Hallowe’en Gothic

Posted by Dale Townshend on November 03, 2008 in News tagged with

From Friday 31 October to Sunday 2 November, the University of Stirling hosted "Hallowe’en Gothic," an international festival of horror film from countries as diverse as Sweden, Chile, Scotland, New Zealand, Japan and the former Czechoslovakia.   The event was organised by Glennis Byron, in collaboration with Sarah Neely, Ian Conrich and the Macrobert Arts Centre at the University of Stirling.   As the most recent event in Glennis Byron’s AHRC-funded research network on the Global Gothic, the festival sought to showcase a range of films and directors from outside of the immediate Anglo-American frame, bringing to light many manifestations of horror which, though invariably located within a global Gothic tradition, reinterpret the established conventions in locally inflected ways.

Reflecting the festival’s interest in the complex relationship between the global and the local, the foyer of the Macrobert Centre was decorated with icons and images from the Mexican El dia del Muertos or Day of the Dead, itself a hybrid formed by an intermingling of ancient Aztec tradition and the Catholic festivals of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days in early November.  The photographs of some of the decorations below also reflect a strange intermingling of beauty and horror, life and morbidity.


The films shown on Friday 31 October were Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Czechoslovakia; 1970); Frostbite (Sweden; 2006); and Eternal Blood (Chile; 2002).  Given the Department of English Studies’s long-standing, now almost notorious tradition of Hallowee’n parties, it was unsurprising that many guests took up the challenge of "Dress to Kill" issued on the programme.  Below are some of the many spectacular costumes on display.

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange


Pirate Guests:


Pulp Fiction, Batman and Winehouse:


Ada "Rochester" Lovelace and Baroness Byron:

Less brave patrons, such as myself, turned up in everyday attire.  Here are some of those who were caught on camera:


Marilyn and Aspasia:




Betsy, Stephen and Beth (with Betsy and Beth sufficiently disguised as to pass, but looking sufficiently sophisticated to appear in public):



The programme on Saturday 1 November was equally colourful. David Blyth’s Grampire (New Zealand; 1992), a vampire film for children and young adults, delighted child and adult members of the audience alike.  We were especially privileged to have Blyth, the Director, in attendance, and following the screening, the audience joined Blyth in a stimulating discussion about the challenge of relocating the vampire narrative to New Zealand.   Later in the afternoon, Sarah Neely of the University of Stirling introduced a selection of Scottish Gothic shorts, the most notable among them being Serio Casci’s Rose (Scotland; 1998).  Again, we were especially delighted to have Casci himself in the audience, and after the screening, he engaged the audience with an account of his own reading of the film, as well as the projected plans for its forthcoming release as a full-length feature set in New York.  J-horror fans filled the cinema for the Saturday-night feature, Hair Extensions (Japan; 2007) made by the controversial director Sion Sono.  Here, the familiar image of the long-haired Japanese ghost is given a particularly disturbing twist.  The short Forklift Driver Klaus–The First Day on the Job (Germany; 2000) was an at times humorous parody of the splatter genre–"splatstick"–which had the audience captivated.

Ian Conrich, Director of the Centre for New Zealand Studies at Birkbeck, University of London, opened the programme on Sunday 2 November with an account of New Zealand horror cinema, followed by an exciting selection of Kiwi Gothic shorts.  The screenings were followed by a stimulating discussion, chaired by Conrich, on the ‘condition’ of contemporary horror, filmic and otherwise.  The distinguished panelists included David Blyth; Sergio Casci; Louise Welsh; and David Pirie. 


From left to right: Ian Conrich; Sergio Casci; Louise Welsh; David Pirie; David Blyth.

The event closed with a screening of Rigoberto Castaneda’s KM31 (Mexico; 2007), a contemporary reworking of, amongst other things, the myth of the Weeping Woman. 

This was a tremendous event, with so much new and interesting material on offer.  As this festival so clearly demonstrates, contemporary Gothic is a world-wide phenomenon that, while engaging with the established ‘global’ conventions of horror, reinterprets them in ways that are inflected with cultural particularities.  Our thanks go to Glennis Byron for her meticulous planning and attention to detail.






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