Following the successful conclusion of their 2017 winter semester with seasonal classes on Christmas Horror on Film and Television at both their London and New York branches, the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies is pleased to announce their spring curriculum and instructors, as well as exciting new developments.
Coming up in 2018 they'll guide students through folk horror, cults in film and Black Horror: The Revolutionary Art of Subverting the White Gaze. They'll offer classes examining the works of gothic author Shirley Jackson, true crime and Noir writer John Gilmore, Richard Matheson's seminal horror text I Am Legend, and host a conversation between horror fiction titan Ramsey Campbell and prolific author and editor Stephen Jones. Rounding things out Miskatonic London will feature a class by Watchmaker Films' Mark Rance on the complexities of digital restoration (with a case study of his restoration of F.W. Murnau's 1922 Nosferatu) while Miskatonic NYC will close its semester with a class presented by the co-founder of distribution and restoration company Vinegar Syndrome, Joe Rubin. Full class descriptions and instructor bios follow below.
Continuing for 2018 - now at both New York and London branches - is the Diabolique Scholarship. Each year Diabolique Magazine sponsors up to five students to participate in Miskatonic free of charge for the year. Applications and information for the scholarship are available on the Miskatonic websites here: New York: https://www.miskatonic-nyc.com/courses/ | London: http://www.miskatonic-london.com/courses/
Miskatonic London also says farewell this year to its longtime co-director, genre film journalist and scholar Virginie Sélavy, who nurtured the branch from its founding in 2015. In her role at Miskatonic Sélavy oversaw dozens of lectures, hosted a legion of special guests and taught some remarkable classes of her own. Sélavy leaves Miskatonic to focus on a new book project, explaining: "I've decided to step down as Miskatonic London co-director to focus on writing my book. It's been really exciting to help set up Miskatonic London and co-run it in its first three years of existence. Kier-La Janisse had a great idea and I'm glad to have been involved in bringing it to life. Miskatonic London has created a strong sense of community and tapped into a real appetite in the public for learning about the more obscure and neglected corners of horror film. It has opened up a dialogue between fans and academics and encouraged the spread of more critical ways of discussing horror. I am looking forward to seeing it continue to grow and develop under the new co-directorship."
Stepping in as Miskatonic London's co-director as of January 2018 is Josh Saco, the curator behind Cigarette Burns Cinema, one of the UK's leading independent film exhibitors, who caters to fans of left field, classic horror and exploitation cinema, screening primarily from rare 16mm to 35mm prints at prestigious venues including the Barbican, Prince Charles and Regent Street Cinema and various festivals. "Our beloved genre offers various darkened alleyways and avenues," says Saco, "I look forward to exploring, discovering and sharing these mysterious corridors of the Miskatonic Institute with everyone."
Saco will be running Miskatonic London with founder Kier-La Janisse, who also co-runs the New York branch with film writer and Visit Films' Assistant Director of Festivals and Non-Theatrical, Joe Yanick.
In spring 2018 Miskatonic also says farewell to its longest-running branch in Montreal, whose co-directors Mario DeGiglio-Bellemare and Kristopher Woofer have decided to branch off into their own local community of horror scholarship under the name The Montreal Monstrum Society. Woofter will however be joining Miskatonic NYC as an instructor for its Shirley Jackson class on March 13th (see class description below).
About the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies:
Named for the fictional university in H.P. Lovecraft's literary mythos, 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 and New York as well as presenting special events worldwide.
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies - NYC
Dates: Tuesdays, January 9, February 13, March 13, April 10, May 8
Venue: Film Noir Cinema
Address: 122 Meserole, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Prices: $12 advance / $15 on the door / $50 Full semester pass
The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies - London
Dates: Thursdays, January 18, February 15, March 15, April 19, May 17
Time: 7:30pm-10pm (Doors 7pm, no admittance after class starts at 7:30)
Venue: Horse Hospital
Address: Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London
Prices: £10 advance / £11 on the door / £8 concs / £45 Full semester pass
FULL CLASS DESCRIPTION - NYC
January 8: SACRED DISOBEDIENCE; ON PENDA'S FEN
Instructor: Sukhdev Sandhu
Named after the last pagan king of England, David Rudkin / Alan Clarke's Penda's Fen (1974) is deep heresey, an extraordinary piece of folk horror, a visionary film that is almost a foundation text in the pantheon of The Old Weird Albion. A clergman's son - agonistically, ecstatically - has his personal armour stripped away: parentage, nationality, sexuality, patriotism. He has encounters with an angel, a demon, the ghost of Edward Elgar, the crucified Jesus, and Penda himself. A radical archaeology of deep England and a praise-song to anarchist transformation, it culminates with the most euphoric revelation in British cinema: "My race is mixed. My sex is mixed. I am woman and man, light with darkness, nothing pure."
Only recently exhumed after having been out of circulation for forty years, Penda's Fen has lost none of its power to bewitch and ensorcel. This illustrated talk by Sukhdev Sandhu, editor of The Edge Is Where The Centre Is, a limited-edition art book on the film, will explore its topographies and febrile contexts - experimental public broadcasting, avant-garde arcadias, the rural uncanny, a mid-70s Britain that teetered on the brink of civil war, the rise of eldritch England.
About the Instructor:
Sukhdev Sandhu runs the Colloquium for Unpopular Culture at New York University where he is also Director of the Center for Experimental Humanities and teaches classes on hydropoetics, ghosts, and sound art. His books include London Calling (2003), I'll Get My Coat (2005), Night Haunts (2007), and Other Musics (2016). A former Critic of the Year at the British Press Awards, he writes for The Guardian, The Wire, Frieze, Sight and Sound, Bidoun, and Suddeutsche Zeitung. He makes radio documentaries for the BBC and runs the publishing imprint Texte und Töne.
February 13: BLACK HORROR: THE REVOLUTIONARY ACT OF SUBVERTING THE WHITE GAZE
Instructor: Dianca London Potts
From Spencer Williams' Son of Ingagi to Jordan Peele's Get Out, the cinematic screen has consistently served as a site of subversion for filmmakers of the African diaspora. Through the camera's lends, tales of hauntings, demonic possession, vampirism, and hoodoo rituals gone awry have become a celluloid metaphor for colonization and racism’s toll on the Black psyche. Within this space, expressions of Black embodiment and the Black experience are momentarily freed from the limitations the white gaze. The narrative shifts, allowing for the complexity and depth of Black identity and its subsequent anxieties, fears, and vulnerabilities to be examined outside the constraints of traditional tropes.
Whether it’s Blaxploitation classics like Blacula and Sugar Hill, or successors like Spike Lee’s Da Sweet Blood of Jesus and the aforementioned Get Out, Black horror films are a historically visual mode of resistance within a pervasively supremacist culture. Rather than being sacrificial lambs, wise sages, or saviors to non-POC protagonists, Black characters within this context determine their goals and desires in opposition to whiteness rather than their proximity to it. William Crain’s Prince Mamuwalde becomes the immortal Blacula, Ben — the sole Black character depicted in George Romero’s cult classic Night of the Living Dead —becomes a hero. Jordan Peele’s Chris becomes a survivor. Within this narrative context, the off-screen script is flipped. The marginalized aren’t merely centered, they’re canonized.
This multimedia presentation will offer an immersive thematic overview of Black horror narratives while highlighting noteworthy films within the genre spanning the early 1900s to modern day. Select films will be paired with excerpts of literary, sociological, and philosophical texts to enhance students understanding of the cinematic genre and its radical roots. Through visual, cultural, and historical exploration, this presentation aims to examine and foster dialogue about what happens when subjection is subverted and what stories can be told when the white gaze is decentered.
About the Instructor:
Dianca London Potts earned her MFA in fiction from The New School. She is a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow, a VONA Voices alumna, and the online editor of Well-Read Black Girl. Her words have been featured in Lenny Letter, The Village Voice, Vice, and elsewhere. Her memoir, Planning for the Apocalypse, is forthcoming from 37 Ink. She currently works and resides in Brooklyn.
March 13: SHIRLEY JACKSON'S WEIRD
Instructor: Kristopher Woofter
This class is devoted to the work of the reclusive Vermont author whose brutal short story, "The Lottery," still holds the record for the most letters of protest sent to The New York for publishing it. Come along with instructor Kristopher Woofter as we walk through the haunted spaces of Jackson's four major works: THE LOTTERY AND OTHER STORIES (1949), and her "uncanny house trilogy," THE SUNDIAL (1958), THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE (1959), and WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE (1962). A bestseller in her time, and a major influence on authors like Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates, Jackson's body of work varied from domestic satire in her darkly humorous memoirs RAISING DEMONS and LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES, to young-adult fiction (THE WITCHCRAFT OF SALEM VILLAGE), to uncanny psychological studies (THE ROAD THROUGH THE WALL, THE BIRD'S NEST), to her most popular work in the realm of horror and the weird. This class brings Jackson back to acknowledge her place as one of America's - and without question one of horror's - greatest writers.
About the Instructor:
Kristopher Woofter teaches courses on the American Gothic, the Weird tradition, and literary and cinematic horror in the English Department of Dawson College, Montréal. He earned his PhD from Concordia University. He is co-editor of the upcoming collection, Joss Whedon vs. Horror: Fangs, Fans and Genre in Buffy and Beyond (I.B. Tauris). Kristopher is also a programmer for the Montréal Underground Film Festival and served for ten years as a co-chair for the Horror Area of the PCA/ACA annual national conference.
April 17: LA DESPAIR: CHASING DEATH WITH JOHN GILMORE
Instructor: Rémy Bennett
LA Despair: Chasing Death with John Gilmore is a multimedia presentation exploring the life and work of the late Noir and true crime writer John Gilmore that is a meditation on the relationship between pop cultural crime landmarks in the past century and celebrity iconography viewed amidst the landscape of the tragedies he chronicled. A Los Angeles Native born in 1935 to a homicide detective and a bit player for RKO pictures, Gilmore was as authentically hard boiled as they come, destined to document all that seethed within the underbelly of Tinseltown and the American desolation beyond from his uniquely informed firsthand accounts.
Unearthing what is lurking in the shadows of the American dream-cum-nightmare by holding a mirror up to our morbid obsessions with fame and failure is at the center of Gilmore's singular artistic career inhabited by subjects he crossed paths with ranging from Marilyn Monroe to Charles Manson. In the 1950s as a young actor and greaser, Gilmore was a member of "Night Watch", the infamous biker gang led by James Dean and it was their deeply personal and troubled relationship that entrenched him deeper into the tragic rise and fall of the desperate figures surrounding him. His talent for mining the very darkest regions of the human soul is strikingly evident in the book that solidified him as a professional writer, Cold Blooded: The Tucson Murders based upon the factual account of his relationship with the 1960s Rockabilly "thrill killer" from Tucson, Arizona, Charles Schmidt who murdered teenage girls and buried them in the desert in the 1960s. In his pulp noir chronicle LA Despair: A Landscape of Crimes and Bad Times Gilmore documents the rise and fall of movie stars, porn actors, hustlers, killers, and fame seekers whose self-destruction, insecurity, and greed devour and transform them into what Gilmore called the personification of the "LA Mutant". Arguably the most stunning and indelible journalistic feats of Gilmore's career is, Severed: The True Story Of The Black Dahlia Murder which documents with sympathy and dread the ill-fated life and enigmatic death of his first love, Elizabeth Short.
LA Despair: Chasing Death With John Gilmore is an experience that takes its participants on a "Hollywood Death Trip" that follows the trail of subversion and intimate insight that John Gilmore left behind after his death, delving into the obsession and passions that fueled him while charting the sordid history of the city of fallen stars that birthed him, in all the mystery and allure of its glitter and doom.
About the Instructor:
Rémy Bennett is a filmmaker, writer, and curator living in New York City. She earned her BA in acting and drama studies from The Central School of Speech and Drama in London and studied film at SVA in New York. Her feature film debut Buttercup Bill was shown at Raindance, The New Orleans Film Festival, and The Marfa Film Festival and she recently completed a documentary series called Under Her Skin for the all-female led media company The Front. Her short film Eat Me and installation about a female serial killer/web cam girl that showed at The SPRING/BREAK art fair was voted as one of the top 10 shows to see at Armory Week in 2016 W Magazine and Gothamist, along with the group show GLORY HOLE that she curated along with her sister. Bennett has contributed as an artist and writer to PLAYBOY, 1985ARTISTS, VICE, and BUST MAGAZINE, and has most recently curated a film series at The Roxy Hotel Cinema called GRIT & GORE: NYC HORROR which featured artist talks with Larry Fessenden, William Lustig, Frank Henenlotter, and Roberta Findlay.
May 8: PRESERVING GENRE FILM AT VINEGAR SYNDROME
Instructor: Joe Rubin
Led by Joe Rubin, the co-founder of Vinegar Syndrome - an acclaimed film restoration and distribution company with an emphasis on horror, exploitation and adult films - this class will discuss the basic issues and challenges associated with film preservation, with a specific focus on issues most common to genre films. Topics shall include film decay and restorative process, format specific preservation techniques, the role of home video in the preservation of genre films, viewer expectations in the digital age, as well as a general overview of the methodologies by which Vinegar Syndrome selects films for restoration and release.
About the instructor:
Joe Rubin is a film collector and programmer who founded Vinegar Syndrome with Ryan Emerson in 2012.
FULL CLASS DESCRIPTIONS - LONDON:
January 18: POWERS OF ATTRACTION: FOLK HORROR IN ITS CULTURAL CONTEXT
Instructor: Howard David Ingham
British "folk horror" was in many ways a phenomenon of the 1970s, but it has seen a massive revival of popularity in the last decade. What caused it to grow in the fields, forests and furrows of the 1970s and early 1980s? And why has it come back with such a vengeance?
In Secret Powers of Attraction, Howard David Ingham gives a broad overview of British folk horror in its time and space, and how popular interest in the occult creates the conditions for it to become a force in our collective imagination.
Howard's overview of British folk horror is the starting point for an exploration into the cultural atmosphere of the 1970s and the present. If horror is a reaction to our culture, folk horror holds a mirror up to the concerns of the day. The politics and popular culture of both eras give ample space for folk horror to grow. Howard looks at period ephemera and cultural concerns of the time, drawing parallels with the present day. The Wicker Man and Ghost Stories for Christmas sprang from a world of TV astrologers and spiritualists in the national news, the National Front and the Three-Day Week; The Witch, Without Name and the films of Ben Wheatley come from the same milieu that brought us #witchesofinstagram, the return of the far right and Brexit. Secret Powers of Attraction explores how a world where the uncanny has become normal reflects itself in the horror genre, just as it did decades ago.
Secret Powers of Attraction begins with a look at the central filmic texts of the Folk Horror movement: Witchfinder General, Blood on Satan's Claw and The Wicker Man, explores folk horror in the British TV play (including classics such as Robin Redbreast, The Exorcism, and The Stone Tape) and examines how folk horror tropes invaded popular TV, from Doctor Who to Robin of Sherwood. Finally, bringing the story into the present, Howard will look at the folk horror renaissance, including the films of Ben Wheatley and Peter Strickland, the rise of independent folk horror and the unexpected places it appears in popular culture right now.
About the Instructor:
Howard David Ingham is a writer and educator. He lives in Swansea. Between 2005 and 2012 his work appeared in more than forty publications for White Wolf Game Studio. He writes games, fiction and books, and keeps a regular blog about film and culture at Room207Press.com. His book We Don't Go Back: a Watcher's Guide to Folk Horror is due for release in 2018.
February 15: LIVE FROM MISKATONIC: RAMSEY CAMPBELL IN CONVERSATION WITH STEPHEN JONES
Instructors: Ramsey Campbell and Stephen Jones
The Oxford Companion to English Literature describes RAMSEY CAMPBELL as "Britain's most respected living horror writer". An author, editor and critic, he has been given more awards than any other writer in the field, including the Grand Master Award of the World Horror Convention, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Horror Writers Association and the Living Legend Award of the International Horror Guild, while in 2015 he was presented with an Honorary Fellowship by John Moores University, Liverpool, for "outstanding services to literature".
Initially influenced by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, he published his first short story in 1962 and his first collection two years later, both with August Derleth's famed Arkham House imprint. Since then he has published literally hundreds of short stories and novellas, and more than thirty-five novels, from The Doll Who Ate His Mother, The Face That Must Die and The Hungry Moon, to more recent titles such as Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach, The Searching Dead and Born to the Dark. Campbell has also novelised such movies as Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula's Daughter, The Wolf Man and Solomon Kane, and PS Publishing recently issued Ramsey Campbell's Limericks of the Alarming and Phantasmal, which was illustrated by Pete Von Sholly and covered the entire history of horror fiction.
For this exclusive event, Ramsey Campbell will discuss his life, his career and his ideology with his friend and colleague, award-winning editor and writer STEPHEN JONES, as well as giving advice to would-be writers on the current state of horror publishing. The evening will end with a Q&A session with the audience. This is an opportunity no horror fan can afford to miss - an informal discussion with one of the giants of the genre, with more than half-a-century of writing experience to draw upon, about the state of modern fiction and film. Don't miss it!
About the Instructor:
Ramsey Campbell lives on Merseyside with his wife Jenny. His pleasures include classical music, good food and wine, and whatever's in that pipe. His web site is at www.ramseycampbell.com. Stephen Jones lives in London. One of Britain's most acclaimed horror and dark fantasy writers and editors, he has more than 145 books to his credit. You can visit his web site at www.stephenjoneseditor.com.
March 15: THE LEGACY OF RICHARD MATHESON'S 'I AM LEGEND'
Instructor: Stacey Abbott
Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend (1954) is a recognized classic of science fiction and horror. It has been adapted many times in films such as The Last Man on Earth (1964), The Omega Man (1971), and I Am Legend (2007). In 1958, Matheson wrote a script adapting the novel for Hammer Studios, but it was never filmed. The script was rejected by both the MPAA and the BBFC. In 1968, George Romero directed Night of the Living Dead, a film he admitted was inspired by Matheson's novel, and this was the film that Matheson felt was most faithful to the themes of his book.
Through an analysis of a selection of official and unofficial adaptations of the novel, including Matheson's own script, this lecture by Stacey Abbott considers how this text marks a key transformative moment within the evolution of the horror genre on film. It will consider how the novel reimagined the vampire film through the lens of science fiction and how Matheson's adaptation for Hammer offered a new, more brutal and modern approach to horror than the studio's Gothic adaptation of The Cure of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958). Abbott will discuss how the script confounded the censors in its approach to horror, signaling a cultural resistance to the modernization of the genre and a growing tension between filmmakers and arbiters of cinematic taste. Finally, in this lecture Abbott will demonstrate not only how I Am Legend influenced Romero's work, representing a key bridge between classic and new horror, but also continues to influence twenty-first century filmmakers, particularly in the development of vampire and zombie genres.
About the Instructor:
Stacey Abbott is Reader in Film and Television Studies at the University of Roehampton. She is the author of Celluloid Vampires (2007), Undead Apocalypse: Vampires and Zombies in the 21st Century (2016), and co-author, with Lorna Jowett, of TV Horror: The Dark Side of the Small Screen (2012).
April 19: A RESTORATION OF 'NOSFERATU' (1922)
Instructor: Mark Rance
This show-and-tell lecture will illustrate many of the issues encountered and (with varying degrees of success) resolved in a digital restoration of Murnau's NOSFERATU. We will begin with a description of the original production and the technology used to make the film. The film's own troubled history complicated the film's physical reconstruction, and that impacted the digital restoration. The reconstructed master print was made from many disparate elements, as a single negative was simply not available. We will examine many scenes and shots in a side-by-side comparison of the unrestored reconstructed print and the digitally restored version of the same material. As we do, this talk will investigate many of the problems faced by any restoration team when not all the original elements are available. We will examine the use of VFX tools, grain management, tinting processes and photo-chemical to digital translation issues when restoring motion pictures.
This talk will primarily explore the complex and subjective issues currently floating around in many analog-versus-digital discussions of film and how those opinions can influence the determination of what the restored version should look like if the goal is to replicate the original projected image at the time of first release. Can digital restorations generate valid preservation copies of photo-chemical materials? Let's find out.
About the Instructor:
Mark Rance is a documentary filmmaker who for many years was a producer at The Criterion Collection before forming his own company in Los Angeles and producing DVDs and Blu-rays for the Hollywood studios. His titles include THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, HARD EIGHT (aka SYDNEY), BOOGIE NIGHTS, MAGNOLIA, SEVEN, I, ROBOT, THE PRESTIGE, RESERVOIR DOGS and THE DARK KNIGHT. He moved to London in 2004 and established Watchmaker Films to restore and distribute lost independent films. Those restorations include Eagle Pennell's THE WHOLE SHOOTIN' MATCH and LAST NIGHT AT THE ALAMO; Tobe Hooper's first feature, EGGSHELLS; and Jack Hazan's A BIGGER SPLASH.
May 17: NO SENSE MAKES SENSE: GURUS, CULTS, MURDER AND MOVIES
Instructor: Ian Cooper
There had been mass murderers before, and there have been since, but Manson is an enduring symbol of unfathomable evil. He transformed seemingly peaceful hippies - sons and daughters of the middle class - into heartless killers. Then he set them loose in Los Angeles's most privileged neighborhoods - LA Weekly (2009)
You honestly have to wonder - what would low-rent exploitation producers have done in the early 70s without Charles Manson? - Trash Film Guru (2013)
This class will examine the rise of alternative religious movements/cults in California in the 1960s and 70s which spawned an ongoing sub-genre of the horror film. The focus will be on the Manson Family, not only the most notorious of these groups but also the one with the greatest cultural impact. This is due to a number of factors including the nightmarish, random violence, the involvement of a number of high-profile artists and celebrities, from Roman Polanski and Dennis Wilson through to Dennis Hopper and Angela Lansbury and the dark glamor of Manson himself, quotable, photogenic and always willing to play up for the cameras.
The Family story has been reworked in a dizzying variety of contexts, from true crime mini-series (Helter Skelter ) to Claymation satire (Like Freaky, Die Freaky ) and even as hardcore porn (Manson XXX ) while Charlie himself has been variously cast as revolutionary, white supremacist, Satanist and vampire. The Manson story contains a number of highly-exploitable elements, from sexual and chemical excess through to horrific and inexplicable violence and it can also be slanted in a variety of ways, a warning against false prophets, an indictment of the counter-culture, a slice of anti-drug propaganda or simply gruesome spectacle.
As well as a focus on the first wave of Mansonsploitation, low-budget independents such as The Other Side of Madness (1971) and Sweet Savior (1971), there will be a consideration of the Family references in an eclectic collection of films including the work of John Waters (Multiple Maniacs  and Russ Meyer (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls ), the British period gothic tradition (Blood on Satan's Claw ), no-budget labours of love such as Manson Family Movies (1984) and Jim Van Bebber's The Manson Family (2003). This will lead on to an examination of other cults including The People's Temple and the mass suicide at Jonestown, an event reworked as glossy TV mini-series (Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones ), low-budget exploitation (Guyana: Crime of the Century ) and found-footage horror (The Sacrament ).
There will also be a consideration of the renewed fascination with cults in the 21st century. The events of 9/11, like the Tate/LaBianca murders served as a reminder that terrifying violence can strike without warning and internet-inspired 'lone wolf' terror attacks have ensured that fears of brainwashing and mind control are again part of the zeitgeist. This fascination is reflected in films such as The Strangers (2008) and The Invitation (2015) and TV shows such as Aquarius (2015 - 16) and American Horror Story: Cult (2017).
About the Instructor:
Ian Cooper is an author and screenwriter. His books include Devil's Advocates: Witchfinder General (Auteur 2011), Cultographies: Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (Wallflower Press 2012) and Frightmares: A History of British Horror (2016). He has also written for edited collections on subjects including early 70s vampire films and the cult appeal of Klaus Kinski. His books, Devil's Advocates: Frenzy (Auteur) and Family Values: The Manson Family on Film and TV (McFarland) will be published in 2018. He also has a number of screenplays in various stages of development in the UK and US. He lives in Germany.