Monday, 3 April 2017

Interviews for iNews

Recently I have been interviewed several times for articles on iNews. 
Here are links to the interviews about Stephen King (article author Mark Butler), space-based horror (article author Finlay Greig), and racism and horror (article author Mark Butler).

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

15 Second Review: The Dark Tapes



The Dark Tapes is a horror anthology film, and as with any compendium, the segments that comprise the whole are somewhat hit-and-miss. “The Hunters and the Hunted” is the most complete story, and certainly boasts some of the best performances; “Amanda’s Revenge” has a neat structure that initially misdirects the viewer in a highly effective way; “Cam Girls” is the weakest section, featuring some unconvincing acting and the least satisfying plot overall. Nevertheless, each section is efficient, which will surely please viewers who are bored by the protracted establishing sequences that bog down so many full-length found-footage movies. The Dark Tapes has been edited with care, giving enough information to guide the viewer, but refraining from bloating the script with needless exposition. My main problem with the film is that the stories include various plot holes and logical inconsistencies (which I cannot explain here without spoiling each segment), which detracts from the realism that found-footage relies upon. Still, the film is ambitious, and although the wrap-around story does not connect the others together in a literal fashion, it does offer a set of conceptual, thematic links that are intriguing. The opening declaration that ‘humanity is getting closer to the truth’ frames the film’s events as if they are genuine, or at least as if the footage reveals some kind of authenticity. Yet, the film also wears its artifice on its sleeve, flagging that its apparent veracity is entirely fabricated. In that sense, it could be argued that the logical inconsistencies buried within the individual stories enhance the film’s dualistic approach to found-footage. On one hand, The Dark Tapes typifies the found-footage subgenre, replicating the visual tropes – such as ‘digital glitches’ – that have become synonymous with such movies (even though these glitches are unrealistic, inasmuch as they are incredibly rare outside of the subgenre). The film also recalls established found-footage touchstones, including overt nods to V/H/S (in terms of its multiple story structure), and echoing Paranormal Activity in the segment “The Hunters and the Hunted”. However, not only is that parallel to Paranormal Activity undercut in the story itself (I will not say any more so as not to spoil), but it is notable that the makers of The Dark Tapes are just as comfortable citing other horror influences, including Poltergeist (in the “The Hunters and the Hunted”), and even A Nightmare on Elm Street (in the segment “Amanda’s Revenge” via the refrain ‘Don’t fall asleep’). These references root the movie in a broader canon of horror history that extends beyond the recent trend for found-footage indie-flicks. In sum, although The Dark Tapes has its flaws, it is an intriguing film that seeks to rise above the crowd, and I would much rather watch an imperfect movie that attempts to do something interesting than a technically exquisite but banal one.  

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Offscreen 2017: Stephen Sayadian


I have just returned from Offscreen (Brussels) where I had the opportunity to speak with Stephen Sayadian about his career in film-making (Cafe Flesh, Dr Caligari, Nightdreams) and as Art Director for Hustler.

During the Q&A/Masterclass session with Stephen, I got the opportunity to ask him a question that I have been wondering about since 2004 (when I was researching about HIV, sex, and horror fiction in the early stages of my PhD...which ended up having nothing to do with HIV). Cafe Flesh is based within a post-apocalyptic landscape where half of the populace becomes deathly ill if they engage in sex. Given that the movie was shot in 1981/released in 1982, and (what would eventually become known as) AIDS was first clinically observed in 1981, I have always wondered whether Cafe Flesh was an immediate response to the medical context, or whether the film's language of 'sex positives', 'sex negatives', and sickness was coincidental. For anyone who is curious, Stephen confirmed that the former is the case. It was also interesting to hear Stephen refer to Cafe Flesh as 'anti-erotic'; I have always described it as one of the least titillating "porn" films I have seen (which is one of the reasons I was initially intrigued by it). Stephen told me that the film was originally supposed to depict a castration and was meant to end with Max being hanged. Those additions would have further augmented the horror embedded in the film's tone.  
I was also unaware that many of the images from Hustler magazine (particularly the parody adverts), which I have used countless times in lectures about porn, were created by Stephen. Given how thematically dark some of that material is, I am now considering writing a piece about the coalescence of sex and horror in his work. 
The Offscreen festival continues until 26th March. For more information, please visit http://www.offscreen.be/en/offscreen-film-festival-2017

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Call for Presentations: Researching Horror, Cult and Exploitation Cinema

Call for Presentations:


Researching Horror, Cult and Exploitation Cinema


A Workshop for PhD Students and Early Career Researchers

  
Friday 5 May 2017, Northumbria University, Newcastle Upon Tyne





PhD students and Early Career Researchers working in the field(s) of “horror, cult and exploitation cinema” are invited to submit abstracts about their research to deliver at a workshop at Northumbria University on Friday 5 May 2017. The workshop will take the format of a mini-symposium and consist of three sessions, each made up of three speakers. Speakers will each deliver a 5-10 minute talk about their research to their peers and to a panel of academic experts from Northumbria’s Film and Television Research Group, providing a short introduction to their current project and identifying several questions for discussion. After each presentation, there will be an opportunity for the academic panel and other workshop participants to feedback to each speaker, and to ask follow-up questions.



The workshop is intended to be a small scale networking opportunity for scholars with shared research interests, and to provide a relatively informal, and supportive, opportunity for those newer to academia to engage in dialogue with more established researchers.



The event will close with a short presentation from Gillian Leslie <https://edinburghuniversitypress.com/books/subjects/film-studies> , the Commissioning Editor for Film Studies at Edinburgh University Press, who will give advice about academic publishing (including converting PhD theses into monographs).



The academic panel will comprise:



·         Professor Peter Hutchings (Professor of Film Studies, author of The Horror Film and The Historical Dictionary of Horror Cinema)

·         Dr Russ Hunter (Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies, co-editor of Italian Horror Cinema, author of A History of European Horror Cinema)

·         Dr Steve Jones (Senior Lecturer in Media, author of Torture Porn: Popular Horror After Saw, co-editor of Zombies and Sexuality)

·         Dr James Leggott (Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies, author of Contemporary British Cinema: From Heritage to Horror)

·         Dr Sarah Ralph (Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies, co-author of Alien Audiences: Remembering and Evaluating a Classic Movie)

·         Dr Jamie Sexton (Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies, co-author of Cult Film: An Introduction, founding series co-editor of Cultographies)

·         Dr Johnny Walker (author of Contemporary British Horror Cinema: Industry, Genre and Society and co-editor of the Global Exploitation Cinemas book series)

Applicants are reminded that there are only nine spaces available.



Lunch and light refreshments will be provided throughout the day.




Please submit a 250 word summary of your project, and a 50-100 word bio to the organiser, Dr Johnny Walker (johnny.walker@northumbria.ac.uk <mailto:johnny.walker@northumbria.ac.uk> ), by Friday 31 March 2017. Applicants will be notified of the outcome the following week. 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Interview on Racism and Horror

Recently I was interviewed by Mark Butler on the subject of racism in horror movies.
Read the article here: https://inews.co.uk/essentials/culture/film/racism-horror-movies-theme-get-out/