Prof. M. Keith Booker
234 Kimpel Hall, 575-7248
Office Hours: By appointment
On-line textbook supplied free of charge.
Purpose of course:
Horror film explores our deepest personal anxieties and our most profound social fears. As a result, horror film tells us more about ourselves and our society than perhaps any other film genre. This course is designed to provide an historical introduction to the horror film of the sound era, with an emphasis on American horror film. Lectures will cover the entire sound era, from its beginnings with Dracula (1931) to event films such as Us (2019). Films actually viewed in class will focus on more recent films, from Psycho (1960) to Get Out (2017). In the course of this exploration, we will attempt not only to construct narratives of the development of American horror film but to connect those narratives to the larger story of the historical evolution of American society as a whole.
Papers, reports, or other special assignments:
Undergraduate students will be required to write one brief critical essay on horror film, 4-6 pages in length, typed, double-spaced. Graduate students will be required to write one critical essay on horror film, 15–25 typewritten pages in length, typed, double-spaced. This essay will double as a take-home final examination for graduate students. In addition, graduate students will make an in-class presentation on a research project, selected in consultation with the instructor. There will also be a class Facebook page where students may choose to participate in discussions, ask questions, post relevant information, and so on.
All students should check the Group Facebook page daily for announcements and should check this on-line syllabus for periodic updates. There is no specific attendance requirement in this class, but all students will be responsible for being aware of any information or announcements presented in class or on the Facebook page.
There will be a quiz for all students (graduate and undergraduate) at the beginning of each class, except the first and the last. This quiz will cover the material from the previous class, including the relevant material from the on-line textbook. Students may choose to read the textbook section on each film before the film is shown; for those wishing to avoid spoilers, the quizzes on the textbook will be administered in the class after the one in which the film is shown. Only the five highest quiz scores will count toward the final grade for each student. Undergraduate students will have an in-class final examination. The critical essay will serve in lieu of a take-home final examination for graduate students.
Thursday, August 1: Final in-class exam for undergraduate students.
Thursday, August 1: Critical essays due for all students, to be submitted as Word attachments via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each assignment will be graded numerically on a 100-point scale. Letter grades will be determined on the basis of: A = 90-100; B = 80-89.9; C = 70-79.9; D = 60-69.9; F = below 60. Final grades will be determined according to the following schedule:
Quizzes: 5% each, total of 25%
Critical essay: 35%
Final Exam: 40%
Quizzes: 5% each, total of 25%
Graduate Project: 25%
Critical Essay: 50%
Tuesday, July 2
Introduction to the class. Lecture: “Introduction to the Horror Film.” Lecture: “Overview of the Vampire Film.”
Textbook Reading for Next Class: “The Horror Film: A Brief Introduction.” https://bookerhorror.com/the-horror-film-a-brief-introduction/; “Let the Right One In.” https://bookerhorror.com/let-the-right-one-in-2008-director-tomas-alfredson/
Film viewing: Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008, 115 min.)
Thursday, July 4
Independence Day Holiday. No class.
Tuesday, July 9
Continue coverage of the vampire film.
Textbook Reading for Next Class: “The Vampire Film: An Introduction.” https://bookerhorror.com/the-vampire-film-a-critical-introduction/; “Only Lovers Left Alive.” https://bookerhorror.com/only-lovers-left-alive-2013-director-jim-jarmusch/
Film viewing: Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013, 123 min.)
Quiz over material from class of July 2.
Thursday, July 11
Lecture: “Introduction to the Supernatural Horror Film.”
Textbook Reading for Next Class: “The Supernatural Horror Film: An Introduction.” https://bookerhorror.com/the-supernatural-horror-film-an-introduction/; “The Witch.” https://bookerhorror.com/the-witch-2015-director-robert-eggers/
Film viewing: The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015, 92 min.)
Quiz over material from class of July 9.
Tuesday, July 16
Continue coverage of the supernatural horror film.
Textbook Reading for Next Class: “Rosemary’s Baby.” https://bookerhorror.com/rosemarys-baby-1968-director-roman-polanski/
Film viewing: Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968, 136 min.)
Quiz over material from class of July 11.
Thursday, July 18
Continue coverage of the supernatural horror film
Textbook Reading for Next Class: “The Shining.” https://bookerhorror.com/the-shining-1980-director-stanley-kubrick/
Film viewing: The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980, 146 min.)
Quiz over material from class of July 16.
Tuesday, July 23
Continue coverage of the supernatural horror film
Textbook Reading for Next Class: “Hereditary.” https://bookerhorror.com/hereditary-2018-director-ari-aster/
Film viewing: Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018, 127 min.)
Quiz over material from class of July 18.
Thursday, July 25
Lecture: Introduction to the Slasher Film.
Textbook Reading for Next Class: “The Slasher Film: An Introduction” https://bookerhorror.com/the-slasher-film-a-critical-introduction/; “Psycho.” https://bookerhorror.com/psycho-1960-director-alfred-hitchcock/; “Halloween.” https://bookerhorror.com/halloween-1978-director-john-carpenter/
Film viewing: Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960, 109 min.); Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978, 91 min.)
Quiz over material from class of July 23.
Tuesday, July 30
Continue coverage of the slasher film.
Textbook Reading for Next Class: “You’re Next.” https://bookerhorror.com/youre-next-2011-director-adam-wingard/; “Revenge.” https://bookerhorror.com/revenge-2017-director-coralie-fargeat/; “Get Out.” https://bookerhorror.com/get-out-2017-director-jordan-peele/. NOTE: No material from the textbook that is not included in the in-class presentation will be covered on the final examination. Those wishing to avoid spoilers can thus safely skip reading the chapter on Get Out.
Film viewing: You’re Next (Adam Wingard, 2011, 95 min.); Revenge (Coralie Fargeat, 2017, 108 min.)
Quiz over material from class of July 25.
Thursday, August 1
***Formal in-class presentations on research projects for graduate students.
***Final in-class exam for undergraduate students.
***Critical essays due for all students, to be submitted as Word attachments via e-mail to email@example.com.
Film viewing: Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017, 104 min.)
TOPICS FOR GRADUATE STUDENT RESEARCH PROJECTS
- Frankenstein films
- Dracula films
- Science fiction and horror
- Horror comedy
- The films of Larry Cohen
- Zombie films
- Torture horror
- Found footage horror
SAMPLE TOPICS FOR CRITICAL ESSAYS
Below are some suggested topics for your critical essays. You are not, however, limited to these topics. You may write on any topic that is relevant to the course. These sample topics should, however, give you an idea of the kinds of topics that I feel have a good chance of making a successful essay.
1. Choose any two films from our syllabus. Discuss the ways in which these films comment on the American society in which they were produced. (You might want to choose two films that are similar in this respect, or you might want to choose two films that are different in this respect.) Issues to consider might include such things as capitalism, routinization, alienation, individualism, class, race, and so on.
2. Choose any film from our syllabus and explain why you believe it was particularly important in the evolution of the horror film as a genre.
3. Compare and contrast the representation of women in any two films from our syllabus.
4. Choose any two films from our syllabus and discuss the ways in which those films make use of past horror films as a resource for their own construction.
5. Many of the horror films we have seen this semester treat the nuclear family as a locus, or even source, of horror. Discuss what you see as the significance of this phenomenon, supporting your answer with examples of films on the syllabus.
6. Choose any film from our syllabus. Then watch at least two other films in the same category (vampire films, slasher films, supernatural horror films, political horror films) out of class. Describe, based on these three films, what you see as the most important characteristics of films in this category.