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BA Film Studies and East Asian Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Horror Film: Genre, Periods, Styles

Unit code DRAM21262
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Drama
Available as a free choice unit? No


From early German cinema’s monsters to the contemporary Hollywood blockbuster, horror film has established itself among the most vital and popular movie types. Placing these films in their historical context and contemporaneous social debates, the course will explore the key aesthetic and thematic aspects of filmic horror in order to consider issues such as genre, mainstream versus independent film and European cinema versus Hollywood. To do so, we will study a chronological succession of international horror films from Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Our discussion will be contextualized by theoretical readings on the uncanny and horror, including Sigmund Freud’s seminal essay on ‘The Uncanny’, Julie Kristeva’s Powers of Horror and Robin Wood’s important work on horror.


Pre-requisite units

Any L1 Drama, Screen or, Film Studies core course.





·         To develop students’ understanding of theoretical approaches to and genre conventions of horror film

·         To develop students’ grasp of key concepts in cinema studies with particular focus on aspects of mainstream and independent cinema

  • To develop students’ understanding of the historical and social contexts of horror film internationally

Learning outcomes

·         A broad understanding of the key themes and theoretical debates around horror film

·         Knowledge of important horror films and issues of genre

·         A good grasp of key concepts in cinema studies



Representative examples include:


Week 1: Course Introduction

Week 2: Early German Cinema

Week 3: 1930s Hollywood

Week 4: Nuclear Armageddon

Week 5: Hammer Horror

Week 6: Hollywood Game Changers

Week 7: Giallo: Italian Horror

Week 8: Return to Hollywood

Week 9: The Empire Strikes Back

Week 10: Reworking the Canon

Week 11: Course review

Teaching and learning methods

·         3 hours per week of lectures / seminars

  • 1 weekly screening (duration variable)

Knowledge and understanding

·         Define horror and discuss how it can be expressed visually and aurally

·         Demonstrate familiarity with the key periods and historio-cultural contexts of horror film

·         Demonstrate familiarity with the audio-visual styles of horror film

  • Demonstrate an awareness of relevant social and historical factors reflected in horror film

Intellectual skills

·         Critically analyse and build sophisticated arguments about films and related sources (posters, trailers, reviews and industry documents)

·         Contextualise historically films and practitioners, and to draw on contextualisation to develop understanding

·         Critically evaluate a series of films, practitioners and genres in relation to key moments of socio-political change in relevant territories

  • Synthesise theoretical terms and concepts and apply these to analysis, argument and creative practice

Practical skills

·         Research academic and non-academic materials, and evaluate the effectiveness of these materials as supporting evidence for individual essays, seminar presentations and creative projects

·         Plan, undertake and evaluate independent critical and creative work

·         Use relevant software to collect, compile and present audio-visual material for presentations

  • Communicate research material both verbally, audio-visually and in writing

Transferable skills and personal qualities

·         Work independently

·         Argue critically and coherently

·         Present information in a convincing and accessible manner

  • Develop an understanding of national cinemas in world contexts

Employability skills

Group/team working
¿ Productive team and independent working skills in learning environments that present complex and unpredictable challenges
¿ Advanced ability to exercise initiative and personal responsibility
Project management
¿ Ability to manage, complete and evaluate a project effectively
Problem solving
¿ Advanced critical thinking, problem-solving and planning skills
¿ Ability to effectively adapt self-presentation to different audiences/contexts, especially when communicating complex topics

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 60%
Written assignment (inc essay) 40%

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Seminar presentation

Formative (oral)

Essay or practical project

Summative (written)


Summative (written)


Recommended reading

·         Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny (London: Penguin Books, 2003)

·         Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror. As Essay on Abjection (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980)

·         Alain Silver and James Ursini (eds.), Horror Film. Reader (New York: Limelight Editions, 2000)

·         Thomas M. Sipos, Horror Film Aesthetics (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2010)

·         Brigid Cherry, Horror (London: Routledge, 2009)

  • Robin Wood, The American Nightmare (New York: Columbian University Press, 1986)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Cathy Gelbin Unit coordinator

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