Lindsay Hallam – University of East London

Welcome to Straya:

Vengeance in Contemporary Australian Horror Cinema

Revenge has been a consistent theme in Australian genre cinema, from the heyday of the Ozploitation boom in the 1970s to horror films made today. Most notably, the tradition of eco-horror, where the rampaging forces of nature take humans to task for their mistreatment of the land, still continues, in films such as Rogue (Greg McLean, 2007), The Reef (Andrew Traucki, 2010), Primal (Josh Reed, 2010), Boar (Chris Sun, 2017) and the remake of Long Weekend (Jamie Blanks, 2008).

While the depiction of the Outback as a place of danger and violence still persists, a growing number of films also depict the urban and suburban environment as a similarly unwelcoming and unsettling space. The overarching message of Australian horror is that no matter how much you try to run away from or bury the past, it will always catch up to you. Past crimes and traumas are revisited in the form of ghostly visitations in Lake Mungo (Joel Anderson, 2008), The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014), Johnny Ghost (Donna McRae, 2011), Boys in the Trees (Nicholas Verso, 2016) and Lost Gully Road (Donna McRae, 2017), which also highlights the growing number of Australian women filmmakers working in the horror genre. The alarming statistics surrounding the prevalence of domestic violence and violence against women, part of a long history of sexism and inequality, are at the core of several films where stereotypes of Australian masculinity are questioned and deconstructed, as in Storm Warning (Jamie Blanks, 2007), The Horseman (Steven Katrissios, 2008) and Killing Ground (Damien Power, 2016), as well as in films that dramatise the crimes of real-life serial killers, such as Wolf Creek (Greg McLean, 2005), The Snowtown Murders (Justin Kurzel, 2011), and Hounds of Love (Ben Young, 2017).

In this paper I will survey the current boom in Australian horror, and argue that the prevalence of revenge as a force that is pervasive and inevitable is inextricably tied to Australia’s colonial history, which is revealed to be a history of invasion and exploitation. These contemporary horror films carry a subversive streak, wherein those dark aspects of Australian history and identity – the genocide, xenophobia, environmental destruction, mass animal extinction, and the toxic celebration of a misogynistic form of ‘mateship’ – can be exposed and critiqued.

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 the Devil’s Advocates volume Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (2018); she is also the director of the documentary Fridey at the Hydey (2013). She has contributed to the journals Asian CinemaSenses of Cinema16:9 and Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies.

Speaking at 18:30 on Saturday 1 June.

Iain Robert Smith  King’s College London

Hindi Horror:

Bollywood B-Movies and the Transnational Dynamics of the Horror Genre

On 30 August 2018, the Hindi horror film Tumbbad opened the Venice Film Festival Critics’ Week – the first Indian film to be given that honour. Acclaimed in Screen Anarchy as the ‘finest Indian horror film in years’ (Hurtado 2019), Tumbbad is part of a recent wave of Indian horror titles alongside Pari (2018) and Ghoul (2018-) that are attempting to push the genre in new and unexpected directions. Discussing these contemporary titles in relation to the development of the horror genre within Indian cinema, this paper will explore the transnational histories of cultural exchange that underpin their negotiation with local and global influences. As Meheli Sen argues in her recent monograph Haunting Bollywood, the supernatural in Indian cinema has been ‘constantly in conversation with global cinematic forms’ and these exchanges have ‘routinely pushed the Hindi film into new formal and stylistic territories’ (2017: 1-2).

Through its association with remakes such as Mahakaal (1993), a reworking of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and Sangharsh (1999), a reworking of The Silence of the Lambs (1991), the horror genre in India has often been dismissed as largely imitative and unoriginal in comparison with other global horror film traditions. This paper, however, will argue that Hindi horror cinema has been unjustly neglected – especially within Western horror criticism – and will suggest that these Indian horror films are actually essential to an understanding of the transnational dynamics of horror cinema, and film genre more broadly.

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 (2017) and Media Across Borders (2016). He is an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker for 2018-19.

Speaking at 14:30 on Sunday 2 June.