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Horror conference begins at Otago

Wednesday 16 November 2016 11:04am

An international conference on horror begins in Dunedin today.

Vampires and zombies in the ongoing battle between enduring life and living death is just one of the topics being thrashed out at a conference with a difference on the University’s Dunedin campus this week.

Horror is currently experiencing a cultural renaissance across media – including film, television, comic books, videogames, music and literature.

Otago’s Department of Media, Film and Communication has capitalised on this, bringing different horror disciplines together for the first time in New Zealand, with an international conference which begins today.

New Research on Horror is an interdisciplinary conference that will encompass a broad range of issues, aimed at illuminating both the current state of the genre and the current state of research on the subject. In this way, it will not only engage with but also intervene in contemporary debates around this important cultural phenomenon.

Organiser Paul Ramaeker, a lecturer in Media, Film and Communication says horror is important because it is a hugely popular genre at the moment, across a wide range of media forms.

“As an example, there is television (The Walking Dead, Ash Vs. the Evil Dead, Hannibal, et. al.), videogames, literature, illustration (there are Facebook pages that primarily publish horror illustrations), films, GIFs, short videos on YouTube, music (metal lyrics incorporating horror themes), tourism, even philosophy (see for example recent works by Eugene Thacker).”

"The idea is to create a dialogue by examining horror conventions across all these forms, and to do so by looking at horror from a variety of perspectives."

He believes this may be the first horror conference held in New Zealand; although the Gothic Association of New Zealand holds conferences, they are not the same because not all gothic is horror.

Dr Ramaeker says while not everything can be covered in one conference, this conference is significant because it addresses contemporary horror across a wide range of media forms, bringing scholars into an interdisciplinary dialogue.

The conference has attracted high profile international keynote speakers including Professor Angela Ndalianis (University of Melbourne) and Associate Professor Kevin Heffernan (Southern Methodist University).

It includes 20 presentations looking at horror from sociological, psychoanalytic, affective, practical, economic, technological, formal and ideological perspectives.

“We have presentations on making horror and consuming it; on amateur filmmaking, independent filmmaking, and big-budget filmmaking; extreme metal lyrics, tourism, YouTube videos, literature, TV, and more. The idea is to create a dialogue by examining horror conventions across all these forms, and to do so by looking at horror from a variety of perspectives.”