CFP – “Merchants of Menace”

Posted: July 28, 2011 in Academy, Brains, CFP, Movies

A call for papers from the MeCCSA mailing list, ‘Merchants of Menace: The Business of Horror Cinema’.

Despite scary movies having occupied prominent locations on the rosters of film producers, distributors, exhibitors, and other creative industry professionals around the world for about a century, the economic dimensions of horror cinema remain largely unexplored; the theoretical terrain remains loosely sketched and it has been supported by a quite limited number of specific case studies. Instead, scholars have tended over the years to approach horror films as organically occurring – even inevitable – by-products of myriad psychological, social, and political demons said to haunt the psyches of individual filmmakers, the populations of the nation states they call home, or chiefly a combination thereof (see for example Wood & Lippel; Creed; Clover; Benshoff; Lowenstein; Middleton). Such approaches have led to horror movies routinely being framed as mouthpieces for misogynistic sadists operating from the shadows of the exploitation sector, as subversive expressions of resistance enacted by noble progressives of various stripes, or as platforms for reactionary politics invariably supported by the biggest, scariest monster of all: Hollywood. As a consequence of these tendencies, the specific forms of commercial logic, strategy, and conduct that contribute to bringing individual horror films and specific horror trends to the screen have more often than not been side-stepped altogether or have been reduced gnomically and unhelpfully to the profit-making imperative underwriting all capitalist endeavours. A recent – albeit marginal – shift among historians of the culture industries towards centralizing considerations of the business side of fright flicks has, however, begun to suggest a range of sources, methods, approaches, frameworks, and models capable of illuminating the complex character of this largely unexplained aspect of media history (see for example Heffernan; Spadoni; Ryan; Nowell; Laboto & Ryan). Given that horror’s status as an industrial category cuts across budgetary categories, across industry sectors, across national film cultures, and across media, the possibility of revealing new information about the commercial objectives and strategies that have underwritten horror cinema also promises to shed new light on the economics of global cinema more generally. It is therefore the aim of Merchants of Menace: The Business of Horror Cinema timely to fill a sizable and significant void in film history through a focused, sustained, and far-reaching effort to illuminate the multifaceted commercial logic that has shaped the production, distribution, and exhibition of one of the world’s most enduring audiovisual forms.

Accordingly, proposals are sought for original essays that focus on the business of bankrolling, making, marketing, disseminating, and exhibiting chillers, shockers, and other forms of horror cinema in a variety of national contexts and at different historical junctures. Suggested topics for this proposed collection include but are by no means restricted to:

· Models of financing horror films
· The logic of micro-budget horror
· The economics of art-horror cinema
· Nationally specific models of horror film financing
· The economics of early horror cinema
· Child- and “tween”-friendly horror
· Horror and race demographics
· Making and marketing horror to “mature” audiences
· Horror and the commodification of nostalgia
· Horror and appealing to specific sub-cultural taste formations
· The economics of horror date movies
· The economics of horror blockbusters
· Merchandizing horror cinema
· Publicizing horror
· Strategies in the marketing of horror
· Industrial histories of historically specific trends and cycles
· The economics of stardom in horror cinema
· The economics of brand name horror filmmakers, studios, and labels
· Music and horror
· Relationships between film horror and other creative industries
· Horror and the commodification of prestige
· The impact of economics on the portrayal of violence and gore
· The business of horror film exhibition
· The economics of exporting horror film

Please send by 31 October 2011 your 200–400 word abstract and a 50–100 word academic biography to All notifications of acceptance will be emailed no later than 30 November 2011. If an abstract is accepted, essays can be expected to be between 7,500 and 8,000 words in length (including references).

Dr. Richard Nowell, Editor.

Richard Nowell teaches American Cinema at Charles University in Prague. He is the author of Blood Money a History of the First Teen Slasher Film Cycle, has served as a guest editor of Iluminace: The Journal of Film Theory, History, and Aesthetics, and his articles have been published or are forthcoming in, among others, Cinema Journal, Journal of Film and Video, Post Script, and The New Review of Film and Television Studies

Works Cited

Benshoff, Harry. Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality and the Horror Movie. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997.

Clover, Carol. J. Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Film. London: BFI 1992.

Creed, Barbara. The Monstrous Feminine: Film, Feminism, and Pyschoanalysis. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Heffernan, Kevin. Ghouls, Gimmicks and Gold: Horror Films and the American Movie
Business, 1953–1968. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.

Laboto, Rabon, and, Mark David Ryan. “Rethinking Genre Studies through Distribution Analysis: Issues in International Horror Movie Circuits”, New Review of Film and Television Studies (Forthcoming)

Lowenstein, Adam. Shocking Representation: Historical Cinema, National Trauma, and the Modern Horror Film. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

Jason Middleton, “The Subject of Torture: Regarding the Pain of Americans inHostel”, Cinema Journal, vol. 49, no. 4 (Summer 2010), pp. 1–24

Nowell, Richard. Blood Money: A History of the First Teen Slasher Film. New York: Continuum, 2011.

Ryan, Mark David. “Australian Cinema’s Dark Sun: The Boom in Australian Horror
Film Production”, Studies in Australian Cinema, vol. 4 no. 1, pp. 23–41.

Spadoni, Robert. Uncanny Bodies: The Coming of Sound and the Origins of the Horror Genre. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

Wood, Robin, and Richard Lippel (eds.). The American Nightmare: Essays on the Horror Film. Toronto: Festival of Festivals, 1979.


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