Friday 8 October 2021

New Chapter on the Elm Street Series

I have a chapter on the Elm Street series in the new Routledge edited collection Horror Franchise Cinema (ed. Mark McKenna and William Proctor)  - the title is “If Nancy Doesn’t Wake Up Screaming: The Elm Street Series as Recurring Nightmare”. 

Here is the abstract:

Long-running horror series are reputed to yield diminishing returns (both in terms of profit and quality). At first glance, the A Nightmare on Elm Street series appears to fit that established pattern. For instance, lead antagonist Freddy supposedly ‘deteriorates’ from sinister, backlit child molester to comic-book ‘Las Vegas lounge’ stand-up act by the end of the 1980s (Schoell and Spencer 1992, 116). However, interviews from the period indicate that comedy was a central component from the outset of the series; it is not, as has been often suggested, that the series’ horror was diluted by the introduction of humour in later sequels. Such misremembrances are entrenched by the writers’, directors’ and actors’ retrospective reflections on Elm Street, which colour how the series is understood more broadly. 

This chapter will focus on one of the most common misremembrances embedded into Elm Street’s lore; that the series began with hard rules about the relationship between dream and reality, which became looser (to the point of incoherence) as the series progressed. As close textual analysis and examination of archival interviews will demonstrate, the series’ “rules” were never as clearly established as creator Wes Craven intended. Moreover, rather than complaining that the continuing story did not hold together—indeed, Craven dismissed parts 2-6 of the series on these grounds—I argue that the series ought to be taken on its own terms. The individual films may vary in aesthetic and quality for various industrial reasons, but they are nevertheless chapters in a continuing narrative, and ought to be understood as such. Given that the diegesis is based on shared experiences—secrets held by Springwood’s parents, nightmares and abilities shared by the teens—it is reductive to understand the Elm Street films as anything other than an imbricated whole. As such, this chapter will demonstrate that the series’ narrative is best understood as a recurring nightmare. Its logic is dreamlike, being constituted by events, characters and motifs that are echoed across the series. Thus, this chapter contends that to dismiss the Elm Street sequels as a product of diminishing returns is to overlook the series’ narrative richness. More broadly, this chapter makes a case for understanding sequels as valuable parts of a whole, rather than dismissing them as inferior copies of the original. 

If you would like to read it, it is available here

The collection is available here. It features many excellent chapters on horror, including one by my colleague Kate Egan. Northumbria Uni's horror research is being represented in back-to-back chapters in this collection!

Wednesday 25 August 2021

New Publication: Evil Seeds - The Ultimate Movie Guide to Villainous Children

The collection Evil Seeds - The Ultimate Movie Guide to Villainous Children (edited by Vanessa Morgan) is out now

I contributed sections on Plac Zabaw/Playground (2016) and Ils/Them (2006)... 

...although I wrote them before becoming a father (not as a reaction to my daughter's arrival) 😂

Slasher Studies Conference Keynote and Roundtable

I recently had the pleasure of delivering a Keynote talk about my current book project - The Metamodern Slasher Film - at the Slasher Studies Summer Camp conference (on Friday the 13th August, no less!)

Here is a recording of the keynote:

I also participated in a roundtable discussion about Slasher Studies alongside Wickham Clayton, Joan Hawkins and Murray Leeder. Here is a link to that discussion:

My thanks to the organisers - Wickham Clayton and Daniel Sheppard  - for inviting me to contribute to this event

Thursday 10 June 2021

The Metamodern Slasher Film [video]

My talk on the Metamodern Slasher for Kurja Polt Festival is now live:
The paper is based on my forthcoming book about the Metamodern Slasher film

The virtual other talks are available here: 
Dr Shellie Mcmurdo and Dr Laura Mee - "Ghosts in the (VCR) Machine: Video, the Horror Genre, and Dead Media"

Dr Alexia Kannas - "The Dead Can Dance: Cinematic Ghosts of Post-Punk Melbourne"

The final paper will be available tomorrow:
Dr Johnny Walker - "Activist Horror Film: The Genre as Tool for Change"

Monday 17 May 2021

Keynote Talk: The Metamodern Slasher

On Friday 13th august, I'll be delivering a keynote talk (alongside Prof Vera Dika) at the Slasher Studies Summer Camp conference

Here is my abstract:

It is commonly proposed that since the mid-00s, the slasher has predominantly followed a trend for remaking and rebooting established properties. While there certainly have been many remakes of classic slasher properties, a significant body of original slasher films have also been made in the era. This talk will focus on one of the most distinctive trends in the subgenre since the mid-00s: the metamodern slasher film.

​A comparison with the Scream-era postmodern slasher will help to explain what distinguishes the metamodern slasher from its immediate predecessors. Postmodern slasher films tend to be cynical, flippant or even nihilistic in tone. Postmodern slasher films are usually ludic, goading viewers into guessing the killer’s identity but then wrongfooting the audience with restricted or unreliable epistemic access to the narrative events. These films also commonly suggest that subgenre conventions are immutable, and that originality is no longer possible.  
​The metamodern slasher is distinguished from the postmodern slasher in several ways. First, the metamodern sensibility is characterised by its sincere tone. Second, although these films are playful, they react against the postmodern slasher’s duplicity. Instead of foregrounding epistemic restrictions, the value of individual characters’ idiosyncratic, subjective experiences is emphasised. Third, the metamodern slasher is characterised by a desire to innovate within the subgenre, underpinned by the assumption that originality is still possible. This talk will draw on a variety of contemporary examples to demonstrate how the metamodern slasher film operates, and why it constitutes a significant development within the subgenre.

Thursday 28 January 2021

New Chapter Out Now

I have a chapter in the edited collection New Blood: Critical Approaches to Contemporary Horror. My chapter is titled "Hardcore Horror: Challenging the Discourses of Extremity".

This chapter explores the relationship between ‘hardcore’ horror films, and the discursive context in which mainstream horror releases are being dubbed ‘extreme’. This chapter compares ‘mainstream’ and ‘hardcore’ horror with the aim of investigating what ‘extremity’ means. I will begin by outlining what ‘hardcore’ horror is, and how it differs from mainstream horror (both in terms of content and distribution). I will then dissect what ‘extremity’ means in this context, delineating problems with established critical discourses about ‘extreme’ horror. Print press reviewers focus on theatrically released horror films, ignoring microbudget direct-to-video horror. As such, their adjudications about ‘extremity’ in horror begin from a limited base that misrepresents the genre. Moreover, ‘extremity’ is not a universally shared value, yet it is predominantly presented as if referring to an objective, universally agreed-upon standard. Such judgements change over time. Moreover, in contrast to marketers’ uses of ‘extreme’, press critics predominantly use the term as a pejorative. Although academics have sought to defend and contextualise particular maligned films and directors, scholars have focused on a handful of infamous examples. As I will explain, academic publishers implicitly support that narrow focus. As such, the cumulative body of scholarly work on ‘extreme’ horror inadvertently replicates print press critics’ mischaracterisation of the genre. These discursive factors limit our collective understandings of ‘horror’, its ostensible ‘extremity’. and of ‘extremity’ qua concept. Given that the discourse of ‘extremity’ is so commonly employed when censuring representations that challenge established genre conventions, it is imperative that horror studies academics attend to peripheral hardcore horror texts, and seek to develop more robust conceptual understandings of extremity.

The editors - Eddie Falvey, Joe Hickinbottom and Jon Wroot - hosted a book launch event featuring some of the contributors (including me). The video of that event is available here: