Satanic Panic: Pop Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s

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Back Cover Collage of the Satanic Panic: Pop Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s book

Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies – London

Instructor: Kier-La Janisse, David Flint, Gavin Baddeley

Date: 8 October 2015

Time: 7-10pm

Venue: Horse Hospital

Address: Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD

Prices: £10 advance / £8 concs / £11 on the door

Miskatonic website

In 1980s North America, everywhere you turned there were warnings about a widespread evil conspiracy to indoctrinate the vulnerable through the media they consumed. This percolating cultural hysteria, now known as the ‘Satanic Panic’, was both illuminated and propagated through almost every pop culture pathway in the 1980s, from heavy metal music to Dungeons & Dragons role playing games, Christian comics, direct-to-VHS scare films, pulp paperbacks, Saturday morning cartoons and TV talk shows — and created its own fascinating cultural legacy of Satan-battling VHS tapes, music and literature. As the hysteria moved overseas to the UK, Australia and South Africa, its life extended into the 1990s – and some say it never went away. From con artists to pranksters and moralists to martyrs, this lecture – based on the instructors’ book of the same name, which will be available at the screening – aims to capture the untold story of how the Satanic Panic was fought on the pop culture frontlines and the serious consequences it had for many involved.

About the instructor:

KIER-LA JANISSE is a film writer and programmer, the founder of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies and Owner/Editor-in-Chief of Spectacular Optical. She has been a programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas, co-founded Montreal microcinema Blue Sunshine, founded the CineMuerte Horror Film Festival in Vancouver (1999-2005) and was the subject of the documentary Celluloid Horror (2005). She has written for Filmmaker, Shindig!, Incite: Journal of Experimental Media, Rue Morgue and Fangoria magazines, has contributed to The Scarecrow Movie Guide (Sasquatch Books, 2004) and Destroy All Movies!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film (Fantagraphics, 2011), and is the author of A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi (FAB Press, 2007) and House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films (FAB Press, 2012). She co-edited Spectacular Optical Book One: KID POWER! with Paul Corupe, and is currently writing A Song From the Heart Beats the Devil Every Time, about children’s programming in the counterculture era.

DAVID FLINT is a freelance writer, sometime filmmaker and full time angry misanthrope who has edited Sheer Filth, Divinity and Headpress, authored Babylon Blue, Ten Years of Terror and Zombie Holocaust and written for publications ranging from Rapid Eye, Bizarre and Skin Two to Penthouse, Loaded and Mayfair.

GAVIN BADDELEY is an English writer specialising in the devilish and decadent, with a special interest in the darker fringes of history. He’s penned ten books and written for numerous periodicals. An honorary priest in the Church of Satan, Baddeley’s in demand as a speaker in both academic and media circles.

About the Miskatonic Institute:

Named for the fictional university in H.P. Lovecraft’s literary mythos, The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies is a non-profit, community-based organization that started in Canada, founded by Kier-La Janisse in March of 2010. The school currently has branches in Montreal and London, with Miskatonic London operating under the co-direction of Kier-La Janisse and Electric Sheep Founder/Editor Virginie Sélavy.

All classes take place at the historic Horse Hospital, the heart of the city’s underground culture. Individual class tickets are £10 advance / £11 on the door / £8 concessions and will be available 30 days in advance of each class.

The next course dates of the autumn semester are 12 November and 10 December. For the full details of the course please check the Miskatonic website. For all enquiries, please email Miskatonic.london[at]gmail.com.

The Electric Sheep Film Show September 2015

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Lobby card for Anna Karina's lost film Vivre Ensemble (1973)

audio In the September Electric Sheep Film Show, Virginie Sélavy and Alex Fitch preview the London Film Festival and talk to filmmaker Prano Bailey-Bond, whose short film NASTY is screening as part of the Cult section. Sight & Sound production editor Isabel Stevens joins them to talk about the new Female Gaze issue of the magazine. Plus an interview with Guy Maddin (recorded at the Berlinale in February 2015), whose latest, The Fobidden Room, is showing at LFF; and an extract from William Fowler’s lecture on guerrilla filmmaker Antony Balch at the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies.

The Electric Sheep Film Show is broadcast every third Wednesday of the month, 8-9pm at Resonance FM 104.4. Next date: Wednesday 21 October 2015.

This show was first broadcast on Wednesday 16 September 2015.

Clear Spot – 16 September 2015 (Electric Sheep) by Resonance Fm on Mixcloud

Film4 FrightFest 2015 Review

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Nina Forever

16th Film4 FrightFest

27-31 August 2015

Vue West End,
Prince Charles Cinema, Phoenix, London

FrightFest website

This year again, Film4 FrightFest offered a brilliantly diverse programme that encompassed all aspects of horror and fantasy, with some great category-defying gems. Interestingly, female protagonists widely dominated the line-up, and many of them were appealingly diverse, complex and nuanced characters, ranging from troubled temptresses to tragic mothers, babysitters to scientists, confused teenagers to imperious mistresses.

One of the highlights was Ben Cresciman’s beautifully crafted psychological thriller Sun Choke, which was the most cinematographically and thematically accomplished of the festival. An ethereal, dreamlike, elliptical portrayal of a possibly psychotic young woman, it intelligently and chillingly explored the tortuous, ambivalent relationship she has with her domineering carer, played by the superb Barbara Crampton.

Sun Choke is available on the premium streaming video service Shudder from 9 March 2017.

Darkly erotic and intemperately stylish, Goddess of Love was also centred around a psychotic woman. Co-scripted by lead actress Alexis Kendra, it plunged into the delusional obsessiveness of an unstable woman as she increasingly loses her grip on reality after her lover leaves her. Sadly, the overly explanatory ending undermined the seductively unstable reality created until then.

For its part, Nina Forever offered a highly unusual take on female darkness. One of the great surprises of the festival, it was a bittersweet, melancholy and inventive tale of love, grief and the difficulty of getting rid of one’s ghosts. When morbidly inclined checkout girl Holly falls in love with the suicidal Rob, it seems like he may finally be able to put the death of his girlfriend Nina behind him. But Nina won’t go away so easily, and they have to deal with her very tangible, bloody, sardonic presence in their bed. Although the tone shifting between offbeat comedy and horrific drama is at times a little clumsy, it is a truly original, and very affecting film that treads a fresh path.

Not all female-led films were successful. After a compelling, unsettling first part, in which a new babysitter introduces chaos and sexual tension into the conventional suburban world of her charges, Emelie descended into an unconvincing and predictable thriller fodder about thwarted maternal desires. Also themed around maternity, Bruce McDonald’s Halloween tale Hellions, his follow-up to 2008’s Pontypool was equally disappointing. On Halloween, a teenager who has just found out she is pregnant must fight evil childlike monsters who come knocking on her door, demanding not sweets, but her unborn child. As she steps out into the strange light of a blood moon, the image is drained of colour and becomes startlingly artificial. This is not a bad thing in itself, but with a plot that jerks incoherently into varying directions, the visual effects that are meant to support it remain contrived and hollow.

Interestingly, Bernard Rose’s modern update of Frankenstein transferred the focus of the monster’s love and anguish from the male creator to the scientist mother figure, making explicit the maternal anxiety that had originally fed Mary Shelley’s novel. Extrapolating on the possibilities of modern technology while based on a close reading of the novel, the film is seen from the perspective of the inarticulate creature. Originally given perfect beauty, he falls from grace and is forced into desperate, squalid survival after a flaw in the procedure of its creation causes horrific disfigurement. A visually ravishing poetic take on the misunderstood hideous monster despite a somewhat bombastic ending.

The focus was also on the mother in New England ghost story We Are Still Here. An openly referential film that played like a cross between House by the Cemetery and The Fog, it stars Barbara Crampton as a grieving mother who moves to an old isolated house with her husband in a bid to get over her son’s death. Expressive and poignant, Crampton was ably seconded by Larry Fessenden, who was his usual brilliant self as one half of the hippie couple who try and help her to contact the spirit of her dead son. All slow-burn creepiness in the first part, culminating into a blood bath at the end, it was a well-crafted, enjoyably eerie tale that used its influences smartly.

After the emergence of Israeli horror in the last few years, the surprise geographical discovery this year was Georgia with Landmine Goes Click. One of the most divisive films of the festival, it set a trio of American tourists up for trouble in a remote Georgian mountain when one of the party accidentally steps on a mine. After apparently heading for a rape and revenge kind of story, it veers unexpectedly away to offer instead a scalpel-cold study of the terrible chain of causes and consequences that leads to the shocking, tragic ending. In a world dominated by betrayal, distrust and abusive power, the main characters are all guilty and provoke their own downfall through the cruel games they play with one another.

Among the documentaries, the fascinating story of Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD was more than worth a look while our friends at the Duke Mitchell Film Club presented the excellent Remake, Remix, Rip-Off, about low-budget Turkish remakes of Hollywood blockbusters in the 1960s-70s. This was followed by the Duke Mitchell Film Party, which proved as deliriously entertaining as last year’s extravaganza, with guests, among which Barbara Crampton, presenting clips of new work or hilariously dubious trailers.

The diverse retrospective programme included Brian Clemens’s 1970 Hammer swashbuckling horror adventure Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, Sergio Martino’s seductively perverse giallo Your Vice Is a Locker Room and Only I Have the Key, with the stunning Edwige Fenech, Clive Barker’s classic Hellraiser, Philip Ridley’s startling 1990 debut The Reflecting Skin and Uli Lommel’s 1970s serial murderer tale Tenderness of the Wolves.

Virginie Sélavy

L’Etrange Festival 2015 Preview

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21st Etrange Festival poster by Dom Garcia

L’Etrange Festival

3-13 September 2015

Forum des Images, Paris, France

Etrange Festival website

The outlandish Parisian genre and fantasy festival returns from September 3 to 13 with another line-up bulging with wild, unhinged and lost treasures. The festival opens with Simon Pummel’s schizophrenic sci-fi thriller Brand New-U and closes with Bollywood epic Baahubali: The Beginning, with a full range of sleazy subversiveness and avant-garde strangeness in between, from Marcel L’Herbier’s restored 1924 art deco femme fatale tale L’inhumaine to Rolph de Heer’s grotesque family tale Bad Boy Bubby, not to forget a zombie all-nighter.

Highlights include the latest from three Japanese heavyweights: Takashi Miike’s Yakuza Apocalypse, Hideo Nakata’s Ghost Theater and Sion Sono with two films, Tag and Love and Peace. Also screening are The Blaine Brothers’ original and moving Nina Forever, Steve Oram’s category-defying Aaaaaaaah! and Ulrich Seidl’s exploration of Austrian cellars In the Basement.

We’ll be checking out Alex Van Varmerdam’s absurdist thriller La peau de Bax, Raúl Garcia’s Edgar Allan Poe animation film Extraordinary Tales, Michael Madsen’s speculative alien invasion documentary The Visit, experimental Afghanistan-set sci-fi Ni le ciel ni la terre directed by artist Clément Cogitore, and Jason Bognacki’s slick giallo-influenced tale of possession Another.

This year, the guest curators are Guy Maddin (also included in the main programme with his own The Forbidden Room), whose selection includes Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Teuvo Tulio’s Sensuela and George Kuchar’s The Devil’s Cleavage; Benoit Delepine, co-director of Aaltra and Mammuth, will present Tim Burton’s Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and hopeless Russian road movie The Joy; and Ben Wheatley has chosen Frantisek Vlacil’s sumptuous medieval fable Marketa Lazarova and Michael Mann’s legendary murky Nazi nightmare The Keep.

Documentaries include Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World, B-Movie: Lust and Sound in West Berlin (1979-1989), which features Blixa Bargeld and Nekromantik 2’s male lead Mark Reeder, as well as an exploration of the Turkish golden age of low-budget Hollywood remakes, Remake, Remix, Rip-Off, part of a focus on alternative Turkish cinema.

This year’s musical performance is truly exceptional: legendary masked industrial collective The Residents will play a new version of Shadowland as well as presenting a programme of films and documentary Theory of Obscurity: A Movie about The Residents.

As always, the line-up includes a vast and dynamic selection of shorts, ranging from Can Evrenol’s hard-hitting, gut-punching Baskin and Javier Chillon’s inventive, intelligent Die Schneider Krankheit to classics by Jaume Balaguero, Jonathan Caouette and Bill Morrison.

For the full programme and to book tickets plesae visit the Etrange Festival website.