An Introduction to the American Horror Film
Time: 19:45 - 21:30
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
This course has now started
Course Code: HF213
Duration: 5 sessions (over 5 weeks)
What is the course about?
This online film studies course offers an historical survey of the American horror film from its origins in silent horrors such as The Phantom of the Opera (1925) to contemporary franchise films including The Conjuring (2013) and Insidious (2010) series. Along the way it will take in the classic Universal films of the 1930s and 1940s, such as Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931) and The Wolf Man (1941), the Val Lewton series of psychological horror films of the 1940s, including Cat People (1942), science fiction inflected films such as The Thing From Another World (1951) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), demonic possession films including The Exorcist (1973) and stalk and slash film such as Halloween (1978). The course will consider the films' critical reception and a range of critical concepts with which we can approach and understand the American horror film and its recurring themes. It will also look at the production and cultural contexts of the horror film and its shifting position within the American film industry, including that of a relatively minor status to becoming a major film genre, and from 'outsider' status to popular acceptance with recent successes, such as Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017) and the remake Candyman (Nia DaCosta, 2021), reaching mainstream audiences.
Please note that prior reading and viewing is not required but you may wish to consider the following:
• Barry Keith Grant (ed.), Robin Wood on the Horror Film - Collected Essays and Reviews (Wayne State University Press, 2018)
• Kim Newman, Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s, 2nd edition (Bloomsbury, 2011)
• Paul Wells, The Horror Genre - from Beelzebub to Blair Witch (Wallflower, 2000)
A full list of films featured will be provided at the start of the course.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
• The history and development of the American horror film
• Key phases and 'moments in its history and development (e.g., the American horror film in the 1930s and 1970s)
• Key themes (e.g., the gothic, the 'monstrous other', and gender)
• Critical concepts (e.g., 'body horror', 'unsafe space', and 'the return of the repressed')
• The critical reception of the American horror film
• American horror film production (e.g., minors, independent and major production studios; categories of production, including 'B' movies, 'programmers' and 'prestige' productions and film 'cycles')
• Key producers and auteurs in American horror cinema
• American horror cinema, remakes and popular culture.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Describe and evaluate the history and development of the American horror film
• Identify key phases and moments of development in the American horror film
• Identify and evaluate a range of themes
• Assess the critical reception of American horror cinema
• Describe patterns of production and position of the horror film in American cinema on general
• Identify and evaluate a range of key filmmakers associated with the American horror film
• Understand the American horror film's relationship with popular culture and the tradition of the remake.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
The course is suitable for all levels and you do not require any particular skills - just an enthusiasm for film and discussing film. The course will provide an introduction to the subject but will also be useful for those wishing to build on existing knowledge in the subject area.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
Screenings of extracts from films, talks by the tutor, reading materials, small and large group discussions. It might also be a good idea to see what you can find out about the subject in advance of the class (see the reading
mentioned above) but this is not essential.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
You will require a pen and paper (or laptop/device) but the tutor will provide all other materials such as handouts. The tutor will show extracts from films and you do not have to obtain them.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Look for other Film Studies courses under History, Culture & Writing/Film Studies at www.citylit.ac.uk.
Jon Wisbey teaches film at City Lit and Morley College. He was for many years a committee member and vice-chair of Chelmsford Film Club, screening contemporary and classic world cinema releases. He has an MA in Film Studies from the University of East Anglia. His teaching focuses on classical and post-classical Hollywood, European cinema, British cinema, film noir and horror cinema.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.