In Haunt

Manchester Metropolitan University has long had strong ties to HOME, Manchester’s foremost arthouse cinema, with a number of our academics having been involved in either previous film festivals (on queer cinema, for example) or annual ones (the ¡Viva! Spanish & Latin American Festival). HOME’s interests in independent cinema, film history and culture naturally resonate with the pedagogic vision and public engagement focus of universities, and many of their screenings have, over the years, been introduced by Manchester Met staff. As the ever-popular Grimmfest horror festival, who are celebrating their 10th anniversary in 2018, has proven, there is a strong appetite in the city for horror films, and both Manchester Met and HOME have been keen to explore the often-overlooked Gothic gems that have peppered the history of this genre. Opening up Gothic and horror films, sometimes maligned or seen as minor within larger histories of cinema, to audiences beyond academic circles is extremely important: not only does contextualising and recuperating Gothic films helps us rethink filmic canons, they are crucial to our understanding of genre cinema, and of cinema more generally, today. We also think they are great fun, and our experience has shown that Mancunian audiences tend to agree.

Dracula, 1958, Cornerhouse website 2013, British Gothic double bill.

Some of our Gothic academics, such as Dr Linnie Blake, had given public talks at Cornerhouse (HOME’s previous incarnation) to mark the occasion of special Gothic and horror screenings prior to 2013, but the connections between both institutions have strengthened since the launch of the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies. October 2013 saw the Gothic Centre and HOME collaborating with the British Film Institute for their popular Gothic film season (21 October 2013 – 31 January 2014). The Gothic festivities, which coincided with the first of the Gothic Manchester festival events, included the British Gothic double bill Dracula (new digitally remastered version) / Night of the Demon, introduced by Dr Linnie Blake and Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes. This successful public screening and the perception of a general appetite for expert knowledge on the history of Gothic cinema led to discussions about the possibility of a public course on the topic, an idea that came to fruition a year later.

The 8-week beginner’s level course ‘Introduction to Gothic Cinema’ was organised by HOME and Man Met, and followed the structure of other courses run by the cinema intended for general audiences. It ran between 15 October and 3 December 2014, and was a sold-out event that attracted very positive reviews from attendees (see here for an example). The course included two screenings, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940), on 29 October, and David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980), on 19 November, which were open to the general public and were very well-attended.

Rebecca, 1940, HOME website 2015, Introduction to Gothic Cinema.

Since then, Gothic Centre members – Blake and Aldana Reyes, but also Dr Sorcha Ní Fhlainn – have regularly provided introductions to screenings of classic Gothic and horror films: Dead of Night (December 2013), Edward Scissorhands (December 2017) and, most recently, the 4k restoration of James Whale’s 1932 film The Old Dark House (May 2018). They have also introduced new films (Nicolas Pesce’s 2016 The Eyes of My Mother) and led post-screening discussions on Gothic films relevant to their areas of research, such as The Queen of Spades (December 2013) and Rosemary’s Baby (March 2017).

In 2016, HOME worked with Film4 on FilmFear, a special season of films around Halloween (25 – 31 October) featuring new film previews, cult favourites and short films. The popular season returned in 2017 for its second year, when Dr Ní Fhlainn was asked to introduce the 30th anniversary screening of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. Ní Fhlainn had published an edited collection on the writer/director only a month before.

Sorcha Ní Fhlainn at the Hellraiser special FilmFear event, author's collection.

Forthcoming collaborations between HOME and the Gothic Centre are still in the works, but might well include a one-day course of the Female Gothic on screen to coincide with one of HOME’s future thematic strands and a new and updated Gothic Cinema course. At Manchester Met and the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies we think it is crucial that Gothic and horror films continue to be exhibited publicly and that they are routinely included in the city’s cultural and academic offers. Manchester has an unusually large and vibrant Goth and horror subcultural community. We are keen both to work with and for this community and to put the Gothic at the centre of key debates on cinema, its history and its audiences.

For more on HOME and their current listings, please visit their site here. For more on the Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies, please visit them here, or follow on Twitter.

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