess and is marked by depravity, violence and horror, rooted in Jack the Ripper lore, Frankenstein, Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Dickens, among others.

This paper will consider new television series which navigate these seemingly incompatible Victorian eras. I will begin by suggesting that Ripper Street (2012-2016) and Penny Dreadful (2014-2016) draw from multiple genres under the broad umbrella of ‘Victorian’, allowing traditionally conflicting narratives to intersect in new, inventive ways. In so doing, they shift the figuration of ‘quality’ in costume drama away from authenticity toward self-awareness and irreverence. I will conclude by discussing the upcoming series The Alienist (2018- ), adapted from Caleb Carr’s 1994 novel. In the 1990s, a long-mooted film adaptation was abandoned due to questions hinging mainly on the conflicting Victorian eras the novel presents, leading to attempts to de-emphasise its horror elements. I will use the new television adaptation as a springboard to consider whether there is something unique to the contemporary ‘quality’ television format which enables generic hybridity, or if the new trend toward embracing generic intersections is linked to collapsing notions of authenticity in digitised cultures with ready access to a wide variety of mediated ‘pasts’.

Caitlin Shaw lectures at the University of Hertfordshire and at Oxford Brookes University. She is the co-editor of The Past in Visual Culture: Essays on Memory, Nostalgia and the Media (2017), and her work appears in that volume as well as in Cinema, Television and History: New Approaches (2014). Her article on representations of Margaret Thatcher in contemporary film and television is due to appear in the Journal of British Cinema and Television in April 2018.

Speaking as part of ‘Static Shocks: Contemporary Horror TV’

Daniel Sheppard – University of East Anglia

Theory-in-the-Flesh: the Babadook and New Realisations of the Monster Queer

In the horror film, monstrosity has traditionally been read in allegorical terms, offering an Otherness with which queer audiences can identify (Wood 1986; Benshoff 1997). Recent criticism, however, demonstrates the limits of this approach, suggesting instead that focus is made on a subgenre dubbed “queer horror.” Here, gay male, bisexual, queer, and transgender directors/producers create homoerotic – or explicitly homosexual – texts with openly gay characters (Benshoff 2012; Elliott-Smith 2016). Yet this approach, too, has its limits which need addressing. As Claire Sisco King asserts in her discussion of Paul Etheredge’s Hellbent (2004), it cannot be “taken for granted that a “gay film” is inherently queer” (2010).

This paper, therefore, interrogates queer horror and its rising scholarly appraisal, scrutinising its disavowal of traditional approaches to the monster queer. It will argue that a certain dissatisfaction can be tracked amongst queer audiences within queer communities, as evidenced by the Babadook being adopted as an LGBTQ+ icon in 2017. In queering the figure of the Babadook, queer audiences reject queer horror, authorising King’s assertion. The politics of this phenomenon will be explored via the drag scene, as LGBTQ+ artists dress up as the Babadook, performing in queer spaces. Here, monstrosity offers a spatial and temporal site of cultural resistance, for the performing artist and those who spectate. Applying Robin Wood and Harry Benshoff’s theorisations on monstrosity to Alexander Doty’s notion of “theory-in-the-flesh” (1993, 4) – where persons perform a queerness which is “in-your-face” and politically radical – it will be argued that, as drag performers literalise the Babadook as the monster queer, so too do they literalise the disruption to hegemony that the monster queer presents.

Daniel Sheppard studies MA Film Studies at the University of East Anglia. He graduated from the University of Lincoln in September 2017. His undergraduate dissertation – AIDS and Other Killers: Queer Villainy in 1980s Slasher Cinema – was conferred two graduate awards, and was recently presented as a paper at Cine-Excess International Film Festival and Conference, held by Birmingham City University. This paper is soon to be published in an edited collection by McFarland. Daniel has also presented work on female stardom and Diane Keaton at the University of Sheffield.

Speaking as part of ‘It Lives Again: Modern Monsters’

M.J. Simpson – Independent Scholar

Horror Beyond Measure: The Exponential Rise of Modern British Horror Cinema

This paper is based on my ongoing work to compile basic information on all feature-length British horror movies released since 1 January 2000, the master-list for which currently runs to more than 800 films and is expected to top 1,000 by the end of the century’s second decade (by comparison, British horror cinema across the entire 20th century totalled about 250 features). I will start by briefly explaining my criteria for defining a ‘British’ ‘horror’ ‘film’ and show how the master-list could be made larger by using broader criteria (cf. Jonathan Rigby, English Gothic) or smaller (and less interesting…) by taking a more conservative approach (cf. BFI data). I will then look at the problems of attaching a production date or release date to a film in an era when there are so many different distribution channels, from cinemas to YouTube; when films often remain unreleased domestically in any format; and when principal photography on a film may stretch over several years.

Having established these bases, I will show how the number of British horror features released annually has risen exponentially from three in 2000 to over one-hundred in 2017 and will propose some of the possible factors that have fed this unprecedented growth. I will also take a thematic look through those eighteen years, highlighting the boom in social realist horror of the noughties, the growth of found footage horror, and trends in the use of classic monsters such as zombies, vampires and werewolves. I will close by demonstrating that we have now passed a ‘blood-red event horizon’ so that there is no longer any practical way that someone could maintain a ‘completist’ approach to British horror cinema, leaving us all reliant on others for at least part of our understanding of the genre.

M.J. Simpson is the author of Urban Terrors: New British Horror Cinema 1997-2008 (2013). A former Deputy Editor of SFX magazine, he was a regular contributor to Fangoria and has written for numerous other genre publications including Video Watchdog, The Dark Side, DeathRay, Psychotronic Video, MonsterScene and Shivers. He now writes a regular column for Scream on twenty-first century British horror films. His Twitter handle is @BritHorrorRev.

Speaking as part of ‘A Killer Kingdom: Modern British Horror’

Iain Robert Smith – King’s College London

Living in a ‘Meta-Cult’ World: Nostalgia and self-conscious cultism in Top Knot Detective & Danger 5

In the final chapter of Cult Cinema: An Introduction, Jamie Sexton and Ernest Mathijs coin the term ‘self-conscious cultism’ to describe the myriad ways in which filmmakers adapt and utilise elements from cult film history in order to imbue their own films with cult value. Moreover, they argue, we are now ‘living in a “meta-cult” world’ with filmmakers nostalgically referencing and incorporating elements from a diverse range of cult texts. This phenomenon is primarily associated with American independent filmmakers such as Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, although it has a global contemporary resonance ranging from the Kickstarter-funded Swedish martial arts film Kung Fury (2015) through to the Canada/New Zealand co-production Turbo Kid (2015). In this paper, I would like to focus on two relatively recent examples of ‘meta-cult’ from Australia – the SBS television series Danger 5 (2011-) and the feature film Top Knot Detective (2017).

Developed by Dario Russo and David Ashby after the viral success of their web series Italian Spiderman (2007-), Danger 5 follows a team of five international spies on a mission to kill Hitler – with Series 1 largely inspired by 1970s Eurocult genres such as the Italian giallo and Series 2 shifting focus to the 1980s high-school teen and slasher genres. Meanwhile, Top Knot Detective is a mockumentary about the cult surrounding an ultraviolent 1990s Japanese samurai series. Partly inspired by Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (2004), directors Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce lovingly recreate the aesthetic of dubbed television shows from Japan such as Monkey (1978-), and their film was screened at both Frightfest and Mayhem Film Festival in late 2017.

Drawing on the work of Barbara Klinger, Matt Hills and Emma Pett, therefore, this paper will position Danger 5 and Top Knot Detective in relation to debates surrounding nostalgia and cultural recycling within our contemporary historical moment.

Iain Robert Smith is Lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College London. He is author of The Hollywood Meme: Transnational Adaptations in World Cinema (2016) and co-editor of the collections Transnational Film Remakes (with Constantine Verevis, 2017) and Media Across Borders (with Andrea Esser and Miguel A. Bernal Merino, 2016).

Speaking as part of ‘From Under the Bed: Childhood & Nostalgia’

Peter Turner – Oxford Brookes University

Blair Witch: How Developments in Camera Technologies Complicate Priming

This paper will detail how spectators are ‘primed’ for the experience of watching diegetic camera horror films. I will offer a close comparative reading of the techniques employed in the opening sequences of both Blair Witch (2016) and The Blair Witch Project (1999) to argue that these techniques are essential in encouraging the viewer to respond with specific cognitive activities. My argument is that the developments in camera technology between the production of these two films complicates the notion and priming and this leads to different responses from viewers of the two films. By looking at techniques such as the point of view shots and direct address, as well as the diegetic camera technology used in each film, I will establish how the formal, aesthetic, and narrative strategies encourage the viewer to respond to the film in specific ways. These responses include imagining that the film is a non-fiction text, imagining who is behind the camera and what s/he is doing (as s/he is filming), and how the viewer is encouraged to perceive the diegetic camera as the enunciator.

I will build on the ideas of Peter Wuss (2009), particularly on his argument that the first sequences of a film prime the viewer for the rest of the experience of watching the film (or at least until there is a reframing of expectations in which case a repriming may need to be instigated). As I will illustrate in this paper, Blair Witch and The Blair Witch Project share many similarities in their priming patterns, aiming to convince the spectator quickly that what s/he is watching is non-fiction footage captured by a camera in the hand of, or set up by, a character within the diegesis. However, I will argue that the developments in camera technology can change how viewers are primed and there can be less encouragement of the viewer to react with stronger feelings of fear and dread and empathy for camera-operating characters.

Peter Turner is an associate lecturer at Oxford Brookes University and De Montfort University where he teaches on a range of undergraduate Film Studies modules. He has recently completed his PhD thesis that investigated the aesthetic, technological and psychological strategies used in diegetic camera horror films. He has delivered papers at Cine-Excess VIII and the SCSMI conferences in 2015 and 2017. He is also the author of a monograph on The Blair Witch Project as part of Auteur’s Devil’s Advocates series.

Speaking as part of ‘Broken Lenses: Found Footage Aesthetics’

Thomas Joseph Watson – Northumbria University

The Kids are Alt-Right: Hardcore Punk and Subcultural Violence in Green Room

Emerging from his own autobiographical experiences as part of the Washington DC punk and hardcore scenes in the late 1980s, Jeremy Saulnier’s ‘siege-thriller’ Green Room is a film that considers the militancy and organised violence of white power fascism, albeit within the relatively contained space of the film’s title. It is in this respect that the current paper seeks to address ideological conflicts within punk and hard-core music subcultures and the degree to which Saulnier’s ideas of ‘soldiers pitted against civilians’ plays out within a genre film predicated on cold, calculated, systematic violence. This paper addresses the aesthetics of violence and fascism punctuating the film’s ordeal narrative in relation to Foucauldian constructs of power, containment, control and escalation.

This paper aims to position Green Room as an allegory for racial tensions and fascist extremism in contemporary America. The presence of white nationalist spokespeople such as Christopher Cantwell (“Unite the Right”) and Richard Spencer (president of the white supremacist think tank The National Policy Institute) in recent media culture points to a significant social moment of ultra-conservatism. Although the existence of extremism within the US punk and hardcore scene is nothing new (as identified by Forbes and Stampton [2015] and Dyck [2016]), it is through the emergence of the ill-defined terminology and fascist ideologies of the so-called ‘alt-right’ since 2010 that the figure of the racist skinhead as a feared cultural object has been solidified. The ‘mainstreaming’ of these ideologies, concomitant with figures such as Steve Bannon under the current Trump administration, makes these issues more apparent. As such, the position of the Neo-Nazi in recent horror fiction in relation to ideological spaces of conflict in established punk/ hard-core subcultures presents an interesting form of narrative tension that will be explicated in the paper.

Thomas Joseph Watson lectures in Media at Northumbria University. His research interests include representations of violence in contemporary cinema, transgression and noise music. He has published on topics such as pornography, horror cinema, real crime documentary and experimental video art.

Speaking as part of ‘Make America Hate Again: Horror & US Politics’