Browsing Tag


Posted on November 23, 2023

Why You Should Watch The City of the Dead (and its Striking Resemblance to Psycho)

Dawn Keetley

It’s a moment of uncanny serendipity in horror film history.

The City of the Dead (re-named Horror Hotel in the US) – the first directorial project of Argentinian-born British director, John Llewellyn Moxey – was released in the UK in September 1960. Produced by Americans Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg, the film is generally considered to be the unofficial first of their Amicus Productions (a British company they would officially found shortly after the release of City of the Dead, and which had an impact on the horror genre in the 1960s that was second perhaps only to Hammer Studios)[i]. Filming commenced “at Shepperton Studios [in Surrey, England] in the Summer of 1959,” [ii] running at least through October.

The vastly more famous Psycho, produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, made at Universal Studios in the US and distributed by Paramount Pictures, was released in New York City in June 1960 and saw general distribution, like City of the Dead, in September 1960. Also like City of the Dead, filming began on Psycho in the later half of 1959 (running, specifically, between November 1959 and February 1960).

In other words, there’s virtually no way that either City of the Dead or Psycho could have influenced the other. And yet, they share some striking similarities. They are also, I should add, profoundly different in their approach to horror. Both these similarities and this difference are worth exploring.

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Posted on September 3, 2020

The Evolution of Mental Illness’ Monstrosity in Horror Films

Guest Post

Horror cinema’s engagement with mental illness has evolved tremendously from the 20th to the 21st century. These periods of growth are in conjunction with the growing understanding and awareness of mental illnesses within the professional field of psychology, as well as the general population. The increased knowledge reinforces the concept that people with mental illness are not innately monstrous – something taken up in contemporary horror films.

In his essay in Monster Theory, Jeffrey Cohen explains that the purpose of a monster’s existence is to represent a fear rooted in the attitude and culture at the time of its creation or revival.[i] Fear of disease was captured with zombies; fear of immigration was represented by extra-terrestrials; fear of nuclear weapons created Godzilla; the list goes on.[ii] I propose that the fear of the unknown, the “other” or an alter ego to society’s normal state of being, is explored through mental illness – a disrupted state of being.

Unknowability creates a fascination that can be described through the idea of privacy. Psychoanalyst Josh Cohen, the author of The Private Life: Our Everyday Self in an Age of Intrusion, says that the “guiding principle of our culture might be formulated not so much as ‘I should know everything’ as ‘nothing should remain unknown to me.’ It’s not, in other words, a question of wanting to know so much as a fear of what might remain unknown, inaccessible, in the dark.”[iii] Mental illnesses, however, are not an easy concept for general audiences to wrap their brains around. Nevertheless, cinema provides an opportunity to explore mental illnesses visually – making the unknown known. “Nothing should remain unknown to me”; therefore, if it won’t reveal itself, the cinema will make it so.[iv] Mental illness has always produced fear, but how has cinema in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries represented this fear to capture the cultural temperament? How has this fear changed from one century to another? Read more

Posted on June 16, 2020

The Function of Money in Hitchcock’s Psycho

Elizabeth Erwin

When Psycho was released in 1960, it took audiences by storm, both because of its storyline as well as because of director Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful publicity plan. By refusing audiences entry into the picture after it had started, Hitchcock created a buzz around the film that made it much more than just a horror film. It made it an experience. Central to Psycho’s longevity is its ability to titillate and shock viewers in equal measure. From its infamous shower scene to Janet Leigh lounging provocatively in a negligee to Norman’s complicated gender performance, Psycho can be credited as a seminal moment in American film’s move away from Production Code prurient sensibilities and toward an explicitly adult form of storytelling where explorations of violence and deviant behavior weren’t just tolerated but actively encouraged. Film was ready to explore the darker side of a post WW2 America in the throes of homogeneity and Hitchcock was ready to capitalize on that desire.

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Twilight Zone
Posted on July 19, 2018

5 Twilight Zone Episodes That Influenced Modern Horror Film

Dawn Keetley

The Twilight Zone (1959-64) is not only one of the most acclaimed TV series but also one of the most influential on artists of all kinds, but especially on the creators of horror. The list below identifies five episodes that in my view powerfully shaped some of our best modern horror films. There are undoubtedly more, but this is a beginning.

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