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Celina Siegel, she/her/hers

csiegel@oberlin.edu
617 775 7591
[availability]

hello and welcome to

HORROR EXCO

EXCO 427, 1 credit


Thursday, 7:15-10:30pm
King 106?
Objectives: Understanding horror is crucial to understanding cultural history around sexuality,
violence, and humor. Though it is often dismissed as gratuitous and unimportant, in reality the
genre has produced a number of films that are both socially and politically relevant. D
awn of the
Dead is a commentary about American consumerism.

C
arrie represented mens discomfort with
womens increasing power in society in the 1970s.

The Exorcist began as a book targeted


toward those who had lost their faith. Studying horror gives students new insights into both
American and international society in the 20th and 21st centuries.
This course is intended to 1) expose horror newcomers to a wide variety of horror films and
subgenres, and 2) to challenge both newcomers and more longtime horror fans to define horror
for themselves and to ask questions about its cultural significance in America and beyond.
Students will question the long-standing link between horror and female sexuality, explore
distinctly international horror subgenres such as g
iallo and J-horror, and study the technique
behind recent horror short films, among other things. In doing so, they will develop a broad
horror vocabulary centered around eight different subgenres. Finally, students will have the
opportunity to complete multimedia midterm and final projects, using video essays, podcasts,
and horror short films to demonstrate what they have learned.
Dynamic: The best film courses Ive ever taken have been ones in which students voices have
guided the discussion just as much as, if not more than, those of their teachers. My role will
primarily be to guide discussion with questions posed to the class about the films; my goal for
students is to be able to create a space where you can enter into challenging discussion with
one another. This course will function best if everyone is engaged and willing to participate.
Horror movies are fun! Talking about them should be, too.
Requirements: Passing this course involves meeting three requirements: regular attendance,
completion of the midterm, and completion of the final. Missing more than t wo classes or failing
to complete the midterm or final will result in a failure of the course. Additionally, you m
ust

complete the reading and viewing assignments each week. This class relies on your knowledge
as much as mine -- if you are not prepared each week, it takes away from your ability to engage
in class discussion.
Content: Horror can be an extremely sensitive genre, often containing unusually high levels of
violence, gore, and abuse. Overall, students should be aware that the films we watch will
include depictions of physical violence, sexual violence, graphic gore, and cannibalism, among
other things. Each week, I will send out an email with specific content warnings for the viewing
assignments. Students are free to leave our group screenings at any time, no questions asked.
They are also free to approach me to find a substitute to a film they are uncomfortable watching.
Horror can be extremely difficult to experience; I am always available to decompress or to help
process a certain film.
That being said: attendance is a key part of your grade, and if you think you will need to miss
class regularly because of the screenings, this may not be the course for you. Feel free to
approach me with any questions or concerns you have before enrolling.
Format: We will be watching two films a week: one together in class, and one outside of class.
Each class, we will spend 45 minutes discussing the two films from the week before; then, we
will watch the first film for the following week (for example: during cabin week, we would hold a
discussion about
the haunted house movies in class, then watch Evil Dead, then watch Cabin in
the Woods at home, and then discuss those two films the following week before watching
Rosemarys Baby in class). Note: the at-home viewing is NOT optional.
Watching: Most of these movies are available either through Mudd or through the Oberlin
Public Library. Those that Ive double-asterisked are not; before assigning that particular film, Ill
send out information about how to find it online.
Further reading note: A lot of my horror history knowledge comes from the book S
hock Value,
by Jason Zinoman. If you want to delve deeper into horror history, especially the period from the
1970s-80s (the debuts of Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, Steven Spielberg, Brian De Palma, John
Carpenter, and many others), I highly recommend checking it out of Mudd. Not required, just
~super cool~

Week-by-week syllabus:
NOTE: dates currently Monday of each week; will change
Feb 6 - What is horror?
Screening: please have seen one of these by the first class!
Pick one -- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Hooper, 1974), F
unny Games (Haneke, 1997), T
he
Devils Backbone (Del Toro, 2001), Carrie (De Palma, 1976)

Reading: FilmmakerIQ.coms A Brief History of Horror. A basic overview of the history of the
genre -- please have read this by the first class (although feel free to skim up to Psychology,
Sex, and Gore -- that is the beginning of the period well be focusing on).

QUESTIONS:
- How do you define horror?
- What sets horror apart from genres it often overlaps with? (psychological thriller,
suspense, sci-fi...)
- What is a film that you think is not often categorized as horror but should be? One that is
categorized as horror but shouldnt be?
Feb 13 - Sex & death I
In class: Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960)
At home: Halloween (Carpenter, 1978)
Reading: The Andrew Teaches article Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film by Carol
J. Clover (Clovers actual essay is also available online -- this is just an abridged, somewhat
more accessible summary of it)
Bonus: Scream, The Final Girls Also, strongly suggested you see C
abin in the Woods before
class.
QUESTIONS:
- Why is horror so regularly linked to (female) sexuality?
- Discuss final girl tropes
- Are men in horror ever punished for their sexuality? How does it compare to how women
are punished?
- Why is the final girl trope about a final GIRL and not a final GUY?
- Are there examples of final guys instead of final girls? C
an there be?
Feb 20 - Sex & death II
In class: It Follows (Mitchell, 2014)
At home: Teeth (Lichtenstein, 2007)**
Reading: Offscreens The Final Girl: A Few Thoughts on Feminism and Horror
QUESTIONS:
- Does it follows condemn or advocate for female sexuality? What about male sexuality?
- Has horror cinemas treatment of female sexuality evolved since Psycho? Since
Halloween?
- How might the message about female sexuality change based on the gender of the
killer?
- What does it say that the It Follows demon can assume any gender? Is that
character inherently gendered?

Feb 27 - Zombies
In class: Dawn of the Dead (Romero, 1978)
At home: Dawn of the Dead (Snyder, 2004)
Reading: Daniel Lehmans Dawn of the Dead: Then and Now
Bonus: Night of the Living Dead, Zombieland, 28 Days Later, Train to Busan
QUESTIONS
- What elements of the original D
awn of the Dead did the Zack Snyder film change? What
did it retain?
- The Romero version of this film has a very strong anti-consumer message. How does
Snyders version respond to this?
- What other things have you seen zombies used as a metaphor for? Does Romero seem
to gravitate toward particular metaphors? Are there any that seem more effective than
others?
- Zombie cinema has often been linked to the political climate of the day. How do you
think it will evolve over the next four years?
March 6 - Haunted houses
In class: The Conjuring (Wan, 2013)
At home: The Shining (Kubrick, 1980)
Reading: Bitch Medias The Feminist Power of Female Ghosts
Bonus: The Others, Sinister, The Babadook, Poltergeist, Hausu
QUESTIONS
- What sets the shining apart from other haunted house films? Does this really fit in with
the rest of the subgenre? Is there a subgenre it fits into more accurately?
- Talk about accusations that the Conjuring carries a right-wing anti-woman message.
Find evidence from the film to support this. Find evidence to refute it.
- All of the films this week are haunted house films, but a lot of them are extremely
different from each other. What elements tie are common to all haunted house horror?
March 13 - Satanic horror
Midterm project due!!
In class: Rosemarys Baby (Polanski, 1968)
At home: The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973)
Reading: Ms. Magazines What the Ever-Popular Exorcist Says About Female Sexuality
Bonus: Devil, The Witch, The Omen (1976)
QUESTIONS
- Religion is on the decline! What keeps satanic horror popular? Do you think it will
continue to be?
- How has satanic horror evolved since 1968?
- [develop later] Talk about R
osemarys Baby, feminism, and womens reproductive rights

Talk about The Witch being endorsed by the Satanic Temple

March 20 (spring break)


March 27 - Giallo
In class: Blood and Black Lace (Bava, 1964)
At home: Suspiria (Argento, 1977)
Reading: Senses of Cinemas No Place Like Home: The Late-Modern World of the Italian giallo
Film
Bonus: Deep Red, The Neon Demon (2016), anything off of any of the hundreds of top 10 lists
online
QUESTIONS
- Is giallo inherently sexist?
- What influences do you see giallo having had on American horror (or non-horror)? How
have those influences changed with more recent cinema?
April 3 - J-horror
In class: Ringu (Nakata, 1998)
At home: Ju-on (Shimizu, 2002)
Reading: Sarah Berlingieris J-Horror film analysis
Bonus: The Ring, The Grudge
QUESTIONS
- The Asian female ghost is an inherently feminist figure whose very presence is a
symbol of how deeply men fear female power. what can we pull from the two films
weve seen to corroborate this claim? Is there material in these films that contradicts it?
- What role does modern technology play in J-horror?
- Why do you think the U.S. so regularly remakes J-horror films?
- Are J-horror films still being made? C
an they be?
April 10 - Cabin fever
In class: The Evil Dead (Raimi, 1981)**
At home: Cabin in the Woods (Goddard, 2012)
Reading: Overthinking Its How to Read Evil Dead and Why
Bonus: The Evil Dead II, The Last House on the Left
-

QUESTIONS
Is Evil Dead a comedy? (is it a comedy on purpose?)
Lets talk about the tree scene. :/
Cabin in the Woods is a film thats very aware of its history. How does it follow certain
tropes? How does it reject certain tropes?

Shana Mlawski describes some of the gore in Evil Dead as so disgusting the only
correct reaction is laughter. Talk about how this ties into both E
D and Cabin. WHY is
this the case? How do we know this is the case? Where is the line between horrifying
and funny?

April 17 - Found footage


In class: The Blair Witch Project (Snchez/Myrick, 1999)
At home: Paranormal Activity (Peli, 2007)
Reading: The Dissolves 15 years beyond the hype and hatred of The Blair Witch Project
Bonus: Creep, MacGuffins Pulling Focus -- Found Footage Films and Marketing
QUESTIONS
- Is Blair Witch scary? Is it a horror film? (what else might it be?)
- What sets found footage apart from other subgenres? What makes it an effective
medium for horror narrative?
- Would it be an effective medium for any other genres of film?
- What makes it more or less effective?
- Is found footage a dying genre? Could it exist without the internet?
- Think back to J-Horror, talk about the (evolution of the) relationship between technology
and modern horror
April 24 - Horror shorts
In class: horror shorts list still being compiled (will include 2013 short film L
ights Out)
At home: Lights Out (Sandberg, 2016)
Bonus: May send out additional shorts
QUESTIONS
- What are common strategies these directors seem to be using? (camera technique,
sound design, lighting, plot devices, etc.)
- Which of these films worked? Which didnt? Which techniques worked? Which didnt?
- How effective was the adaptation of L
ights Out? Do horror shorts lend themselves well to
feature-length adaptations, or do they function better as they are?
May 1 - Projects, student choice
Final project due!!
Films TBD, projects screened in-class (optional)