Saturday, 2 September 2017

15 Second Review: Malady (2015)

Malady is a tricky film to review for several reasons. First, it is a slow burning mystery film, and so revealing too much about the plot – which is fairly sparse in terms of story “events” – would ruin the movie. Second, Malady is intentionally enigmatic. It is built on concepts and fleeting impressions more than hard plot-points. The characters project their desires onto substitutes (such as a ring, a lock of hair, or even another person), and so those symbols carry much of Malady’s meaning. To pin-down what happens in Malady is akin to describing a dream; a description would sound vague and it would do no justice to the richness of experiencing it first-hand.
There is little dialogue particularly in the first third of Malady (my favourite part of the film), precisely because words fail to capture experiences such as grief and desire. Throughout, back-story events and motivations are hinted at without being laid out. The narrative is comprised of echoes such as, for instance, an equivalence between lead protagonists Holly and Matthew’s situations vis-à-vis devotion to their ailing mothers. There are dozens of such strands woven into Malady, but they are indirect and therefore somewhat indistinct. This is not a complaint; the movie has been edited into its leanest possible form (both at script and post-production stages), and that  only benefits the final product. The viewer is left with gaps to fill, but that technique develops the atmosphere and focuses one’s attention. The filmmakers and cast provide sufficient detail so that one can always at least sense what had happened prior to the narrative present. Malady seeks to form a pact with its audience based on trust; the viewer’s trust in the filmmakers’ judgement, and the filmmakers’ trust in the viewer’s intelligence. That pact parallels the film’s themes insofar as Holly’s wholesale commitment to Matthew – her trust in someone she hardly knows – leads her (and the audience) into dark territory.
I presume the film was shot on a micro-budget; the credits make reference to crowd-funding, and a small crew were responsible for the production. However, the film itself bears little evidence of its financial origins. I sincerely doubt that a higher budget would have enhanced the content. The movie boasts an assured aesthetic that matches its patient pace. There is a maturity and confidence to the proceedings that are vital to selling what could have easily come off as pretentious, boring or frustrating in lesser hands. The production undoubtedly benefitted from writer/director/producer/editor (…and so forth) Jack James’s evident control over the project at all levels. It feels like an intimate project from the ground up, and the cast give appropriately assured performances as a result.
I have no doubt that Malady will struggle commercially because it does not neatly fit into a genre category. Its pacing (and some of its more controversial themes) will undoubtedly alienate some viewers. However, those who do discover this gem will be rewarded with an involving, impressive and haunting feature that certainly ranks among the best indie movies in recent memory, and which holds its own against its higher-budget brethren.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Horror Lab Episode 3: Women in Horror and Prevenge

Episode 3 of the Horror Lab podcast is now available

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In this episode we discuss women in horror with our in-studio guest Dr Alison Peirse (University of York) and our interview guest Kat Ellinger (Editor-in-Chief of Diabolique magazine). We also consider the film Prevenge (Alice Lowe, 2016).

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

New chapter

The Routledge Companion to Media, Sex and Sexuality is out now, edited by Feona Atwood and Clarissa Smith with Brian McNair. The enormous volume contains new work by (among many others) Feona Attwood, Adrienne Evans, Neil Jackson, Misha Kavka, Gareth Longstaff, Alan McKee, John Mercer, Sharif Mowlabocus, Susanna Paasonen, Niall Richardson… it also contains a chapter on "Sex and Horror" by me (which can be accessed here).

To buy and to see a preview, click here

Here is the full Table of Contents: 

PART I: Representing sexualities 

1 The normal body on display: public exhibitions of the Normaand Normman statues Elizabeth Stephens

2 Asexualities and media Kristina Gupta and Karli June Cerankowski

3 Representing trans sexualities Eliza Steinbock

4 Representing lesbians in film and television Rebecca Beirne

5 Representing gay sexualities Sharif Mowlabocus

6 Fifty shades of ambivalence: BDSM representation in pop culture Ummni Khan

7 The politics of fluidity: representing bisexualities intwenty-first-century screen media Maria San Filippo

8 Heterosexual casual sex: from free love to Tinder Kath Albury

9 Representing queer sexualities Dion Kagan

PART II: Sex genres 

10 Erotica Catherine M. Roach

11 A history of slash sexualities: debating queer sex, gay politicsand media fan cultures Kristina Busse and Alexis Lothian

12 Erotic manga: Boys’ Love, shonen-ai, yaoi and (MxM) shotacon Anna Madill

13 Ways of showing it: feature and gonzo in mainstreampornography Federico Zecca

14 From the scene, for the scene! Alternative pornographies in contemporary US production Giovanna Maina

15 ‘Not on public display’: the art/porn debate Gary Needham

16 User-generated pornography: amateurs and the ambiguity of authenticity Susanna Paasonen

17 Celebrity sex tapes Gareth Longstaff

18 The media panic about teen sexting Amy Adele Hasinoff

19 Sex advice books and self-help Meg-John Barker, Rosalind Gill and Laura Harvey

20 Social media platforms and sexual health Paul Byron

21 Young people, sexuality education and the media Anne-Frances Watson

PART III: Representing sex 

22 Videogames and sex Ashley M. L. Brown

23 Sex and celebrity media Adrienne Evans

24 Sex and music video Diane Railton

25 Debating representations of sexuality in advertising Despina Chronaki

26 Media representations of women in action sports: more than ‘sexy bad girls’ on boards Holly Thorpe

27 Sex and horrorSteve Jones

28 Sex in sitcoms: unravelling the discourses on sex in Friends Frederik Dhaenens and Sofie Van Bauwel

29 Sex and reality TV: the pornography of intimate exposure Misha Kavka

30 It’s all about your sex appeal: deconstructing the sexual content in women’s magazines Claire Moran

31 The Invisibles: disability, sexuality and new strategies of enfreakment Niall Richardson

PART IV: Deconstructing key figures 

32 The metrosexual John Mercer and Feona Attwood

33 The sex addict Barry Reay

34 The stripper Alison J. Carr

35 The pen is mightier than the whore: Victorian newspapersand the sex-work saviour complex Kate Lister

36 The pornography consumer as Other Alan McKee

37 The porn performer Angela Gabrielle White

38 The Dominatrix Danielle J. Lindemann

39 The pervert Lauren Rosewarne

40 The pornographer Neil Jackson

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Horror Lab Autopsy on "Post-Horror"

On 6th July 2017, The Guardian newspaper published an article entitled "How Post-Horror Movies are Taking Over Cinema". The article's author (Steve Rose) claimed that a new subgenre is forming: "post-horror". We discuss the notion of "post-horror" with Nia Edwards-Behi (@stonecypher) who is the co-director of the Abertoir Film Festival and a regular contributor to Warped Perspective.

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This is the first of a series of shorter episodes - Autopsies - in which we interview specialists about current events and issues in horror.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Horror Lab Episode 2: Bride of Frankenstein and 'the Gothic'

Episode 2 of our podcast The Horror Lab is now live [..."it's ALIVE!!"] 

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In this episode, we discuss Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935), we interview Xavier Aldana Reyes (Manchester Metropolitan University) about "the Gothic", and Russ discusses his work on the Italian lost film The Monster of Frankenstein (Eugenio Testa, 1921).

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Digital Violence: A Symposium

Digital Violence: A Symposium
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Saturday, November 4th 2017

Keynote Speakers:
Caetlin Benson-Allott (Georgetown University)
Eugenia Siapera & Debbie Ging (Dublin City University)

We live in an age where images of violence and violent exchanges proliferate and spread with unprecedented speed across multiple platforms. Graphic and disturbing images of violence—from viral videos of rape exchanged on Whatsapp, to the live streaming of fatal shootings on Facebook and Periscope—have become a staple of our digital condition. Similarly, resurgent forms of racialized, misogynistic, and homophobic violence are routinely documented, decried, or simply shrugged off as the ‘new normal’ of contemporary media culture.

While much attention is paid to the content of such encounters, and alarms sounded about the nature of our access and exposure to them, less concerted critical effort has been directed towards thinking specifically about how the technological affordances of networked media feed into and amplify this culture of violence. And yet, as Lisa Nakamura reminds us in relation to the viral racism that abounds on post-digital platforms, digital violence is always both ‘a product and a process’: the very real impact of violence in a digital age needs therefore to be traced through the often obscure, invisible, or simply mundane operations that both produce and sustain it (Nakamura 2014: 260). Following on from Wendy Chun’s more recent contention that ‘our media matter most when they seem not to matter at all,’ how might we re-frame our understanding of violence as inhering in (banal and often unconscious) habits, in contrast to more common-sense notions of violence as a spectacular affective disruption of the status quo (Chun 2016: 1; 13)?

This one-day symposium on Digital Violence seeks to theorize both the concrete forms of violence that proliferate and spread through our networked screens, and the complex processesthat structure violence in a post-digital attention ecology. What are the social and cultural logics that underpin everyday instances of violence? In what specific ways have these cultural understandings been shaped by technological processes of mediation? Similarly, there is a vital need for scholars to identify uses of media, which might expose, critique, or appropriate violence in its various forms. What critical or creative practices of archiving, excavation, and uncovering are needed to unearth and engage violence in a digital age?

Possible topics and questions may include (but are not limited to):

·      How are specific instances of violence captured, made visible, and/or obscured through the use of hashtags, such as #black lives matter, #notaskingforit, #WhyIStayed?
·      What is the relationship between race, new technologies and violence? What critical methodologies might enable us to evaluate ‘how racism and antiblackness undergird and sustain the intersecting surveillances of our present order’ (Browne 2015: 9)? 
·      How has the emergent affect and attention ecology of social media impacted on the ‘resurgent forms of political violence’ in the era of Trump? (Andrejevic 2016).
·      In what ways do social media platforms encourage ‘digital complicity’ with institutionalized forms of violence? (Kuntsman and Stein 2015).

·      What role do social media and other digital platforms play in extending, countering, or buffering the ‘violent or negative affective states produced by an ever-threatening world’ (Grusin 2010: 112).

·      What impact do the micro-temporalities and speeds of digital technologies and infrastructures have on the ways in which we understand and respond to violence and its relation to both human and non-human agents? (Nixon 2011; Parikka 2016).

·      How do users of key platforms engage with and respond to images of violence? How are affective responses to violence solicited and conditioned by the affordances of such platforms? And what is the potential ‘political utility’ of a ‘social media novelty’ such as Facebook Live (Benson-Allott 2016)? 

·      How has digital feminist activism sought to challenge dominant cultural beliefs about violence and rape culture as ‘a fact of life’ (Phipps et al. 2017)? What ‘new connections’ might be enabled by particular uses of social media platforms and other examples of digital mediation (Keller, Mendes & Ringrose 2016)? 

Conference Organisers: Tanya Horeck and Tina Kendall
Please send a 300-word abstract and a brief bio to
by 31 July 2017.

Sponsored by the Anglia Research Centre in Media & Culture

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The Horror Lab Episode 1: Candyman and 90s Horror

The first episode of our new podcast - The Horror Lab -  is available to stream/download

Download directly in MP3 format here (right click>'save as').

Also available on iTunes here

The Horror Lab is a podcast recorded at Northumbria University, hosted by myself, Johnny Walker and Russ Hunter. The podcast explores key moments in horror, past and present. 

In this episode, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Candyman (Bernard Rose, 1992), examining the film's representations of race and place, before  discussing 90s horror more broadly.

On the next episode, we will be discussing Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935) and the relationship between horror and the Gothic. 

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions about the show, get in touch with us on Twitter @The_HorrorLab 

We are going to include interviews in future episodes, so if you are a researcher working in the area and would like to participate in the show, drop us a line.

The RSS feed for the podcast is available here.