The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, the world’s longest-running educational organization devoted to the study of horror history, theory and production, is pleased to announce its Spring 2019 lineup of classes, led by some of the genre world’s most renowned critical, literary and filmmaking luminaries at all three of their branches.
In New York they begin with a trip through the sordid world of Staten Island filmmaker Andy Milligan, before investigating the effect of AIDS on horror cinema; the technological quest for the supernatural; the crossover between mid-century industrial filmmaking and regional horror directors; and perhaps most importantly, they address the racism of horror icon H.P. Lovecraft in a Town Hall-type class led by none other than authors Victor LaValle (The Ballad of Black Tom) and Matt Ruff (Lovecraft Country).
In Los Angeles, they look at the history of the Made-for-TV horror film; the 80s literary phenomena ‘Splatterpunk’, led by one of its key writers, John Skipp; a deep dive into the dummy-death on film; and finally, a masterclass with British horror and sexploitation director Pete Walker (Frightmare, House of Whipcord, Cool it Carol!).
In London they begin with a genre-hopping exploration of what unlicensed international remakes can tell us about processes of cultural globalization; a history of the French Grand Guignol Theatre; a study of the 1940s ‘Paranoid Woman’s Film’ and its relationship to other horror trends by one of its preeminent scholars; a journey into the undiscovered realm of African literary horror; and they close the season with a study of the dark art of writer, painter and filmmaker Clive Barker.
FULL CLASS DESCRIPTIONS FOLLOW BELOW.
About the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies: The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies is an international organization that offers university-level history, theory and production-based masterclasses for people of all ages, founded by film writer and programmer Kier-La Janisse in March 2010, with regular branches in London, New York and Los Angeles as well as presenting special events worldwide.
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies – LA Venue: The University of Philosophical Research Address: 3910 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies – NYC Venue: Film Noir Cinema Address: 122 Meserole, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies – London Venue: Horse Hospital Address: Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London
January 15: ANDY MILLIGAN: ARTIST, AUTEUR OR ASSHOLE? with instructor Keith Crocker
Between 1965 and 1988, Andy Milligan produced, wrote and directed 29 films. He also photographed, edited and provided costumes, make-ups and set design. He is the embodiment of the fierce self-reliant filmmaker, a literal one-man powerhouse taking on the jobs of several people. Even more fascinating was that Milligan also ran an off Broadway theater, producing and writing plays as well as staging the works of other writers. Yet, despite all the energy and productivity, Milligan was long regarded as a pariah in cult film circles. Milligan laid bare his soul in just about every film he made. Wallowing in a sea of self-hatred, Milligan willingly shared his misanthropy and laid it out for all to see on the screens of some of the scummiest grind houses and drive-ins this side of 42nd Street. Through a combination of clips of his work and stills of his life, we’ll put together an understanding of the man who made such exploitation masterpieces as Bloodthirsty Butchers, Torture Dungeon, The Ghastly Ones, Vapors, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and so many more.
February 26: BLOOD BORN: THE HORROR OF AIDS with instructor Karen Herland
In the early years of the pandemic, bodies fatally transformed by infection and marked by Kaposi’s Sarcoma, easily allowed representations of AIDS to borrow from classic horror texts. Bringing up old eugenicist notions of protecting bodies and borders from seductive ruin, vampires were quickly reread through the lens of HIV. Blood Born traces the spectre of infected bodies, and their cultural resonance with AIDS – in sexual, racial and border-defying terms. How was HIV/AIDS represented in mass media? How did popular culture express (or reflect) the anxieties of those who feared their private lives would be marked publicly on their bodies, or who imagined that their potential infection would identify them as deviant? Understanding how horror tropes serve to complicate and recast public health concerns, we will compare news, PSAs and other representations of AIDS with works as diverse as The Fly, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Pontypool and more recent films such as It Follows.
March 19: ENCHANTING TECHNOLOGY: MAKING, HACKING, AND THE OCCULT IMAGINATION with instructor Peter Bebergal
Magic and technology share a deeply intimate relationship to the human experience as they are both methods that use tools to gain control over nature and ourselves. The magician and the both attempt to break open conventional ways of working with the forces that shape our lives. Magic is, indeed, a kind of spiritual hacking: They are opening the machine of the universe to understand how it works and bend it towards a new purpose. And when magicians and artists use technology to explore the occult imagination they reveal new ways of enchanting our lives. Based on the research from Peter Bebergal’s Strange Frequencies, this multi-media presentation will take participants through the history of how human beings have attempted to interact with the otherworldly using technology.
There is no denying that H.P Lovecraft was a racist. These attitudes are directly apparent not only in an infamous 1912 poem denigrating those of African descent, but in journal entries and personal correspondences, as well as indirectly discernable through allegorical descriptions of non-human races in his fiction. The 2016 release of revisionist Lovecraftian tales The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle and Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff prompted renewed questioning into the legacy of Lovecraft’s fiction for a legion of fans and fellow writers who have found magic in his Mythos and Cosmic Horror, easily one of the most influential strands of horror in literary history. But does Lovecraft’s racism overshadow his incredible contributions to the field? Should Lovecraft be demoted in the pantheon of horror writers based on his personal ideologies? Can people of those races and ethnicities Lovecraft directed hate towards still find value his work? Come join us as we hash it out Town Hall-style, with special guest speakers Victor LaValle, Matt Ruff and more TBD.
May 21: INDUSTRIAL TERROR: SPONSORED FILMMAKING AND REGIONAL HORROR with instructor Jon Dieringer
From the late 1950s through the mid-1980s, many workaday directors tasked with exposing film for the workplace and classrooms moonlit in cemeteries, bayous, and basements lensing brilliant genre pieces and prurient trash for drive-ins and grindhouses. Archivist and programmer Jon Dieringer will present on some of the best known examples, including George Romero and Herk Harvey, along with more obscure figures, such as the Satantic sexploitation filmmaker who made piston-pumping films for oil companies; a duo from Detroit who parlayed an independently made anti-drug PSA into an opportunity to make a gory biker revenge flick; and more. We’ll consider how quasi-documentary tropes and regional myth were appropriated within lurid, fantastic, and terrifying narratives; and reciprocally, how wry bits of the macabre livened up training and educational films.
February 7: BIG SCARES ON THE SMALL SCREEN: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MADE-FOR-TV HORROR FILM with instructor Amanda Reyes
Although rarely held in high regard by critics, the made for television horror film remains an intriguing artifact of network programming. Any subgenre was up for grabs, and the output was disparate, vast, and surprisingly subversive, often producing a collective memory (or trauma, depending) shared by millions of viewers. Join us for a retrospective on the golden age of the telefilm and beyond. This event will be hosted by Amanda Reyes, editor and co-author of Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium: 1964-1999.
March 14: IN YOUR FACE TILL YOUR FACE COMES OFF: JOHN SKIPP ON THE HISTORY OF SPLATTERPUNK, AND THE TRIUMPH OF THE OVERT with instructor John Skipp
In the 1980s, a handful of writers — Clive Barker, David J. Schow, Joe R. Lansdale, and John Skipp & Craig Spector — inadvertently kicked off a seismic shift in literary horror. Less a conscious revolution than a spontaneous eruption of the arts, these restless artists bucked against the constraints of conventional horror, serving up whopping doses of wildly explicit sex, visionary violence, and really loud rock ‘n’ roll, underlying an even more subversive layer of fierce cultural critique. Best-selling novelist, award-winning book editor and filmmaker John Skipp conducts a crazy three-hour tour through a history of horror’s most hilariously-named subgenre. The forces that shaped it. And the forces it has shaped, as we enter the fresh horrors of the 21st century.
April 11: DESTRUCTIBLE MAN: THE DUMMY-DEATH AND CINEMATIC STORYTELLING LANGUAGE with instructor Howard S. Berger
Prosthetic demise, or the “dummy death” as film historians Howard S. Berger and Kevin Marr refer to it, is a practical cinematic technique wherein an actor portraying a character is replaced by an articulated replica special-effects mannequin at a moment of extreme violence and/or death within a given film’s narrative. This device has been employed by filmmakers all over the world, at every level of production and in every genre since the dawn of the cinematic medium. When viewed in isolation, the dummy death effect can be characterized as the cinematic illusion in microcosm. The class will be illustrated by clips from such dummy-death emboldened films like STRAIT-JACKET, SCANNERS, DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN, THE BIRDS, 2001 and THE FURY, and films by directors as disparate as Alfred Hitchcock and William Castle, Francois Truffaut and Al Adamson, Quentin Tarantino and Edwin S. Porter, Steven Spielberg and Shohei Imamura, within the same cinematic, storytelling continuum.
May 9: LIVE FROM MISKATONIC: PETE WALKER IN CONVERSATION with special guest speaker Pete Walker
Miskatonic is proud to present an evening in conversation with the great British horror and sexploitation director Pete Walker. Starting out in softcore sex shorts in the 1960s before turning to features in 1968 with films like The Big Switch, School of Sex and his breakthrough, Cool it Carol! in 1969, Walker then self-financed a decade of brilliant horror and terror films including Die Screaming Marianne (1971), The Flesh and Blood Show (1972), House of Whipcord (1974), Frightmare (1974), The Confessional (1976), Schizo (1976), The Comeback (1978) and House of the Long Shadows (1983), with the odd sexploitation film still peppered in, such as Tiffany Jones (1973) and Home Before Midnight (1979). We’ll talk to Walker about being an upstart in an uptight industry, making a horror icon out of elderly Scottish actress Sheila Keith, turning communion wafers into weapons in The Confessional, working with horror giants Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine on House of the Long Shadows, his ill-fated Sex Pistols documentary, and so much more.
January 10: INTERNATIONAL REMAKESPLOITATION: THE HORROR MEME FROM THE TURKISH EXORCIST TO DRACULA IN PAKISTAN with instructor Iain Robert Smith
This lecture will introduce students to the world of horror ‘remakesploitation’ – international exploitation remakes of successful horror films that were often unlicensed and aimed primarily at the domestic market. Surveying a range of examples of horror remakesploitation from around the world, this lecture uses Richard Dawkins’ concept of the ‘meme’ – a cultural equivalent of the biological gene that spreads and mutates in a manner analogous to evolution – to explore what these films can tell us about processes of cultural globalization.
February 7: HORROR AND HILARITY: THE LEGACY OF THE GRAND-GUIGNOL with instructor Richard J. Hand
Hidden at the end of cobblestoned alley in Pigalle lurked a little theatre which was home to the smallest stage in Paris. This was the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol (1897-1962), the legendary ‘Theatre of Horror’. In a district famous for its brothels, streetwalkers and gangsters, the unique Grand-Guignol had a loyal local fanbase and drew in many nervous visitors from further afield. Originally, its repertoire was slice-of-life realism, but it soon discovered what its audience really wanted: a little slice-of-death and a delirious mixture of sang, sperme et sueur (blood, sperm and sweat). In this talk, the academic and theatre director Richard Hand will take you on an intimate journey into a night at the Grand-Guignol, recounting the shocking stories, vivid personalities and ingenious tricks of the original theatre before exploring the theatre’s profound legacy and abiding influence over subsequent horror culture.
March 7: THE PARANOID WOMAN’S FILM with instructor Mark Jancovich
This class will introduce students to the horror films of the 1940s through those films often described as examples of the paranoid (or Gothic) woman’s film. These films, which emerged in response to the phenomenal success of Hitchcock’s Rebecca, feature a woman in love with a potential murderous lover. Although the cycle begins before the war, its key period of productivity was during the war years, and it can therefore also be seen as a key genre associated with changes in the audience during this period. With many men away fighting the war, women were encouraged to disassociate with domesticity in favour of war work and this changed the nature of the cinematic audience. Rather than simply going to the cinema as part of a couple or a family, Hollywood was overwhelmed by the new audience of women that were going to the cinema in groups or alone, and these changed circumstances encouraged these female audiences to play with new forms of femininity. The films therefore exhibit these ambivalent relationship to both the home and the world beyond in both of which require their female leads to turn detective.
April 11: AFRICAN HORROR: SHADES OF SUPERSTITION with instructor Nuzo Onoh
This lecture will introduce students to the Africa horror literary genre. We shall examine the term “African Horror”, and how it is portrayed by the popular media before discussing its place as a bona-fide literary genre, similar to other regional horror genres and its classification by distributors. We shall also examine the mythos of African Horror, the lore, the superstitions that surround death, burial rites and the afterlife in African communities and the role colonialism, Christianity, politics, poverty and globalisation have played in creating situations that give rise to evils such as the harvesting of Albino body parts, the killing of child witches and the kidnapping of humans for witchcraft or political motives. These true-life horrors have all been bred by superstition, and these superstitions form the ethos behind most African Horror literature.
May 9: HELLBOUND HEARTS: THE DARK ART OF CLIVE BARKER with instructor Sorcha Ni Fhlainn
This class will examine Barker's uniquely abject and original artistry, beginning with the splatterpunk delights of Books of Blood (1984-5), The Damnation Game (1985), and The Hellbound Heart (1986) through to his fusions with the dark fantastic and YA fiction in Weaveworld (1987), The Great and Secret Show (1989), and Abarat series (2002 -), among other popular titles. Barker's own films, as a writer and director, in the 1980s and 1990s will also be examined to analyse their familiar Barkerian elements (sex, death, religion, belonging, selling one’s soul) alongside themes and motifs on monstrosity, cultural rejection, secret desires and appetites, torment and the limits of excess and power. With the aid of clips, sketches, posters, and archive material, in this lecture I will trace and present core themes and ideas that run riot throughout his fiction and film, and invite you to (re)discover Barker’s enduring legacy and unique contribution to horror culture.