The British Horror Film
Writing in 2002, Steve Chibnall and Julian Petley introduce their essay collection on British Horror Cinema by lamenting the current state of British horror and its “pretty limited canon” (1). Throughout the last decades of the 20th century it seemed that the genre that had once flourished in the 1950s to 70s had lost its bite. Back then, the Hammer Studios produced a number of now classic gothic films and established actors Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as some of the best-known faces in horror. After the comparable dearth of the 1980s and 1990s, however, British horror returned with a vengeance in the early 21st century. Films such as 28 Days Later (2002), Eden Lake (2008) and Mum & Dad (2008) resuscitated the genre in Britain by mostly abandoning the Victorian gothic of earlier periods for a more contemporary sensibility. The monsters in Britain’s new horror films do not reside in remote Transylvanian castles. Rather, they are the results of medical experiments gone wrong or live right next door, sporting sneakers and a hoodie. They are therefore expressive of the social anxieties of contemporary Britain, fuelled as much by the audience’s unconscious as by today’s Daily Mirror front page and David Cameron’s speeches.
Suggestions for introductory reading:
Requirements: regular attendance, writing assignments or presentations depending on your course of studies and participation in the “Frankenweek” (October 24-31) celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Please note that some of the films discussed in this seminar might be emotionally distressing for some viewers. It is the participants' responsibility to inform themselves about the films prior to the respective sessions (the list of films will be handed out in the first session) and to take care of their own emotional wellbeing.