Caryn Coleman – Introduction excerpt

Introduction by co-chair and co organizer, Caryn Coleman

Hello, Happy Halloween, and Thanks Given!

Harman’s reading of H.P. Lovecraft is the starting off point for this symposium and from this numerous threads can be pulled out. Although I consider Lovecraft to be of a Gothic tradition rather than strict Horror, his placement of the fantastical into the real world has had a profound effect on modern horror films. In movies like The Haunted Palace and others in Roger Corman’s Edgar Allen Poe series, the lesser-known Lovecraft’s narratives were incorporated into the Poe stories. And on television Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (a series where artwork was the focal point of fear) they re-enacted such Lovecraft tales as ‘Pickman’s Model. This conflation of horror and reality is the beginning of what eventually manifested into films being based in the present day. Films like Rosemary’s Baby, Night of the Living Dead, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are turning points of horror cinema into the post-modern era. Decades later, and skipping over many keys points in horror history, we now see that horror has invaded our everyday contemporary pop culture reality. It has become buying power. Take Virgin Trains’ new zombified advertising campaign ‘Don’t Go Zombie’ featuring graphic billboards across London and in a gimmicky online interactive shooting game on their website. The fast version of zombies is also being used to sell Ford Fiestas in a commercial in the United States. And, thanks to Twilight, it’s impossible to ignore the onslaught of teenage vampires represented on television, books, and movies. It’s even seeped into our love lives with the online dating site Horror Crush whose tagline is ‘horror dating for horror fans’. The reality is that horror has become a part of our culture and is now big business for the masses.

Horror and reality, in the most obvious ways we can think of them, have a very close relationship and often their existence must be considered in relation to each other. Scientific invasions, cultural migration, patriarchal systems, war, sexuality, and gender roles are just some of the realities expressed either explicitly or implicitly in the horror genre of literature, television, film, and art. Horror is much more than surface material. It’s a complex and nearly indefinable genre. This is due to a variety of factors, mostly based on personal opinion and reaction, but also because of the historical specificity of horror. It means different things to different people depending on the time period it was produced and consumed. And to me, that’s what makes the provocations set up in the Real Horror Symposium so important.  All of the speakers here today provide us with an opportunity to map out the similarities and differences of horror and reality where we can then ignite a dialogue about what horror is and what its future possibilities are.


~ by caryncoleman on November 3, 2010.

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