BA Film Studies and Russian / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

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

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM21261
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
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 key aesthetic and thematic aspects of horror in order to consider issues such as genre; politics and society; and mainstream versus independent film across global cinema, including Europe, North America, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. We will trace how early and classical film’s objects of fear, who often appear as gendered, racialized and sexualized outsiders, have been increasingly turning the camera on the mainstream to now bite back against the histories of their oppression. In doing so, we will consider horror as a highly subversive, deeply contentious and yet profoundly playful genre, which continues to serve up some wicked surprises. Our discussion will be contextualized by theoretical readings on the uncanny and horror, including works by Sigmund Freud, Julia Kristeva and Robin Wood.


Pre-requisite unitsAny L1 Drama Study, Film Studies or Practical core option
Co-requisite unitsAny L2 Drama core unit - Theatres of Modernity; Screen, Culture and Society



  • 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
  • Ability to present research-based knowledge in visual media


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

  • 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

Advanced ability to exercise initiative and personal responsibility
Project management
Ability to manage, complete and evaluate a project effectively
Oral communication
Ability to effectively adapt self-presentation to different audiences/contexts, especially when communicating complex topics
Advanced critical thinking, problem-solving and planning skills

Assessment methods

Summative:  One practical group project, eg. poster, visual essay or short time   50%

Summative:  One 48 hour exam   50%

Feedback methods


Feedback methodFormative or Summative
Seminar presentationFormative (oral)
Essay or practical projectSummative (written)
ExamSummative (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
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Cathy Gelbin Unit coordinator

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