I will be giving a paper at the forthcoming Spaghetti Cinema conference at the University of Bedfordshire, 9-10 May 2014. This is the second annual conference, organised by Dr Austin Fisher. My review of the first event appeared in the Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies 1.3.
My talk will focus on the contemporary legacy of classic Italian horror, as well as recent Italian productions.
Between "Italianate" and "Italian" horror cinema
In English-speaking culture, the “legacy” of Italian cinema, until very recently, was dominated by studies on neo-realism and its afterlife. In histories of Italian cinema written in English, “popular” genres such as horror were not considered at all. Throughout the 1990s, horror film production, and the work of some of the country's most prolific genre directors—Argento, Fulci, Lenzi et al—were maligned in the UK and America to the most peripheral of cults. Many Italian “horror” filmmakers were caught up amid the British video nasties panic and, as a result, became valued by collectors and cultists as opposed to legitimate film culture. Because of this, the legacies of one of Italy’s most popular directors, Dario Argento, was about as far removed from the critical “mainstream” as one could get.
Yet, following somewhat of a critical reappraisal of Italian popular cinema, and the emergence of cine-literate filmmakers from Europe and the USA in the 2000s, the legacy of Italian horror cinema has become valorised in recent critically-acclaimed films that seek to nostalgically pastiche the Golden Age of Italian horror/exploitation cinema. As a result, “old school” Italian horror has maintained a currency in the contemporary mindset in films such as Amer and The Strange Colour of My Body's Tears, that recent Italian horror productions have not. What might be considered the most “Italianate” of horror films have not come from Italy at all. This paper questions the implications of this as we look to the future of Italian horror, and examines how certain Italian horror filmmakers have sought to challenge dominant paradigms of Italian horror's history.
Of course there is not one fixed way of getting a lecturing job in academia. Nevertheless, I have been invited back to De Montfort University (where I did my PhD and lectured for a term) to take part in a Q&A to offer advice to prospective PhDs and early career researchers. Dr Jim Russell (Principal Lecturer in Film Studies) will ask the questions, and moderate a discussion afterwards.
The Q&A takes place from 11 am in the Clephan Buildingc and is open to all.
My poster design being used to promote 'Cult Cinema and Technological Change' Conference @ AberystwYth
From time to time I have dabbled in design. For instance, the cover of the recent collection Cinema, Television and History was one of mine, and I have also designed posters for conferences such as Bloodlines: British Horror Past and Present (De Montfort, March 2010), Hammer Has Risen From the Grave (Phoenix Square, June 2012), and Screening Atrocity: Cinema, Decolonisation and the Holocaust (Newcastle University, January 2013).
My latest effort (above) is being used to advertise the AHRC-funded Cult Cinema and Technological Change conference which is happening at Aberystwyth University in April this year. The design was inspired by my love for and research interests in video technology. I'd be keen to hear any comments!
On Monday 17th February I will be giving a talk as part of the University of Sunderland's Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies research seminar series. The talk, entitled "Long time dead?: The British film industry and the horror genre in the early 2000s", will take place at 17.30 in the David Puttnam Media Centre, Room 233. Thank you to Professor John Storey for the kind invitation!
David Pirie famously argued that horror cinema relates to Britain in the same way that the western genre relates to America, and that, as a result of this, the classic British horror films produced by Hammer and its rivals in the 1950s to 1970s were “in no way imitative of American or European models” (Pirie 2008: xv). However, in the 2000s, film producers were skeptical of making British films that were overtly culturally specific, as it was presumed that films might be too parochial to sell to a global audience. The first British horror films that appeared in the twenty-first century were therefore explicitly indebted to “models” of filmmaking that were proving to be popular with overseas theatrical audiences, and, as such, they were cultivated with the broadest markets possible in mind. This talk will consider the industrial factors that led to the “British horror revival” in the first few years of the 2000s, and reflect on specific film cycles and key themes.
Dr Johnny Walker
Senior Lecturer in Media, Northumbria University