This November I will be delivering my first ever keynote address at a conference called "Spectacular Now," which is being held at the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany. In my talk, which is based loosely on my contribution to Snuff: Real Death and Screen Media, I aim to shed light on the subcultural value of real death imagery, from the dawning of the video age to the present day. Find the full abstract below.
The Macabre Video Underground: Historicising the Subcultural Value of Real Death Imagery
In this talk, I will explore the centrality and significance of real death imagery to horror film fan cultures past and present. First, I will demonstrate how a swelling interest in gory horror movies in the 1980s coincided with the emergence of an array of contemporary, direct-to-video, ‘shockumentaries’ that collated sequences of genuine human tragedy and atrocity for the purposes of entertainment. I will then argue that these types of films, and the contexts within which they were consumed, set a template that would later be adopted by so-called ‘shock sites’: websites that specialise in the remediation of filmed sequences of death, such as BestGore and LiveLeak.
Drawing initially on the little-acknowledged Traces of Death (1993-2000) series, its producer Dead Alive Productions, and other comparable films such as Executions (1995) and Faces of Gore (1999), I will show how, at a time when fans went to great lengths to obtain explicit and gory exports of uncensored horror and death films, niche producers sought to align themselves with a new breed of horror film fan (the ‘gorehound’), producing videos that, in various ways, chimed with discourses that surrounded the subcultural practices of contemporaneous fans. I will conclude with a discussion about the legacy of these films in the twenty-first century, and offer analysis of some the shock sites that the likes of Traces of Death have inspired.
Dr Johnny Walker
Senior Lecturer in Media, Northumbria University