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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Horror In The New Year Miskatonic Institute Is Back

I'll have reminders when these hit each month, just like I did with the first one, but here's a look at the future lectures on horror from the Miskatonic Institute happening throughout the new year.

with instructors Gillian Wallace Horvat and Steven Williams
Thursday February 13, 7:30pm-10:00pm
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Expository monologues – the long speeches delivered by a character to provide backstory or motivation – can be the downfall or the showstopper of a horror film, and there’s at least one in a vast majority. The purpose of all these soliloquies is an extended, intense effort to overcome the unusually high threshold of disbelief concomitant with the horror genre, generally in an attempt to answer questions for the audience like: How is this possible? Why did she do this – and in such a convoluted and oblique way? Why is this not a plot hole?
For actors and directors in the genre space expository monologues are an occupational hazard that have the potential to be a moment of cinematic glory… if you have the right tools. In this presentation for both performers and filmmakers, we will study the four types of expository monologues and review instructive examples of each. They comprise:
  • Explaining an implausible/supernatural situation (Poltergeist) and possibly encouraging a risky solution
  • Tenuous justification for a character’s actions up to this point (usually involves a reveal or twist)
  • Providing backstory from previous film(s) to catch up the franchise fan or fully inform a viewer who hasn’t seen the earlier installments
  • Retrocontinuity – indispensable for franchises and reboots where the director maybe changing mythology (Scream 3, Jason Goes to Hell)
In analyzing clips we’ll explore the difference between a naturalistic approach and “excess” in performance, briefly digressing here into a discussion of the theories of genre scholars Linda Williams and Kristin Thompson.
Because a performance built around excess requires a lot of character work, in the second part of the class we will focus on more natural techniques when we study our text: Creighton Duke’s monologue from Jason Goes to Hell. Using detailed textual analysis – aided by Creighton Duke himself, Steven Williams, who will appear in person as a special guest – we’ll discover how to bring emotional authenticity to language dense with proper nouns and also examine patterns of inflection and breath in relating anecdotes in our own lives.
*Please note Steven Williams’ appearance is subject to change dependent on his professional schedule.
with instructor David Misch
Thursday March 12, 7:30pm-10:00pm
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From 1920’s Haunted Spooks to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the genre of horror-comedy has never really, you should excuse the expression, died. Yet humor and horror seem pretty different; one’s a pie in the face, the other’s an axe in the skull. It’s obvious why watching someone being torn asunder would be horrible but why is the endless suffering of the Three Stooges funny? Could there be any congruencies between funny and fear, snickers and screams, gore and gags, slapstick and slaughter?
This class proposes – carefully, while remaining alert and well-armed – that the two genres are not mortal enemies. For one thing, people in pain are a perennial part of every art; to be fascinated with human suffering is to be human. Both comedy and horror can show us how to live (and, of course, die); from Psycho we learn that Death can come to anyone at any time. Also, to always shower with a friend.
The class will examine horror’s relationship with philosophers’ explanations of comedy: Immanuel “Carrot Top” Kant’s Incongruity Theory (it’s funny when two things that don’t go together go together); Sigmund “Shecky” Freud’s Relief Theory (comedy is a rapid expulsion of tension); Thomas “Nutso” Hobbes’s Superiority Theory (“You’re in pain and I’m not – ha!”); Henri “Giggles” Bergson (comedy requires “a momentary anesthesia of the heart”); and Mel Brooks (“Tragedy is when I cut my finger; comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die”). We’ll explore the mechanics of both using video clips and examples ranging from Frankenstein and Dracula to Abbott & Costello, and try to figure out what makes us laugh and/or scream. We’ll see that both genres love loss of control, anarchy, the breakdown of rules and conventions – the beast within us set free. And both exploit our paradoxical feelings about helplessness: seeing someone out of control can be hilarious (a clumsy person falling) or horrifying (a clumsy person falling into a snake-pit suspended over a shark-pit next to a zombie zoo).
Both humor and horror also share a mordant view of our relationship to pain; an obsession with the human body and its multifarious fluids; and a subtext of death and transcendence underlying the eviscerated flesh and fart jokes. What could be more blood-curdlingly fun?
with instructor Jimmy McDonough
Thurs. April 9, 7:30pm-10:00pm
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Andy Milligan is one of the most compelling, contentious lone wolfs in cinema history. A dressmaker, actor and puppeteer, Milligan cranked out titles like Bloodthirsty Butchers, The Body Beneath, and The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves are Here! on threadbare budgets. He made sexploitation movies, period horror films (elaborately costumed by Milligan himself) and even a landmark gay short. Unlike most exploitation filmmakers, he came out of a rarified NYC arts scene and started his directing career doing shocking productions at the legendary Caffe Cino. His films were deeply personal statements, despite limitations which made him the laughingstock of the 42nd street distributors who cashed in on his work. Ever the outsider, Milligan was homosexual, a sadist and an avowed misogynist, and all of this is quite present in his creations.
“Am I sadistic?” Milligan once said to me.  “Not really. No more than anybody else, hee hee. Everybody’s a bit sadistic at times—and masochistic. Look at the sex act alone. The male part is sadistic, the female is masochistic. The whole act of sex is sadism and masochism, basically. Penetration—an act of violence.” This sort of attitude permeates every frame of Milligan’s work, and it sets him apart from most of his contemporaries. Andy had a lot to say, and none of it was pretty.Life makes you bitter and cynical,” he maintained. “I’m an injustice collector, babe. I never get over it. You can’t stay nice in life.”
And yet I loved Andy. Hell, I even thought he was…nice. Not only was I his biographer, I worked on his last pictures (even briefly appearing in one) and took care of him as he died of AIDS. We had a rich –if complex – relationship, and I will share my personal experiences to hopefully illuminate why I think Milligan is a fabulous, if deeply flawed filmmaker. To further that understanding I’ll show some of my favorite clips from his movies and unlock the secrets that lie within. I’ll also answer any audience questions about my time with Andy and talk about why I feel biography is also kind of an illness. By the end of this lecture, I promise you will feel something, even if it’s just the desire to kill Andy Milligan. Or me.
with instructor Stephen Thrower
Thursday May 14, 7:30pm-10:00pm
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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.