Review/ Introduction to Gothic Cinema

As somebody who enjoys the macabre in cinema, I decided to take the Introduction to Gothic Cinema course led by Dr Linnie Blake and Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes. Before taking this course, the grim and grotesque in film had always fascinated me. This worried me as I wondered whether it said something negative about my nature; that perhaps there was something unusual about my obsession with the genre. However, after taking the course I’ve learnt what it is about this darkness that attracts me.

The course journeyed through early influences of Gothic cinema, from classic texts to the contemporary Gothic that we see today. By looking at bite-sized excerpts, we explored traditional Gothic influences, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

Linnie and Xavier presented Gothic cinema in open discussions that you could sit back and absorb, or actively participate in it. As I love taking notes, I tended to be more of a watcher and a listener. The clips and screenings we watched provided perfect examples of the themes and eras we were learning about.

The British Gothic section of the course kicked off with a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca, which was surreal to see on the big screen. This then led to a session on Hammer Horror and the trauma of war affecting cinema in 1940s Britain. The American Gothic section was particularly enthralling and began with a screening of David Lynch’s The Elephant Man. Throughout the course, we also examined sub-genres of American Gothic, including the American Dream and American nightmares. We also uncovered the roots of the post-millennial Gothic and the concept of the Sympathetic Monster. Through films such as Carrie, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and my personal favourite, Rosemary’s Baby, Linnie explored the sometimes fetishised abjection of women in horror.

From the many representations of Frankenstein, to Adam in Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive (arguably the coolest representation of vampires ever made), the course offered a precise yet intricate introduction into the complexities of Gothic cinema. Xavier and Linnie gave us the theory and social implications behind the genre, but the outcome of the course was really to ask yourself: What does Gothic cinema mean to you?