2017 Speakers

Charlotte Baker – University of Derby

An Abject Affliction: Vampiric Skin and Bodily Destruction in Afflicted

The aim of this paper is to assess the notion of Kristeva’s abjection (1982) in relation to the generic traits of the vampire in the found footage film Afflicted (2014). It will achieve this through discussing the film’s disruption of the body, the self and the social order. Although the traditional characteristics of the vampire are evident in the film (they are allergic to sunlight, possess super strength and super speed) their presentation in Afflicted is highly abject and the film’s treatment of the body is closer in nature to that of a body-horror film, with its depictions of projectile sickness, the burning and cutting of skin, sexual violence and the positioning of the spectator as a witness to heightened gore, which is emphasised through the film’s found footage aesthetic. This is in stark contrast to the ‘beautiful’ vampire as typified by Count Dracula and seen in such contemporary narratives as True Blood (2008-2014) and The Originals (2013- ).

Additionally, the manner in which Derek, the film’s protagonist, is ‘turned’ is very different from typical vampire narratives. Afflicted introduces an element of ambiguity – questioning whether Derek’s vampirism is a volatile disease or a supernatural affliction – and suggests that the vampire’s curse could be transferred through sexual contact or various bodily abrasions. The film’s destruction of the body moves beyond even the ‘zombie’ vampire of Daybreakers (2009) or Stake Land (2010) in concentrating on one particular individual’s descent into vampiric mutation. Furthermore, when Derek realises that there is no cure for his affliction and he must drink human blood to survive, remain in control of his actions and, importantly, reduce his animalistic instincts – an element of the vampire discussed by Creed (2005) – his victims are carefully chosen and morally ambiguous, creating a clear link to Saw (2004) and, by extension, another modern cycle that concerns itself with the destruction of human flesh: torture porn. In its concentration on vampiric skin and bodily destruction, Afflicted depicts the ‘intimate apocalypse’ (Boss 1986) familiar to body-horror and adjusts the parameters of the vampire film’s relationship with the human body to produce a ‘skin show’ (Halberstam 1995): a transgressive competition between order and chaos within the self.

Charlotte Baker recently finished her MA in Horror and Transgression at the University of Derby. Her research into the horror genre and the use of skin as a method of spectatorship won the University’s ‘Best Dissertation’ award. Her main areas of interest include: psychoanalysis, horror film/television and spectatorship. Charlotte is currently a sessional lecturer in Film Production at the University of Derby and an author. She has published a series of novellas, alongside thirteen short stories and articles.

Speaking as part of ‘Blood Bonds: Contemporary Vampires’

Lee Broughton – Independent Scholar

Man, Myth or Monster: The Reimagining of Paul Bunyan in Gary Jones’ Axe Giant

The figure of Paul Bunyan, the mythical lumberjack who was reputed to have performed superhuman feats within North America’s forests during the nineteenth century, continues to loom large in America’s folkloric traditions. Legends concerning Bunyan originally grew out of the fanciful tales that itinerant lumberjacks circulated orally towards the end of the nineteenth century. These fables, in which Bunyan was extremely tall but not a giant, usually involved Bunyan speedily felling an inordinate number of trees while also shrugging off extreme weather conditions and vanquishing fantastical woodland beasts. In the early twentieth century, different authors began writing up Bunyan’s reported exploits and William B. Laughead’s extravagant embellishments in this regard duly served to transform the lumberjack into a bona fide giant.

The legend of Paul Bunyan underwent a further startling transformation in the twenty-first century via Gary Jones’ film Axe Giant (2013). Here Bunyan is a monstrous axe-wielding giant who terrorizes a group of young offenders who are attending a boot camp deep in the North American wilderness. But while Axe Giant does provide a novel spin on the Bunyan legend, critics have argued that the film’s ‘teens in trouble’ narrative is not particularly original. A superficial reading of the film might well support such an assessment. However, this paper will argue that close readings of Axe Giant reveal it to be a nuanced exercise in genre filmmaking that playfully references several key horror texts while bringing pleasure to its audience by deftly presenting a series of generic set-pieces that skilfully embody the notion of ‘repetition with variation’ that traditionally informs the content and structure of classical genre films. Furthermore, by engaging with his viewers’ knowledge of established monster movie tropes and motifs, it is argued that Jones is able to toy with his viewers’ emotions by effectively presenting Bunyan as both a savage monster and a pathos-ridden victim.

Lee Broughton is a freelance writer, critic, film programmer and lecturer in film and cultural studies. He is currently writing a book on the representations of ‘North’ and ‘South’ that are found in Italian Westerns. Lee has published widely on the Western. 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). His other research interests include the horror film and cult movies more generally.

Speaking as part of ‘Foretold Tales: Folkloric Creatures’

Simon Brown – Kingston University

The Clown Prince and the King: Reinventing Stephen King for the Twenty-first Century

It’s no surprise that Pennywise the Dancing Clown, Stephen King’s most iconic monster, is returning to screens in 2017. After all, Derry Main’s most famous resident traditionally resurfaces every 27 years (just ask the Losers’ Club), and it was in 1990 that Tim Curry scared the bejesus out of a TV generation for whom The X-Files’ Victor Tooms was still waiting in the wings.

Pre-publicity for the new two-part theatrical feature by Andres Muschietti primarily features the new incarnation of Pennywise as played by Bill Skarsgaard, revealing first his face, then his costume, then showing him peeking from the sewers, his natural habitat. Adopting a Kubrick stare, this Pennywise seems darker in both colour tone nad temperament compared to Curry, giving an impression of a clown nemesis that is more threatening and violent, more capable of harm.

Pennywise’s new look may reflect a post-Ledger Joker era, but it is not merely a nod to Nolan’s take on prankster villainy. It also represents a significant step in the reinvention of Stephen King for modern horror audiences. The current cycle of King adaptations that started, as it always has, with Carrie (2013) sees a new type of King story on screen, one that is focused more upon science fiction and fantasy, and on natural rather than supernatural monsters, a movement reflected in his writing since the start of the twenty-first century. Starting with Pennywise and drawing out to include all the current adaptations, this paper will examine the contemporary King monsters from Big Jim Rennie in Under the Dome (2013-2015) to The Man in Black from The Dark Tower (2017), in order to identify and explore the new post-horror Stephen King in the twenty-first century.

Simon Brown is Associate Professor of Film and Television at Kingston University. A lifelong King fan, he has just completed his monograph Screening Stephen King: King Adaptations and the Horror Genre on Film and Television, which is due for publication by the University of Texas Press in early 2018.

Speaking as part of ‘Hardback Horrors: Adapting Monsters’

Andreas Charalambous – Anglia Ruskin University

Face-to-Face with the Killer Clown: The Clown of Horror Cinema and its Transition onto our Streets

The clown has always received a mixed reception in its varied social functions – ranging from comic performer, children’s entertainer, franchise mascot for the fast food industry, antagonist in literary publications and film texts, and most recently, standing on a dark street corner, holding a balloon, and waving at you.

The aim of this paper is to examine the clown and its function in horror cinema, using key generic texts such as Killer Klowns from Outer Space ((1988), Clown House (1989) and It (1990). Although these are pre-millennial examples of the clown as antagonist in horror cinema, with the recent popularity of The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008), the re-emergence of killer clowns in Clown (2014) and Stitches (2012), the inclusion of clowns in Rob Zombie’s 31 (2016), the upcoming remake of It (2017) and the ‘killer clown’ craze that has recently swept the Western world, it is fair to say that the clown is very much a relevant monster for twenty-first century horror cinema.

It is with this in mind that I will begin with a Deleuzian analysis of the clown face, followed by a brief examination of the act of clowning in horror films throughout history. Following this, I will consider the construction and artificiality of the clown identity and its relation to socio-spatial categorisation, before concluding with the transition of the killer clown from screen to reality, as seen in the recently cultural phenomenon of ‘killer clown’ sightings reported in the mass media.

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 ‘Childish Things: Childhood & Nostalgia’

Carys Crossen – Independent Scholar

Monster, There’s a Mummy Under my Bed: Monstrosity, Motherhood and Claustrophobia in The Babadook and Under the Shadow

The Babadook (2014) and Under the Shadow (2016) differ hugely in setting, with the former set in contemporary Australia and the latter taking place in Tehran at the height of the Iran-Iraq War. However, their plots are eerily similar. Both focus on women whose careers have stalled, who are mothers to demanding children, whose husbands are absent and who are tormented by feelings of maternal inadequacy. Both films abound with images of entrapment and engulfment – threatening shadows, suffocating fabric, basements, and the action of both films takes place in a claustrophobic domestic setting. And, notably, both films depict these women being haunted by spirits and monsters who might be real, but are equally likely to be the product of their stressed, depressed imaginations.

Rather than examining their respective contexts, this paper intends to focus on all the elements these films have in common. It will post the question about whether or not the monsters of The Babadook and Under the Shadow – the eponymous Babadook and the malevolent djinn respectively – actually exist, or are purely psychological in origin. And the paper will also question where monstrosity truly lies in the films. Despite the threatening Babadook and the djinn, the women of the films are arguably more dangerous that these strange creatures. Both heroines undergo significant mental trauma throughout the films, and both are repeatedly accused of being unfit mothers, with the protagonist of The Babadook being investigated by social services and the central character of Under the Shadow being criticised for her career ambitions. This paper will explore the possibility that the true monstrosity may in fact be the expectations society, in the twenty-first century, places on women and mothers – standards they will inevitably fall short of.

Carys Crossen was awarded her PhD in English and American Studies from the University of Manchester in 2012. Since then she has spent her time researching and writing on vampires, gender, the Gothic and most particularly werewolves.

Speaking as part of ‘Transnational Terrors: Crossing Borders’

Matt Denny – University of Warwick

“In Celebration of Her Wickedness?”: Critical Intertextuality and the Female Vampire in Byzantium

Fredric Jameson famously describes postmodern intertextuality in terms of imitating ‘dead styles’, lending a pleasingly gothic undertone to consideration of quotation, parody and pastiche. Like the immortal vampire, intertextuality disrupts time – transgressing the boundaries between past and present.

Collision of disparate times and texts are ride in vampire films. Not only does the extended life-span of the vampire lend itself to narratives spanning multiple time periods, but taken as a sub-genre the vampire film is highly self-referential. In the case of two recent films – Byzantium (2012) and Kiss of the Damned (2012) – this self-referentiality appears to go beyond mere allusion, serving instead to place the films in dialogue with their sources. Most prominent among these are Hammer’s Karnstein cycle of lesbian vampire films and the erotic vampire films of Jean Rollin.

Jameson provides two categories of intertextual quotation: distanced and critical parody or complicit and uncritical pastiche. Following Jameson, question of intertextuality are therefore unavoidably bound up with questions of critique. This paper explores the ways in which Byzantium establishes an intertextual dialogue with earlier vampire texts, and considers the extent to which this can be considered a critical intertextuality, focusing on the representation of gender and sexuality. This paper also seeks to complicate Jameson’s binary opposition of critical parody and uncritical pastiche by taking up Linda Hutcheon’s notion of complicitous critique to produce a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between Byzantium and its intertexts.

Matt Denny is an associate fellow in the department of Film and Television Studies at the University of Warwick. He has recently completed a PhD on theories of authorship and postmodernism, and has previously conducted research on Hammer horror. He is a member of the editorial team for the film review website Alternate Takes.

Speaking as part of ‘Blood Bonds: The Contemporary Vampire’

Gözde Erdoğan – Hacettepe University

Monstrous Text: Penny Dreadful as Postmodern Gothic

Showtime’s Penny Dreadful (2014-2016) can be seen as a pastiche of past texts, stories, legends and monsters from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The show blends these texts with its original characters and storylines. Some of the familiar characters in the show include Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his Creature, Dorian Gray, the Wolfman, Dracula, Dr. Seward, Professor Van Helsing, and Dr. Henry Jekyll. These character roam the streets of Victorian London together with psychics, witches, vampires and many more different supernatural creatures. Penny Dreadful seems to collect together some of the most famous gothic monsters and stories to make them relevant to twenty-first century viewers.

Penny Dreadful can be seen as a representative example of a new trend in gothic cultural production in literature, film and television. Although it is not a new phenomenon to see reincarnations of great gothic narratives and monsters like Dracula or Frankenstein, this new trend in using gothic monsters and tropes has been to put all of them in a single narrative. Significantly, this trend can most clearly be seen most within American television in shows like True Blood (2008-2014) and American Horror Story (2011- ), which proves the fact that television is very well suited to the gothic’s excess and polysemy. This paper will analyse Penny Dreadful as a monstrous, postmodern gothic/horror televisual text, stitched together from different textual ghosts. The show is a twenty-first century creature which brings about a new outlook towards the gothic stories of the past. Hence, rather than analysing the specific monsters within Penny Dreadful, the paper will look at the textuality of the show as a peculiar monstrosity for our times.

Gözde Erdoğan received her BA, MA and PhD from the Department of American Culture and Literature in the Hacettepe University and she currently works there as a lecturer. Her PhD thesis examines Southern gothic narratives in twenty-first century American television. Her research areas include American drama, cultural studies, popular culture, film studies, television studies and Gothic studies.

Speaking as part of ‘Hardback Horrors: Adapting Monsters’

Tania Evans – Australian National University

The Phallus or the Cane?: Queer, Disabled Werewolves in Teen Wolf

The success of non-realist young adult texts in the last few decades has led to an increase in academic research into fictional monsters such as vampires, zombies, and, more recently, werewolves. The growing body of academic scholarship on werewolves has often focused on gender but rarely as it considered how sexuality and disability are reflected in lycanthropic narratives. This paper analyses MTV’s young adult television series Teen Wolf (2011- ) using both disability studies and queer theory to argue that the intersection of disability and queerness is where the series is more progressive – and subversive.

With a focus upon monstrous disabled characters such as the blind alpha werewolf Deucalion and the Dread Doctors, the lycanthropic magic cure, haunting impairments that rupture the ableist narrative, and queer disabled power, this paper demonstrates how Teen Wolf contests heteronormative logic when queerness and disability entwine. Given the series’ popularity among young audiences who are negotiating their own transformation into adulthood, Teen Wolf may invite viewers to recognise that neither sexuality nor ability can be contained with in a binary and that variance is not only possible but valuable. Disability and disablement are constantly at the margins of horror texts such as Teen Wolf, reminding viewers that ability is temporary and does not define a hero.

Tania Evans is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University in Canberra. Her doctoral project investigates the textual construction of masculinities in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire and its television adaptation Game of Thrones. Her other research interests include young adult fiction, genre fiction, genre theory, cultural studies and paranormal fiction. She has written several essays on werewolf masculinities, one of which has been accepted for publication in Gothic Studies. She also works as a research assistant and tutors Australian National Cinema at the University of Canberra.

Speaking as part of ‘Silver Bullets: Modern Werewolves’

Michael Fuchs – University of Graz

“I Can’t Believe this is Happening!”: Reducing Human Beings to Food in Recent Animal Horror

In 2000, the atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen and the biological Eugene F. Stoermer suggested that we live in the “Anthropocene” – a geological period defined by the far-reaching effects human actions have had (and will continue to have) on our planet. While the Anthropocene thus reflects humankind’s influence on this planet we call Earth, human beings have come to understand that ‘the world we are making through our own choices and inventions is a world that neutralizes [any] meaningful link[s] between action and consequence’ (Allenby & Sarewitz 2011).

As early as 2001, leading ecocritic Stacy Alaimo remarked that animal horror cinema ‘could be t he single most significant genre for ecocriticism and green cultural studies’ since ‘[m]any of these films wrangle in messy but piercing ways with the fundamental issues of green philosophy and politics’ (2001). Accordingly, in my paper I will look at two particular examples of contemporary animal attack horror, both produced and set in Canada – Grizzly Rage (2007) and Backcountry (or Blackfoot Trail, 2014). The two movies provide characteristic examples of two specific kinds of animal horror: Grizzly Rage relates a kind of ‘ten little Indians’ tale in which a female grizzly kills one human character after another, while Backcountry focuses on a human couple lost in the woods and consequently attacked by a large black bear. As I will show, both movies depict bear predation on human beings as an existential experience that confronts human beings with them being nothing but a prey species, stripping them of their self-proclaimed exceptionalism. In doing so, the movies reflect the growing awareness that humanity’s notion about its exceptional status on this planet is nothing but an illusion – an illusion epitomized by the ‘real’ power of animal monsters.

Michael Fuchs is an assistant professor in American studies at the University of Graz in Austria. He has co-edited three books and (co-)authored more than two dozen published and forthcoming journal articles and book chapters on American television, horror and adult cinema, video games, transmedia storytelling and media convergence, and contemporary American literature. Michael is currently working on three monographs (one of which focuses on animal monsters) and co-editing three books as well as a special issue of the European Journal of American Studies on animals in American television.

Speaking as part of ‘Nature’s Nasties: Animal Monsters’

Stella Gaynor – University of Salford

Vampires, Parasites and Worms, Oh My!: Generic Hybridity and Institutional Influence on the Vampiric in FX’s The Strain

The vampire is no strange to America TV drama. In the 1960s vampire Barnabas Collins swept across gothic daytime soap, Dark Shadows (1966-1971). Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) eliminated countless vamps and demonic creates in the 1990s. Then post-millennium we all fell in lust with the dark romantic bloodsuckers of True Blood (2008-2014) and The Vampire Diaries (2009 – ), before American Horror Story: Hotel (2015-2016) brought us a pop-gothic vampire set against an art-deco backdrop. So while mainstream vampires got sexy, another interpretation of this classic monster was about to worm its way onto television.

This paper will investigate The Strain (2014- ), and the position of the vampire on US TV. Television drama is inherently hybrid in nature – it borrows from many other televisual forms – the serialization of horror can blur and merge monsters into new incarnations. This paper will explore how the institutional strategy at the basic cable channel FX has a direct influence on the vampiric monster presented in the series. I will examine how FX and The Strain have blurred the vampire narrative and its traditional lore with new conventions: demonstrating how this both underpins the priorities of the channel and its competitive urges, and how it develops the vampire itself. I will present the philosophy of FX and its ‘scattergun’ approach to new programming, the controversy that surrounding the first season of The Strain, and a look at the old and new mythology contained in the series.

Contemporary TV drama offers huge potential to challenge and redefine the vampire and its conceptual and narrative forms. Recognising the channel’s influence on the end product, I bring an industrial approach to the vampires, parasites and worms that popular The Strain’s world.

Stella Gaynor is in the second year of her PhD studies at the University of Salford, focusing on horror programming on American television, and teaches on the BA Television and Radio Production degree. Previous to this, Stella taught Film and Media studies at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is also a special effects make-up artist for film and television when she finds the time, and loves to bore family and friends with reasons why they should keep watching The Walking Dead.

Speaking as part of ‘Serial Killers: Monsters on TV’

Janet K. Halfyard – Birmingham Conservatoire

Monstrous Women and their Music in Crimson Peak

Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak (2015) employ the classic gothic trope of the decadent (if dilapidated) domesticity of a castle and the dank and dangerous cellars beneath it in which lurk blood-soaked secrets. Other aspects of the film defy gothic conventions, however, in particular in the female characters, who possess far more agency than any of the men. The innocent heroine, Edith, ultimately rescues herself, both by unpicking the puzzle of the castle and its ghosts and by some handy defensive wielding of a large shovel; all of the ghosts are female and turn out to be helping rather than threatening Edith; and the true threat is revealed to be Edith’s sister in law, Lucille. The music and sound design of the film also play against the grain of gothic horror, and present the listener with a serious of double bluffs by both employing and then subverting our culturally coded expectations of what the sounds of score and soundtrack mean.

This paper explores two aspects of sound and music in the film: the use of a child’s voice singing in the opening credits, a use which normally operates as a symbol of innocence under threat in film scoring, but which here is eventually revealed as representative of the monstrous; and the contrast of orchestral film scoring for the world of the living and electronic sound design for the world of the monstrous dead; a binary which again, in conventional scoring, would normally construct the ghosts and the ‘unnatural’ sounds of electronica as a threat to the ‘natural’ (and tunefully scored) living world. Like Edith, we are tricked by the scoring strategy into assuming that the ghosts are the problem and, like her, we are gradually led to a better understanding that what is unfamiliar may not be dangerous, and that it is behind the attractive and conventionally beautiful music that the real monster lurks.

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 I.B. Tauris in 2016, and focuses in particular on music and sound in horror and supernatural TV shows.

Speaking as part of ‘Feminist Fiends: Monstrous Women’

Liam Hathaway – Independent Scholar

A Web of Lies: The Killer Spider Film in the Twenty-first Century

Despite spiders and tarantulas being among the smaller creatures on our planet, a common cultural perception of such arachnids is that they are terrifying and harmful creatures deserving of our fear and disgust. A fear that dates back centuries, arachnophobia is thought to have been biologically generated, with ‘roots [going] back to…our pre-technological ancestors’ (Michalski and Michakski 2010). Inevitably, then, popular genre cinema has sought to exploit these inherent and commonplace fears. Simultaneously, however, ‘killer spider’ narrative are also discernibly intent on breaking down the creatures’ horrible reputation; we might perceive spiders as enemies, but we are the single greatest enemies to life on Earth.

Belonging to the ‘killer bug’ subgenre – an offshoot of the ‘eco-horror’ or ‘natural’ horror film – killer spider narratives have historically allegorised a myriad of issues: from science run amok (seen in the first killer spider film, Tarantula [1955]), to the overuse of toxic pesticides (Kingdom of the Spiders [1977]), and humankind’s unfortunate habit of besmirching virgin territory (Arachnophobia [1990]). An obvious through-line in these and many other examples of the killer spider film, then, is the implication that these creatures are retaliating for our transgressions against the natural world, reminding us that we share the Earth with them. Additionally, they serve to reaffirm that in reality, they pose no significant threat to us.

As I intend to illustrate in this paper, this thematic trend has clearly continued into the twenty-first century – an era in which calls for ecological and environmental reform are increasingly intense. Following a brief history of killer spider films – and, by extension, the killer bug subgenre – leading up to the twenty-first century, I will begin examining three key case studies: Arachnid (2001), Eight Legged Freaks (2002) and Big Ass Spider! (2013). I will use these films – with reference to other pertinent examples – to reveal the the killer spider film’s subtextual explorations of environmental issues: humans overstepping nature’s boundaries, toxic waste spills and war-borne ecological disaster.

Liam Hathaway is an independent scholar, having completed his Masters by Research at Sheffield Hallam University in 2016. His dissertation focused on examining contemporary body-horror narratives as products of their cultural moment. While he is interested in all aspects of film, his key interest is in the cultural analysis of genre cinema, including horror, science fiction, the thriller and neo-noir. He is currently seeking funding for doctoral research into the ‘killer bug’ film.

Speaking as part of ‘Nature’s Nasties: Animal Monsters’

Lynn Kozak – McGill University

Fear, Monsters, and the Hannibalisation of Will Graham

It’s not often that a show immediately and precisely defines the psychology of its protagonist like Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal (2013-2015) does with FBI profiler Will Graham. In the pilot episode, psychologist Alana Bloom, discussing Will, asks the head of the FBI Behavioural Science Unit, Jack Crawford, ‘Normally, I wouldn’t even broach this, but what do you think one of Will’s strongest drives is?’, and Jack responds, ‘Fear. Will Graham deals with huge amounts of fear. Comes with his imagination.’ Psychologist Hannibal Lecter adds to this assessment in the same episode, when Jack Crawford asks for his psychological opinion of Will: ‘What he has is pure empathy. He can assume your point of view, or mine, or maybe some other points of view that scare him.’ But while Hannibal thinks Jack sees Will as a ‘fragile little teacup’, Hannibal sees Will’s fear and names him as ‘the mongoose I want under the house when the snakes slither by’. More, Hannibal insists that he and Will are ‘just alike’ . So the pilot plays on the audience’s cultural knowledge of Hannibal Lecter as a monster, the exact kind of monster that Hannibal says Will ‘has a knack for’, in order to show that Will’s fear is really a fear of his own potential for the monstrous, which Hannibal will exploit and manipulate throughout the series.

This paper will explore how fear and fearlessness define the poles between the human and the monstrous other in Hannibal, with a particular focus on how Will Graham moves along that spectrum the further he falls under Hannibal’s influence. While Hannibal visually represents the monstrous – the Wendigo, the ravenstag, jutting antlers and black water – these are but projections of the psychological monster, the one that we fear and the one we fear becoming.

Lynn Kozak is an Associate Professor at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. A trained Classicist, her first monograph, Experiencing Hektor: Character in the Iliad (2016) explores how the poetics of serial television can help us better understand character and narrative in the Iliad. She is currently writing an essay on iZombie and Hannibal for the upcoming collection I Am Already Dead: The CW’s iZombie and Vertigo’s iZOMBIE, a further article on Hannibal and the project ‘Previously on the Iliad, which explores the Iliad’s seriality through performance.

Speaking as part of ‘Serial Killers: Monsters on TV’

Meriem Rayen Lamara – University of Northampton

They Live in the Dark: Representation of Demonic Entities in Twenty-first Century Horror Cinema

The Western horror genre has undergone many changes over the years, reflecting and adapting to the changes in Western society. While a number of new elements are added to the genre, many of the standard plots of horror stories remain largely unchanged, including the portrayals of demonic characters. Demons are very common in twenty-first century horror movies and while the level of filmmaking ranges wildly, there seems to be a trend toward this supernatural subject. Satanic and demonic possessions are the subject of a multitude of films, including The Exorcist (1973), The Rite (2011) and Constantine (2005) to name but three examples.

The focus of this paper is on the portrayal of the hostile and malevolent entities targeting children and their families in recent horror films. Paranormal Activity (2007), The Possession (2012), Insidious (2010), Sinister (2012) and The Babadook (2014) all – including their sequels – deal with the subject of evil demons. A number of malevolent entities in these films, such as Abyzou, Baghul and the Babadook, are very similar to ancient folkloric and mythological demons. The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of the representation of malign demonic entities in millennial horror films and trace their origins in folklore and mythology.

Meriem Rayen Lamara is a second-year PhD candidate at the University of Northampton currently writing her thesis on the supernatural Gothic in contemporary young adult literature. Her adjacent interests lie in children’s literature, dark fantasy, supernatural folklore and fairytales.

Speaking as part of ‘Foretold Tales: Folkloric Creatures’

David Maguire – Leeds International Film Festival

Savaged and Spat On: Modern Rape-revengers as the Epitome of Monstrous Femininity

In 2013’s Savaged, a murdered rape victim returns from the grave, possessed by the spirit of an Apache warrior, to wipe out those that wronged her. While granting her superhuman strength, the fury of the Native American chief grinds down her physical form, resulting in a rotting corpse whose time among the living is fleeting.

This paper will argue that in this feminist reworking of The Crow (1994), the representation of the female as, quite literally, the monstrous-feminine ties in with the modern portrayal of rape-revengers as other-worldly. In the remake of I Spit on Your Grave (2010), the protagonist disappears from the narrative, believed drowned, before resurfacing like a vengeful wraith. So demonic is her appearance, the director has referred to her as ‘zombie dead’ in interviews. In MoniKa (2012), the ghost of a murdered woman hunts a gang of rapists and killers and in Wicked Lake (2008), rapists have the tables turned on them when their victims mutate into flesh-eating witches.

Although this current emphasis on undead imagery for rape-avengers caters for a gore-hungry modern audience, it also further emphasises the horror of the victims’ ordeal. As representations of monstrous female figures, reflecting patriarchal society’s anxiety about the power of female sexuality, these undead heroines can also be read as avenging female monsters of mythology; in I Spit on Your Grave and Wicked Lake, like Sirens, the monsters lure their victims to a watery death by seducing them. Like the Bacchae, Furies, Gorgons or Kali, they destroy any men foolish enough to arouse their anger. All these women are man-made monsters; they only become rape-revengers after their assaults. In this regard, their attackers are modern-day Victor Frankensteins, whose creations return to destroy them.

David Maguire is a member of the Leeds International Film Festival programming team and works as a programmer and short film researcher for the festival’s Fanomenon stand, which caters to fans of fantasy, horror, science fiction and action/adventure. He has also programmed for Bradford’s Drunken Film Festival and has held volunteer positions with Bradford International Film Festival and Manchester’s Grimmfest. He holds an MA in Film Studies from the University of Bradford and has previously presented papers at Current Thinking on the Western III and Cine-Excess.

Speaking as part of ‘Feminist Fiends: Monstrous Women’

Craig Ian Mann – Sheffield Hallam University

Where the Wolves Are: Cultural Fears in the Contemporary Werewolf Film

Over the last few years, a slow shift has been occurring in academic debates surrounding the werewolf as scholars have attempted to move the critical focus on the monster away from psychoanalytic conceptions of the ‘beast within’ (or the dark side of man) and towards an understanding of its cultural dimensions. Such a paradigm shift is perhaps needed now more than ever before; psychoanalytical readings of werewolf fiction remain popular, but there is now mounting evidence that the traditional view of the werewolf has filtered out of academic discourse and into critical and popular discussions of the monster’s place in pop culture. In 2014, an article on the werewolf film – titled ‘Where Are the Wolves?’ – appeared in Fangoria. It examines the apparently low critical reputation of werewolf films in the twenty-first century and asks: ‘Are [werewolves] simply too limiting, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde conflicting nature overplayed and now infertile as subject matter?’

This paper will examine three werewolf films immediately contemporaneous to Fangoria’s article – WolfCop (2014), Late Phases (2014) and Blood Moon (2014) – to illustrate that the twenty-first century werewolf is capable of rivalling the vampire or the zombie as a cultural metaphor. WolfCop will be explored as an example of the neo-grindhouse movement and compared to Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) and Turbo Kid (2015) in its thematic preoccupation with Canadian austerity; Late Phases will be discussed as an indictment of American conservatism, in which a veteran who has lost much of his life to military service is forced to do battle with a religious zealot cursed to werewolfism; and the British horror-Western Blood Moon will be examined as an attempt to rectify the monster’s unfortunate metaphorical function in the earliest werewolf films, The Werewolf (1913) and The White Wolf (1914). By casting a Native American skinwalker as a righteous avenger, Blood Moon references these films in order to question their tendency to render Native Americans as superstitious savages. The werewolf is one of civilisation’s oldest mythical monsters; this paper will illustrate that today it remains an ample metaphor for any number of social, cultural and political issues.

Craig Ian Mann is an Associate Lecturer in film studies at Sheffield Hallam University, where he was awarded his doctorate in 2016. He is currently preparing his thesis, a cultural history of the werewolf film, for publication. His specialism is in the cultural analysis of popular genre cinema, including horror, science fiction, the action film and the American Western; he has a particular interest in countercultural and anti-capitalist narratives. He has recently contributed to Animal Horror Cinema: Genre, History and Criticism (2015) and has an article forthcoming in Science Fiction Film and Television.

Speaking as part of ‘Silver Bullets: Modern Werewolves’

Keith McDonald – York St John University

The Past Is Never Dead: Monsters as Nostalgia Vessels

As Universal prepares to (yet again) revitalise their horror canon with the production of The Mummy set for a summer release only months after the return of King Kong in Kong: Skull Island (2017) and as Ridley Scott seems to be reverting to the ‘classic’ xenomorph beast in Alien: Covenant (2017), it seems Hollywood is ready to assume that audiences have an (un)healthy appetite for monsters revitalized.

This paper will consider monster movies in the wider context of cinema’s most recent nostalgia cycle evident in the outpouring of sequels, expanded universes and stylistic homage in wider contexts typified by the critical and commercial success of Strange Things (2016- ). Of course, it is easy to view the resurgence of the filmic monster canon as a cynical commercial attempt to mine the hunger for fan favourites repackaged for a new audience alongside lucrative paratextual options. However, I argue that these monsters have never really gone away in the cultural imagination and that paraphernalia alongside other cultish activities and communal practices have kept these monsters very much alive in the cultural imagination now writ large.

In addition, I contend that the mythology surrounding these canonical monsters means that they are always destined to appear dead only to be realised as dormant and ready to be brought back to terrorize (The Mummy, Godzilla, Dracula, etc.). The monster mythos is inherently cyclical and in this context the filmmakers of these enlivened creates are curators of the lore established long ago. This does, though, pose the question of where our new monsters will come from and if they will have the imaginative traction to tear into the monstrous order which seems to be so resilient.

Keith McDonald is the Subject Director of Media and Film Studies at York St John University. He is the co-author of Guillermo del Toro: Film as Alchemic Art (2014) and contributor to Guillermo del Toro: At Home with the Monsters (2016).

Speaking as part of ‘Childish Things: Childhood & Nostalgia’

Shellie McMurdo – University of Roehampton

Persistent Silence and Outstretched Arms: Making a Millennial Monster and the Legend of Slenderman

From photo edit to cultural phenomenon, the character of Slenderman occupies a liminal space between folklore, screen media, and the internet. Originating in 2009 from an internet message board, Slenderman was the focus of a moral panic in 2014, when two young girls arrested for attempted murder cited the influence of the character on their actions. Slenderman was suddenly no longer restricted to the pages of the internet, and newspaper reports quickly declared the possibility of Slenderman being ‘Tulpa’, a creature brought to life by communal belief, in this case enabled by internet communication. In examining Slenderman’s origin, as a monster constructed communally on the internet, where horror conventions were both recognised and renegotiated, this paper will examine his place as an internet-based but uniquely transmedial monster.

This paper explores how Slenderman’s digital origin alters his monstrosity, contributing to the understanding of Slenderman as a transmedial monster whose influence can be seen on the internet, in video games, and most relevantly for this conference, in feature-length films and YouTube serials. This paper will also examine Slenderman as an archetype for the recent trend towards repurposing internet-based horror for cinema and television, as seen in the television programme Channel Zero (2016), which is part of the growing trend towards horror on the small screen.

With a focus on YouTube video Marble Hornets (2009- ), which uses the stylings of found footage horror cinema, this paper demonstrates that although Slenderman references other monsters of the horror genre, and swells in that mainstay of horror narratives, the woods, it is his positioning within a digital context that codes him as a monster of the millennium. This paper will therefore explore Slenderman as a legend born from the glow of a computer screen rather than the light of a campfire, which complicates his place in folklore and the horror genre.

Shellie McMurdo is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Roehampton, where the working title of her thesis is ‘Blood on the Lens: The Terror of the Real in Found Footage Horror’. Shellie has also lectured on the horror genre on television, and is currently completing a chapter on American Horror Story, school shooters and hybristophilia. Her wider research interests include trauma theory, torture horror, fandom and transmedial texts.

Speaking as part of ‘Fatal Errors: Digital Creatures’

Matt Melia – Kingston University

“Oh, the Shark Bites with his Teeth, Dear”: Hunting the Shark in Twenty-first Century Horror Cinema

Since 2000 there have been a plethora of cheap sharksploitation movies and a handful of what we might describe as more accomplished shark films, Open Water (2003), The Reef (2010) and The Shallows (2016) being among the most highly regarded. But how have we been culturally conditioned to perceive the shark as monstrous, and in an era where zombies, vampires and other supernatural beasties dominate, what place does the shark hold in the canon of twenty-first century monsters and has it, in fact, like Bruce in Pixar’s Finding Nemo (2003), lost its bite?

This paper aims to consider and discuss both the shark as a twenty-first century monster and the significations cast not only by Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) but also by a range of other cultural texts. Just why do we fear the shark and what is its resonance in the twenty-first century? To what extent has the shark film been, in a sense, defanged by a plethora of low-budget sharksploitation films? To what extent might we also read the ‘killer shark’ film as cross-generic? And is the ‘horror’ in these narratives located in the shark or in the environment, i.e. are these films better read as environmental horror films rather than ‘killer shark’ movies?

Finally, this paper will discuss the semiology of the shark, its position as a horror monster and the role it plays in mediating space and environment. I will discuss the shark in its cinematic spaces and locales, its relation to and displacement from them and the issue of territoriality. Through close-shot analysis I will discuss how the shark is consistently framed as ‘monstrous’.

Matt Melia is a senior lecturer in Film and Television at Kingston University. He completed his PhD on ‘Architecture and Cruelty in the Writings of Genet, Beckett and Artaud’ at Kingston University in 2007. His research interests include the representation and multiple understandings of space in visual culture and the works of Ken Russell, Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg.

Speaking as part of ‘Nature’s Nasties: Animal Monsters’

Joe Ondrak – Sheffield Hallam University

They Came from the Web!: Creepypasta’s Post-postmodern Monsters

Though much small that the silver screen, the computer screen has recently become the site of invention for monsters tailor-made for our time that move through our social media landscape, lying in wait for us to stumble upon them, or sometimes reaching out to find us. These are the creatures of ‘Creepypasta’, an internet phenomenon that utilises the affordance of our web2.0 online spaces and the word-of-mouth style of communication that digital textuality in social media encourages, to create what Chess and Newsom describe as a ‘digital folklore’ (2015) that straddles transmedia storytelling, urban legend, web series, and collaborative narrative development. The popularity of certain monsters form from Creepypasta, such as The Slender Man, whose likeness has appeared in a number of recent Hollywood films, or SyFy’s recent adaptation of ‘Candle Cove’, Channel Zero (2016), means that the post-postmodern monsters of Creepypasta are already beginning to migrate from the web to potentially become a new generation of things that go bump in the night.

In this paper, I argue that the affordances of social media and the way they are taken advantage of by Creepypasta narratives situate the phenomenon as an example of post-postmodernism storytelling that embodies traits of Jeffrey Nealon’s ‘post-postmodern’ (2012), Alan Kirby’s ‘Digimoderism’ (2009) and Vermeulen and van den Akker’s ‘Metamoderism’ (2010). All three appear to describe (sometimes overlapping) symptoms of this emerging period that relate to Creepypasta’s meaning potential as well as formal and aesthetic properties. Observations from all three theories coalesce in Creepypasta narratives from the specific affordances of digital textuality and the unique properties of different social media platforms on which the narratives are hosted (YouTube, Reddit, web forums, etc.), to the metatextuality of Creepypasta works and how they depart from and retain a dialogue with postmodern instants of horror narratives.

Joe Ondrak is a first-year PhD researcher at Sheffield Hallam University. His research is an in-depth analysis of social media horror fiction, looking at how different web2.0 platforms impact user/narrative interaction, how these narratives embody post-postmodern storytelling techniques, and what anxieties these contemporary horror narratives represent. It is a continuation of his Masters by Research, which sought to analyse contemporary print remediations of digital textuality.

Speaking as part of ‘Fatal Errors: Digital Monsters’

Valentino Paccosi – Lancaster University

That is Not Dead Which Can Eternal Lie: The Eldritch Presence of Cthulhu on Film and TV

Cthulhu, the most popular creation of American writer H.P. Lovercaft, first appearing in the short story ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ (1928). Although it was then only briefly mentioned by Lovecraft and other writers of his circle in some other lesser-known short stories, Cthulhu’s fame has grown in the twenty-first century. Lovecraft’s monster now appears on a range of merchandising including t-shirts, board games, video games, graphic novels and even as a cuddly toy. On the other hand, Cthulhu does not appear in any mainstream film: it is only featured in a small number of independent films, such as the 2005 short film The Call of Cthulhu and has made brief appearances on TV shows such as South Park (1997- ) and The Real Ghostbusters (1986-1991). It seems that, despite this monster having a strong presence in popular culture, its ‘role’ in film is yet to be defined.

In this paper I will analyse how Cthulhu has been used in film and TV to establish the reason why this monster is both popular but also hard to successfully use in visual media. In order to do so, I will draw on Barthes’ essay ‘Myth Today’ (1957) to explain the progressive transformation of Cthulhu from a lesser-known monster into a contemporary myth, and his concept of the ‘writerly’ to understand why Cthulhu is so difficult to use in visual media. I will show how different texts overcame the problem of representing a monster that was considered indefinable even by his creator and demonstrate how the progressive reduction of Cthulhu to an empty symbol, combined with Bakhtin’s concept of canivalesque laughter, helped to popularise and renew this modern monster.

Valentine Paccosi is a PhD student in English at Lancaster University. He got his BA and MA in European Languages and Literatures in Florence, Italy. He then moved to the UK to study Film Production at the Arts University Bournemouth. He is currently studying the influence of American writer H.P. Lovecraft in contemporary Gothic fictions and across different media.

Speaking as part of ‘Hardback Horrors: Adapting Monsters’

Steve Rawle – York St John University

Legendary Monsters: Manufacturing a Transnational Kaijū Genre

The kaijū eiga has seen a strong global renaissance during the second decade of the twenty-first century. At the turn of the century production of the big monster movies tended to be more local in nature following the disappointment of Roland Emmerich’s 1998 Godzilla (followed by Japanese entries in the Godzilla and Gamera series, alongside the return of the South Korean monster Yonggary in 1999, and isolated examples such as Matt Reeves’s Cloverfield 2008]). New transnational productions, such as Pacific Rim (2013), its forthcoming sequel, and The Great Wall (2016) are reigniting interest in giant monster spectacle globally. These films, along with Godzilla (2014) and the upcoming Kong: Skull Island (2017), have a shared production company: Legendary Pictures (in collaboration with a number of national and transnational producers). However, Legendary’s attempt to create a Marvel-style shared universe for its monster films strongly echo some of the Toho films of the 1960s such as King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) and King Kong Escapes (1967), as well as the bigger universe implied by the plethora of monsters resident on Monster Island.

This paper argues that the manufacturing of a transnational genre in this regard is cyclical, from the sharing of monsters between films and series across national borders, to the collaboration between Asian and American producers (such as American International Pictures or Rankin-Bass), although the kaijū genre’s breakthrough as a mainstream cinematic genre in the West is now more in keeping with modern blockbuster production tactics of transnational co-production, franchising and the reliance on CGI spectacle. Although the name of the genre and its main stars, especially Godzilla (who has been re-associated with Japanese national trauma in Anno Hideaki’s Shin Godzilla [2016]), remain located within an identifiably national context, the genre has always displayed a transnational dimension, industrially and textually, that is not being intensified through its current incarnation.

Steve Rawle is an associate professor in film and media at York St John University. He is the author of Performance in the Cinema of Hal Hartley (2011) and co-editor of Partners in Suspense: Critical Essays on Bernard Hermann and Alfred Hitchcock (2016). He has recently completed a book on transnational cinema. His writing has also appeared in Scope, Film Criticism, Asian Cinema, the Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema, and he has published book chapters on a range of topics regarding independent America and cult Japanese cinema.

Speaking as part of ‘Transnational Terrors: Crossing Borders’

Diane A. Rodgers – Sheffield Hallam University

Millennial Ghosts and Folk-horror Legends: Haunted by British 1970s Television

Prominent purveyors of British millennial film and television folk-horror are doing so with distinct reference to British 1970s media; their work is informed by pastoral settings and folkloric themes of the past. Folk-horror legend can range widely from witches and covens, pagan ritual and hauntings, to stone circles and sinister villages with a peculiarly English landscape, all of which resonate with British national identity and related fears. All these themes occur frequently in British television of the 1970s and are seeing strong revival in the post-2000 folk-horror resurgence.

This paper will use the 2005-onward revival of the BBC Ghost Story for Christmas tradition (a festive staple in TV schedules throughout the 1970s) and the representation of the ghost-as-monster as a link to and textual comparison with television of the 1970s. The most recent offering in the Ghost Story series, The Tractate Middoth (2013), seems an attempt to recapture particular qualities of 1970s television itself which directly influences this resurgence; as writer-director Mark Gatiss states “Something I always loved about the seventies…[Ghost Stories] is that they’re…very impressionistic and I wanted to achieve something like that” (BFIEvents 2014).

With reference to the depiction of ghost-as-monster in other examples of post-2000 British television (e.g. Midwinter of the Spirit [2015], The Living and the Dead [2016], The Enfield Haunting [2015], the latter itself based on infamous 1970s events), this paper will therefore consider to what extent current British folk-horror creators are influenced by 1970s folk horror, alongside television itself as ostensive action; applying Mikel Koven’s theory of mass-mediated ostension to examine the medium itself as modern folklore, not only perpetuating such legends but also specific ways of telling those legends within the television medium.

Diane A. Rodgers is a lecturer in media, arts and communications at Sheffield Hallam University. She specialises in alternative and cult TV, films, music and comics, and is currently conducting PhD research in 1970s British film and television folk horror. She has worked extensively as a professional editor of film, video and games content for a number of well-known media producers and sings and plays guitar in art rock bands Black Light Ray and The Sleazoids.

Speaking as part of ‘Serial Killers: Monsters on TV’

Iain Robert Smith – King’s College London

The Global Zombie Plague: The Transnational Life of the Twenty-first Century Zombie

In his recent cultural study of the zombie, Roger Luckhurst notes that the ‘history of the zombie is one of continual transport, translation and transformation’ (2015) and he traces its development from the French Caribbean zombie through to the all-pervasive zombie figure of contemporary culture. Yet, while there has been a substantial amount of academic work written on the zombie in American cinema, there is still much to be written on the transnational adaptations of the zombie in the twenty-first century. This paper will consider a number of examples on this phenomenon including the Pakistani Zibahkhana (2007), the Spanish-Cuban Juan of the Dead (2011) and the South Korean Train to Busan (2016).

Drawing on Franco Moretti’s conjectures on world literature, and developing upon the memetic model I outlined in The Hollywood Meme (2016), this paper will interrogate what is at stake in this global spread of the zombie. To what extent does this reflect a process of global homogenization in which the US zombie figure becomes ubiquitous even within films produced in other national and cultural contexts? Alternatively, to what extent might this be understood as a process of cultural hybridization in which globally circulating forms are being adapted, reworked and transformed in new hybrid works? Given that this process is becoming increasingly prevalent – with new films claiming to be ‘the first Taiwanese zombie film’, ‘the first Indonesian zombie film’, ‘the first Cambodian zombie film’ and ‘the first Tamil zombie film’ being released in just the last five years – it is therefore important that we interrogate the broader cultural implications of this transnational plague of zombies.

Ian 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 Con Verevis, 2017) and Media Across Borders (with Andrea Esser and Miguel A. Bernal Merino, 2016). He is co-chair of the SCMS Transnational Cinemas Scholarly Interest Group and co-investigator on the AHRC-funded research network Media Across Borders.

Speaking as part of ‘Transnational Terrors: Crossing Borders’

Charlotte Stevens – Birmingham City University

A History of Vampires: ‘What We Vid in the Shadows’ and Nostalgia for the Recent Past

This paper considers canon-formation and screen vampires ad mediated through historicising fannish discourse.

At last year’s fan convention VidUKon (Cardiff), I curated and screened a vidshow themed around vampires. A vidshow is a curated programme of vids – fan-made video art pieces which re-edit television and film sources – shown at media fan conventions. To plan this, I first selected vids from my research collection that were made from vampire films and television series, and then drafted a list of screen vampires to guide my search for other vids to address gaps. But how to limit my selection to fit a 45-minute vidshow? For example, might I best balance a personal overview of screen vampires which I remember fondly (Lestat, Spike, all of The Lost Boys [1987]) with a representative sample of vampire characters as seen through vids (thereby acting as a recent history of media fandom’s relationship with screen vampires). The majority of film and television texts used as source material were produced in the twenty-first century; of the handful that are older texts, the vids are recent productions and therefore represent a twenty-first century perspective on this older material. Also, vids are works of textual analysis that offer critical and creative responses to their source texts: taken together, what would my selection argue about how we watch vampires?

Drawing on Amy Holdsworth’s work on nostalgia and memory in television, which suggests nostalgia ‘operatives as a particular mode…through which we glimpse past television’ (2011), I propose that vidshows are a site of negotiating fan-favourite and cult canons of vampire shows and characters.

Charlotte Stevens is an Assistant Lecturer in the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research, Birmingham City University. Her PhD thesis examined video works made by productive media audiences. Her research interests include amateur archiving practices, women’s historical and contemporary uses of domestic media technology, and public engagement with history.

Speaking as part of ‘Blood Bonds: Contemporary Vampires’

Charmaine Tanti – Independent Scholar

The Young and the Monstrous: Children and Monsters in a Violent World

The fictional pairing of the young and the monstrous harks at least as far back as the nineteenth century, when Gothic tales and tales of the fantastic often depicted an ambiguous, disquieting and sometimes complicitous relationship between children and monsters that typically defied parental and social authority. As the cinema of the twenty-first century reinvents and reimagines the figure of the monster, we find that it has reappropriated these nineteenth-century notions of the monstrous as a friend and companion to the lonely, neglected and fearful child. Many times, the cinematic monster highlights a more radical and terrifying monstrosity in human form, a monstrosity that is far more threatening to the child than the monster itself.

In this paper I will be examining the relationship between monsters and children in Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone (2001) and Pan’s Labyrinth (2004) as well as in Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In (2008) and its UK/US remake Let Me In (2010), directed by Matt Reeves, films that portray unique child-monster dynamics based on a rich tradition of monster stories while, at the same time, departing from them to create some of the most iconic movies of our time.

I will discuss the roles of the monsters, their various and often ambiguous functions within the films as sources of horror and fear, but also as agents of change, empowerment and liberation. I will also analyse the child-characters in these films, the ways they are impacted by the monstrous, their complicity with it, and the notion of monstrous children. Finally, I will explore the ambiguity and ambivalence of human and non-human characters and the socio-political settings of these films, while considering questions of violence, evil, and innocence, preoccupations that inform so much of today’s cinematic narrative.

Charmaine Tanti is an independent scholar who graduated with a PhD at the University of Malta with a thesis about moral ambivalence in vampire literature and film. Since then, her research interests have expanded to include werewolves, ghosts and mythical creatures. Her paper on female werewolves and female vampires is awaiting publication next year.

Speaking as part of ‘Childish Things: Childhood & Nostalgia’

Thomas Joseph Watson – Teesside University

“We Just Wanted a lot of Blood and High Heels”: Monstrosity, Narcissism and Witchcraft in The Neon Demon

The quote that forms the prefix of this paper refers to a seemingly throwaway comment made by director Nicholas Winding Refn, made when referring to his most recent film, The Neon Demon (2016). Taking its cues from canonical examples of Euro-Art-Horror such as Blood and Black Lace (1964) and Suspiria (1977), in addition to the cult transgressions present in films like Necromantik (1987), the film’s apparent lineage to European horror is evident (and is also emphasised by representations of cannibalism and necrophilia). This paper aims to interrogate that lineage whilst focusing on the overt monstrosity of female beauty, the monstrous implications of female sexuality and the drastic actions the film’s characters take in pursuit of ‘perfection’.

The film itself develops traits of contemporary gothic horror and ‘neon-surrealism’ developed in the director’s earlier cult offerings, Bronson (2008) and Drive (2011). However, where these earlier films focused on aspects of violence and the fragmented masculinity of their respective leads, The Neon Demon represents female sexuality as a form of monstrous consumption (the dominant backdrop of the contemporary LA fashion industry being rather apt in this respect). This paper aims to interrogate dominant readings of the ‘monstrous feminine’ in wider scholarship on the horror film, examining how The Neon Demon complicates and ‘queers’ those readings. Distinct emphasis on representations of lesbian sexuality, themes of virginity and symbolic de-flowering (coded as rape), and how these themes are built around implicit narrative tropes of witchcraft, ritualistic sacrifice and anthropophagy will be focused on. Amidst critical ambivalence to the film, this paper aims to demonstrate the ways in which The Neon Demon is about a lot more than ‘blood and high heels’ and forms a worthy foray into genre cinema and representations of the monstrous.

Thomas Joseph Watson is a lecturer in media at Teesside 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 ‘Feminist Fiends: Monstrous Women’

Carl Wilson – Independent Scholar

Zombie Ex Machina: Dissecting Resident Evil’s Monsters

Capcom’s Resident Evil franchise of video games has produced 24 unique titles (113 including platform variations), with cumulative sales approaching 71 million copies worldwide across a 21-year period. Resident Evil 4 (2005) has a metacritic rating of 96, making it the thirty-third highest-rated game from 13,814 entries, and yet Nadine Farghaly’s Unraveling Resident Evil (2014) remains the only substantial and serious examination of the series. From the haunted house terror of 1996’s original release through to the apex of transnational Hollywood violence found in Resident Evil 5 (2009) and Resident Evil 6 (2012), and back towards more unsettling genre tropes in Revelations (2012) and Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (2017), the franchise has always negotiated its own position within the ‘survival horror’ genre (a term that the series is also credited with having coined, and it may have also moved on from). Through capitalising on evolving hardware capabilities and novel video game mechanics, Japanese depictions of Western and African cultures, and a persistent interest in scientifically created BOWs (Bio Organic Weapons) over supernatural monsters, Resident Evil has always but its monsters at the forefront of its experiments in the video game medium.

The Resident Evil evolutionary tree is fragmented; shuffling Romero zombies evolved into villages of Plagas ridden ‘Los Granados’, Aboriginal ‘Majinis’, and ships full of regenerative Ooze. Meanwhile, Reptilian, Amphibian, Anthropod, and Mammalian BOWs grotesquely imitate their forebears like the alien creature of John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), in the same way that the games’ ‘Tyrants’ and ‘Hunters’ respectively mimic b-movie Terminators and creatures from the Black Lagoon. This paper will examine the ways in which these monsters have been engineered and generated in line with shifting cultural and industrial changes and expectations, to not only show how they reflect upon the conditions of their creation, but also to illustrate their significant position within wider generic boundaries and concerns.

Carl Wilson is a freelance writer from Sheffield. He has written essays and articles on subjects ranging from Armenian Cinema through to the X-Men for the Directory of World Cinema, World Film Locations and Fan Phenomena book series. He is currently the film editor for web-magazine PopMatters, where he has also contributed to edited collections on Doctor Who and Joss Whedon, and has led projects on Star Trek and the recent US elections.

Speaking as part of ‘Fatal Errors: Digital Creatures’