July 22: Our last class is now less than a week away. Don’t forget that your critical essays are due next Wednesday, July 28. They should be sent to me by e-mail in the form of a Word-compatible attachment. No pdfs, please. And don’t forget that the final exam for the class will go live on Blackboard on July 28 at 4:00 pm. Once you begin the exam, you will have 30 minutes to complete the exam. The exam will remain live until 5:00 pm. in case some people get started late.
Prof. M. Keith Booker
On-line textbook, supplied free of charge, linked to the appropriate parts of the schedule below.
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 in the 1930s to the recent rise of “prestige” horror. 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.
Course Resources for Remote Delivery
Online video lectures: Brief introductions to individual films, available on YouTube, linked to the schedule below. I’ve tried to avoid spoilers in the lectures. These will also be useful to review before the final exam.
Online textbook: Linked to the schedule below.
Facebook Group for Class Discussions: Click here to find and join the group.
Individual films: Available for inexpensive rental on Amazon Prime Video, as well as other platforms. Make sure you get the right version (check the year of release), as some of these have been remade one or more times.
Papers, reports, or other special assignments:
All students will be required to write one brief critical essay on horror film, 3-5 pages in length, typed, double-spaced. There will also be a class Facebook page where students may participate in discussions, ask questions, post relevant information, and so on.
All students should check this syllabus and the Group Facebook page daily for announcements and updates. All students will be responsible for being aware of any information or announcements presented on the Facebook page or in this syllabus.
Note on participation in discussions on Facebook: All comments on films scheduled for a Monday may be posted at any time during the following Tuesday and Wednesday. All comments on films scheduled for a Wednesday may be posted at any time during the following Thursday and Friday. This will help to avoid spoilers but will also enable you to participate fully without being on-line at any particular time. I will be on-line at 4:00 pm on each Monday and Wednesday for students who wish to ask questions directly. Posted comments will be awarded 1-2 points each. The total possible is 10, so those making substantial posts (likely to receive 2 points) need only post on 5 films to get maximum possible credit. There will be no extra credit beyond the 10 points, though students are welcome to post as much as they want.
In general, it will be best to view the instructor’s introductory lecture on each film, then view the film, then read the online write-up for that film. It might also be helpful to view the film again after reading the write-up, though the second viewing is optional. Students will have some flexibility, as they will be viewing films on their own time. However, class discussions on the Facebook page will be conducted on the assumption that films will have been viewed by the date on the schedule below. To avoid spoilers, please view the films by the dates listed below.
All students will have an in-class final examination, delivered via Blackboard on Wednesday, July 28.
Wednesday, July 28: Critical essays due for all students, to be submitted as Word attachments via e-mail to email@example.com.
Wednesday, July 28: Final exam (on Blackboard) for all students.
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:
Discussion Participation (Facebook): 10%
Critical essay: 50%
Final Exam: 40%
Monday, June 28
The Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935, 75 min.)
1. Watch the Lecture: “Brief Historical Survey of the Horror Film.”
2. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “The Horror Film: A Brief Introduction.”
3. Watch the Lecture: “The Bride of Frankenstein.”
4. VIEW THE FILM
5. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein.”
Wednesday, June 30
The Supernatural Horror Film
Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968, 136 min.)
1. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “The Supernatural Horror Film: An Introduction.”
2. Watch the Lecture: Rosemary’s Baby
3. VIEW THE FILM
4. Read the Online Textbook Segment: Rosemary’s Baby.
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980, 146 min.)
1. Watch the Lecture: The Shining.
2. VIEW THE FILM
3. Read the Online Textbook Segment: The Shining.
Monday, July 5
No class: Independence Day Holiday.
Wednesday, July 7
The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015, 92 min.)
The Love Witch (Anna Biller, 2016, 120 min.)
1. Watch the Lecture: The Witch
2. VIEW The Witch. Available on Kanopy.
3. Watch the Lecture: The Love Witch
4. VIEW The Love Witch
5. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “The Witch and The Love Witch“
The Zombie Film
Monday, July 12
Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968, 96 min.)
- Read the Online Textbook Segment: “Zombie Films: An Introduction”
2. Watch the Lecture: “Night of the Living Dead“
3. VIEW Night of the Living Dead. Available on Kanopy.
4. Read the Online Textbook Segment: Night of the Living Dead.
Wednesday, July 14
As we enter the second half of the semester, now might be a good time to start thinking seriously about your critical essay. You might find this video helpful for that project.
28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002, 113 min.)
1. Watch the Lecture: “28 Days Later“
2. VIEW 28 Days Later.
3. Read the Online Textbook Segment: 28 Days Later.
The Slasher Film
Monday, July 19
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974, 83 min.)
Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978, 91 min.)
1. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “Introduction to the Slasher Film.”
2. Watch the Lecture: “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre”
3. VIEW The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
4. Read the Online Textbook Segment The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
5. Watch the Lecture: “Halloween“
6. VIEW Halloween.
7. Read the Online Textbook Segment: Halloween
The New Prestige Horror
Wednesday, July 21
Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018, 127 min.)
1. Watch the Lecture: “Hereditary.“
2. VIEW Hereditary.
3. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “Hereditary.”
Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2019, 148 min.)
1. Watch the Lecture: “Midsommar.”
2. VIEW Midsommar.
3. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “Midsommar.”
Monday, July 26
Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017, 104 min.)
Us (Jordan Peele, 2019, 116 min.)
1. Watch the Lecture: “Get Out.”
2. VIEW Get Out.
3. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “Get Out.”
4. Watch the Lecture: “Us.”
5. VIEW Us.
6. Read the Online Textbook Segment: “Us.”
Wednesday, July 28
CRITICAL ESSAYS DUE FOR ALL STUDENTS. SUBMIT AS A WORD-COMPATIBLE E-MAIL ATTACHMENT TO YOUR INSTRUCTOR AT M.KEITH.BOOKER@GMAIL.COM. DO NOT SUBMIT VIA BLACKBOARD. DO NOT SUBMIT PDFs.
Final exam, on Blackboard. Will be posted at 4:00 pm and available until 5:00 pm. Once you begin you will have 30 minutes to complete the multiple choice exam.
FINAL EXAMINATION FOR ALL STUDENTS ON BLACKBOARD.
TOPICS FOR GRADUATE STUDENT RESEARCH PROJECTS
Students may write their critical essays on a topic related to this project, though the essay will need to be much more focused on a specific thesis, while the research project is designed to cover a fairly broad field.
- Frankenstein films
- Dracula films
- Vampire films
- Science fiction and horror
- Horror comedy
- The films of Larry Cohen
- Zombie films
- Torture horror
- Found footage horror
- Student-proposed topic (requires prior instructor approval)
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. Also, note that these are topics, not theses. For your essay you need to choose a more specific, focused thesis and then present an argument in favor of that thesis.
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 (zombie films, slasher films, supernatural horror films, prestige horror films) that are not on the syllabus. Describe, based on these three films, what you see as the most important characteristics of films in this category.
GRADING RUBRIC FOR CRITICAL ESSAYS:
Opening paragraph clearly states a thesis for the essay: 10
Essay shows signs of supporting research: 10
Essay is well-written and uses proper grammar: 10
Proper use of evidence in the argument: 10
Argument is rhetorically effective and convincing: 10