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MISKATONIC LONDON UNVEILS FULL JANUARY-JUNE 2015 LINEUP

The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies has revealed the full curriculum for the pilot season of its branch in London, which opens on January 8th, with intensive film classes on a wide range of topics from safety films to cannibals by some of the horror world’s most renowned critical luminaries.

Canadian founder Kier-La Janisse will make a brief UK appearance to launch the season with a lecture on classic classroom safety films and the shocks they deliver. She will be followed in February by Mark Pilkington, who will explore the exotic horrors of cannibal films. In March, Virginie Sélavy will look at 1960s-70s sado-masochistic erotica and the meanings of the various power games represented. The following month, Stephen Thrower will talk about Jesús Franco’s unique style of art, erotic and commercial filmmaking, marking the publication of his new book on the director. In May, Jasper Sharp will investigate the psychological and supernatural significance of landscapes, from Onibaba to Dust Devil. Closing the season, Kim Newman will discuss Gary Sherman’s 1972 Death Line the and the film’s use of cannibalism and political subtext.

Named for the fictional university in H.P. Lovecraft’s literary mythos, The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies is a non-profit, community-based organization that started in Winnipeg and Montreal, Canada, founded by Kier-La Janisse in March of 2010. Miskatonic London operates under the co-direction of Kier-La Janisse and Virginie Sélavy.

All classes take place at the historic Horse Hospital, the heart of the city’s underground culture. Registration for the full season is £50 and available HERE: http://www.wegottickets.com/f/8681 . Individual class tickets are £10 advance / £11 on the door / £8 concessions and will be available 30 days in advance of each class. See below for the full course descriptions.

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SCHOOL OF SHOCK: PAIN AND PLEASURE IN THE CLASSROOM SAFETY FILM
Thursday January 8, 7pm-10pm
Instructor: Kier-La Janisse
http://www.miskatonic-london.com/events/school-of-shock-pain-and-pleasure-in-the-classroom-safety-film-2/

For many genre fans, a love affair with horror and the grotesque began early on, sometimes fueled by unlikely sources. One of these was the classroom safety film, which for many kids was their first time seeing other children threatened by true danger, being confronted with a combination of gore effects and actual accident footage, and being offered a pictorial glimpse at things their parents didn’t want to talk about. Thousands of these films were made in North America from the 1940s through the 1980s, when companies like Centron, McGraw-Hill, Coronet, Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, Avis Films, Crawley Films, Bell Labs, the NFB and others thrived on the burgeoning market for classroom or workplace educational films.

Subjects ranged from safety in and around vehicles, to drug abuse and venereal disease, teaching children scary lessons about everything from dental hygiene to how to spot a pedophile. The most memorable of these films deliberately used horror visuals to entice and/or shock children into paying attention – such as those by prolific producer Sid Davis (1916-2006) – and some were even made by directors with genre film pedigrees, such as Carnival of Souls’ Herk Harvey, a key figure in the industrial film scene.

This lecture and screening by Kier-La Janisse, founder of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, will present some of the most notorious educational films of the 40-year golden age of social hygiene onscreen. We’ll also briefly look at educational television PSAs, from the British Public Information Films through the incredibly grisly Australian drunk driving commercials of the 1990s.

The classic era of classroom films may be over, but viewed from today’s perspective, some of these films offer up a fascinating survey of changing social mores and cultural preoccupations (not to mention fashions!). Being safe has never looked so grim.

WARNING: This program contains graphic imagery, including real accident and casualty footage.

About the instructor:
Kier-La Janisse is a film writer and programmer, the founder of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies and Owner/Editor-in-Chief of Spectacular Optical. She has been a programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas, co-founded Montreal microcinema Blue Sunshine, founded the CineMuerte Horror Film Festival in Vancouver (1999-2005) and was the subject of the documentary Celluloid Horror (2005). She has written for Filmmaker, Shindig!, Incite: Journal of Experimental Media, Rue Morgue and Fangoria magazines, has contributed to The Scarecrow Movie Guide (Sasquatch Books, 2004) and Destroy All Movies!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film (Fantagraphics, 2011), and is the author of A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi (FAB Press, 2007) and House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films (FAB Press, 2012). She co-edited Spectacular Optical Book One: KID POWER! with Paul Corupe, and is currently writing A Song From the Heart Beats the Devil Every Time, about children’s programming in the counterculture era.

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I EAT CANNIBALS: ATAVISM, EXOTICISM AND ATROCITY
Thursday February 12, 7pm-10pm
Instructor: Mark Pilkington
http://www.miskatonic-london.com/events/i-eat-cannibals-atavism-exoticism-and-atrocity/

With a screening of Man from Deep River (Umberto Lenzi, 1972)

The late 1970s and early 1980s saw a proliferation of increasingly gruesome jungle-set horror thrillers emerge from Italy’s teeming pulp cinema studios. A postscript of sorts to the ever-popular, and equally ethically challenged, Mondo cycle, the cannibal genre was prematurely seeded by Man from Deep River, Lenzi’s gut-busting homage to the international hit A Man Called Horse (1970).

Although it would be another five years before the genre really took off (with Ruggero Deodato’s Last Cannibal World in 1977) Man from Deep River contains all the vital ingredients for a cannibal feast – racism and ethnic exploitation, animal abuse, nudity, sex and extreme violence, all presented in the guise of dispassionate ethnographic cinema.

Tonight we screen Lenzi’s rarely seen film followed by a series of classic cannibal film trailers to uncover the genre’s roots in the West’s growing interest in environmentalism, atavistic cultures, lost worlds and the perils of the green inferno. Bring a plate.

About the instructor:
Mark Pilkington is the author of the book and documentary film ‘Mirage Men’ and ‘Far Out: 101 Strange Tales from Science’s Outer Edge’. He has written for The Guardian, The Wire, Sight and Sound, Electric Sheep, Fortean Times, Frieze and The Quietus amongst others. He founded and runs Strange Attractor Press and regularly speaks on esoteric and fringe culture topics. www.strangeattractor.co.uk / www.miragemen.com

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THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES: SADOMASOCHISM IN 60s-70s CINEMA
Thursday March 12, 7pm-10pm
Instructor: Virginie Sélavy
http://www.miskatonic-london.com/events/thebattleofthesexes/

In the 1960s-70s, the relaxation of censorship, together with women’s greater social assertiveness, led to the appearance of a substantial number of art and/or exploitative films that explored male/female relationships through sexual power games. A large sub-section, including Mario Bava’s The Whip and the Body (1963), Luis Buñuel’s Belle de jour (1967), Sergio Martino’s The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh (1971) and Vicente Aranda’s The Blood Spattered Bride delve into what are presented as women’s secret repressed desires and internal conflicts. Aside from his numerous Sade adaptations, Jess Franco also dreamily explored female characters who are both victims and tormentors in Venus in Furs (1969) and Succubus (1968). Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Woman in Chains (1968) and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Eden and After (1970) create hyper-aesthetic worlds of kinky abstract obsession while in Kôji Wakamatsu’s The Embryo Hunts in Secret (1966) and Pete Walker’s House of Whipcord (1974), the violence of amorous relationships takes on social and political connotations. Artist Niki de Saint Phalle made two unusual and fascinating contributions to this theme: not only did she co-direct her own semi-autobiographic perverse family fantasy, Daddy, with Peter Whitehead (1973), but her art also appears in the fascinating Femina Ridens (Piero Schivazappa, 1968), which toys with expectations about dominant and submissive roles. The lecture will examine all these and more ramifications of the period’s unfettered sado-masochistic fantasies.

About the instructor:
Virginie Sélavy is the founder and editor of Electric Sheep, the online magazine for transgressive cinema. She has edited the collection of essays The End: An Electric Sheep Anthology, and has contributed to World Directory Cinema: Eastern Europe and written about Victorian London in Film Locations: Cities of the Imagination – London. Her work has appeared in various publications, including Sight&Sound, Rolling Stone France, Cineaste and Frieze.

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JESÚS FRANCO: SHOOTING AT THE SPEED OF LIFE
Thursday April 9, 7-10pm
Instructor: Stephen Thrower
http://www.miskatonic-london.com/events/jesus-franco-shooting-at-the-speed-of-life/

During a career spanning more than fifty years, Jesús (‘Jess’) Franco created a strange and unique style of commercial genre filmmaking, bordering at times on the avant-garde. Obsessed with ‘aberrant’ sex, erotic horror and the writings of the Marquis De Sade, he took a resolutely personal approach to movie-making, and after spending the 1960s honing his technique on slightly more conventional projects he embarked in the 1970s on a sustained period of intensive shooting, making as many as ten or twelve films in one year. Shooting with a small crew, exclusively on location, he worked at a speed that allowed little time for the honing of a perfect finished product, instead creating a cinema of spontaneity, improvisation and caprice. Franco valued freedom above all: by combining a rapid-fire series of small-scale commercial film projects, a ‘creative’ approach to finance, and a dedicated passion for the sensational, he was able to carve his own niche and digress into the most extraordinary experimental ellipses. In this evening’s discussion, Stephen Thrower will explore Franco’s ability to juggle the commercial and personal dimensions of filmmaking through his confrontational works of horror, sadism and erotic spectacle.

About the instructor:

Stephen Thrower, writer and musician, was born in Lancashire in 1963. After moving to London in 1985 he began writing reviews for the seminal horror magazine Shock Xpress, before launching his own film periodical Eyeball in 1989 with contributors including novelist Ramsey Campbell, filmmaker Ron Peck, and critics Kim Newman, Daniel Bird and Alan Jones. His first book, Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci, was published in 1999, followed by The Eyeball Compendium (2003) and Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents (2007). His most recent work is Murderous Passions; the delirious cinema of Jesús Franco, published by Strange Attractor in March 2015.

Thrower and his partner Ossian Brown are founders of the avant-garde music group Cyclobe, who recently recorded new soundtracks for three Super-8 films by the British filmmaker and queer activist Derek Jarman (Sulphur, Tarot and Garden of Luxor). As a solo artist, Thrower scored Pakistan’s first gore film, Zibahkhana aka Hell’s Ground (2007), contributed electronic music to Down Terrace (2010) by Ben Wheatley, and was commissioned by the BFI in 2012 to score three silent short films by the pioneering director of gay erotica Peter De Rome.

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ENGULFED BY NATURE: PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SUPERNATURAL LANDSCAPES
Thursday May 14, 7pm-10pm
Instructor: Jasper Sharp
http://www.miskatonic-london.com/events/engulfed-by-nature-psychological-and-supernatural-landscapes/

‘There is magic all around us’, Udo Kier famously states at a key point in Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977), a sentiment reiterated by one of the characters in Richard Stanley’s Dust Devil (1992), which sees its protagonists drawn out of their mundane suburban environment in small-town South Africa into the heart of the Namib desert to be confronted by their darkest demons.

Stanley’s film in particular presents a sublime example of how landscape and elemental conditions can be evoked to express dangerous forces existing beyond man’s perceptual and belief systems, but also, in contrast, how heightened psychological states can be given visual form through use of such timeless spaces, taking the viewer out of their comfort zones and back into nature at its most wild, mysterious and untamed.

In an ever-urbanising world, the textures, rhythms and sounds of nature can be made to seem increasingly alien and alienating on film, making us realize we are but a small part of a wider world beyond our control. Works ranging from Kaneto Shindo’s Onibaba (1964) through José Larraz’s Symptoms (1974) and Jerzy Skolimowski’s The Shout (1978) reframe our perceptions, interrogating the boundaries between the physiological and the supernatural, as interior worlds collapse beneath the weight of exterior ones.

This lecture and screening by Jasper Sharp will look at how such mysterious invisible forces of nature are given vent in a number of films depicting the rupture between these rational and irrational domains. It will explore how pantheistic belief systems that hold that spirits reside in everything, such as Japan’s Shinto religion, overlap with a British folk tradition of supernatural writers such as Arthur Machen and William Hope Hodgson, and how foreign directors often have a keener, more nuanced eye for the expressive potential of the English landscape to portray characters off-kilter with their environment.

About the instructor:

Jasper Sharp is a writer, curator and filmmaker. He is the co-founder of Midnight Eye.com, since 2001 the premier online resource in the English-language about Japanese cinema. His book publications include The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film (Stone Bridge, 2003), joint-written with Tom Mes, Behind the Pink Curtain (FAB Press, 2008) and The Historical Dictionary of Japanese Film (Scarecrow 2011). His writing has appeared in publications all over the world, including Sight & Sound, The Guardian, Variety, The Japan Times, Kateigaho and Film International, and he has contributed liner essays, commentaries and interviews to numerous DVD releases. He has curated high profile seasons and retrospectives with organisations including the British Film Institute, Deutches Filmmuseum, Austin Fantastic Fest, Cinematheque Quebecois and Thessaloniki International Film Festival. Between 2010-14, he was the director of Zipangu Fest, established to showcase Japanese independent film in the United Kingdom, and is currently the programme director of Asia House Pan-Asian Film Festival. He is the co-director, with Tim Grabham, of The Creeping Garden (2014), a documentary about slime moulds and the people who study and work with them, which won the Best Documentary Filmmakers Award at Fantastic Fest in Austin. A book of the film, The Creeping Garden: Irrational Encounters with Plasmodial Slime Moulds, is due for publication by Alchimia in the Spring of 2015.

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LONDON UNDERGROUND: DEATH LINE
Thursday 11 June, 7-10pm
Instructor: Kim Newman
http://www.miskatonic-london.com/events/london-underground-death-line/

Kim Newman screen and talk about Gary Sherman’s 1972 British horror film, Death Line (aka Raw Meat), one of the first British horror films to compete with the wave of stronger, more politicised American splatter movies that came in the wake of Night of the Living Dead.

A series of disappearances on the London Underground Railway are traced back to the inbred, cannibal descendants of navvies trapped by a cave-in during the building of the tunnels. A human monster (Hugh Armstrong) who looks like a scabrous tramp haunts the Piccadilly Line, picking off and eating the odd commuter, trying to keep alive his diseased wife. Tea‑drinking copper Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasence) is called into the case with his sidekick sergeant (Norman Rossington) when the latest victim (James Cossins) turns out to be a high-ranking civil servant fresh from a neon-lit sleaze spree in Soho, and has to cut through bureaucratic red tape (represented by Christopher Lee in a bowler hat). Meanwhile, down in the tunnels, the last of the monsters lives out his pathetic, horrid leftover life, expressing himself through the only words he knows, ‘mind the doors’. It includes a wonderful, apparently improvised drunk scene from Pleasence and a breathtaking 360º pan around the cannibals’ dripping, dank, corpse-strewn underground lair.

Less makeshift than a lot of its rivals from the 1970s, it has solid, witty dialogue, a memorably funky music score and the sort of urban legend premise that people will swear is based on truth rather than new-minted for the movie. American writer-director Gary Sherman also made the cloying New Seekers ‘I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke’ ads, and used his share of the fee from that to finance this gutsy, gritty debut. The discussion will highlight the film’s political subtext, transgressive use of cannibalism as metaphor and for shock value, black humour, performance styles, relationship with American and other British films on similar subjects (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Frightmare) and exploration of London lore and locations. The Horse Hospital is just round the corner from Great Russell Street Station, so attendees who come by tube will pass through the film’s main setting before and after the class.

About the instructor:

Kim Newman is a novelist, critic and broadcaster. His fiction includes The Night Mayor, Bad Dreams, Jago, the Anno Dracula novels and stories, The Quorum, The Original Dr Shade and Other Stories, Life’s Lottery, Back in the USSA (with Eugene Byrne), The Man From the Diogenes Club, Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the d’Urbervilles and An English Ghost Story under his own name and The Vampire Genevieve and Orgy of the Blood Parasites as Jack Yeovil. His non-fiction books include Nightmare Movies, Ghastly Beyond Belief (with Neil Gaiman), Horror: 100 Best Books (with Stephen Jones), Wild West Movies, The BFI Companion to Horror, Millennium Movies and BFI Classics studies of Cat People, Doctor Who and Quatermass and the Pit. He is a contributing editor to Sight & Sound and Empire magazines (writing Empire’s popular Video Dungeon column), has written and broadcast widely, and scripted radio and television documentaries. His stories ‘Week Woman’ and ‘Ubermensch’ have been adapted into an episode of the TV series The Hunger and an Australian short film; he has directed and written a tiny film Missing Girl; he co-wrote the West End play The Hallowe’en Sessions. Following his Radio 4 play ‘Cry Babies’, he wrote episodes for Radio 7’s series The Man in Black (‘Phish Phood’) and Glass Eye Pix’ Tales From Beyond the Pale (‘Sarah Minds the Dog’). He scripted (with Maura McHugh) the comic book miniseries Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland (Dark Horse), illustrated by Tyler Crook; it’s a spinoff from Mike Mignola’s Hellboy series. His official web-site is at www.johnnyalucard.com. His forthcoming fiction includes the novels The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange and Angels of Music . He is on Twitter as @AnnoDracula.

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