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June 11, 2014

An Image of Death: Our Evolving Relationship With Mortality On Screen

“One vast charnel house of death,” described one witness to a corpse-strewn Civil War battlefield. Before the advent of cinema, the “Republic of Suffering” created by the conflict redefined North Americans’ relationship with death, in both ritual and imagery, notably the rise in Victorian post-mortem photography (or “death photography”) – which was key in imbuing pictures of the dead with new meaning. However, that personal relationship would change with the advent of both motion pictures and the funeral industry. Through the decades, death both on- and off-screen became (often humourously) sanitized and repressed, but the tighter a coffin lid is nailed down, the more we want to pry it open, and it eventually popped in the 1960s, ushering in gore, graphic violence, realistic death and other hallmarks of the modern horror film.

Morbid reality and morbid moving images continue to inform and change each other as forces such as technology, religion, censorship and war shape attitudes towards mortality. The question is: have we come full circle in some way? To answer that, we explore films including The Others (2001), Wisconsin Death Trip (1999),  and Death and the Civil War (2012)  as well as concepts such as Terror Management Theory, Stephen Cave’s “4 stories we tell ourselves about death,” and Ernest Becker’s landmark book The Denial of Death.

Find out why we need morbid art. Prepare to never look at a horror movie the same way ever again. And expect to have your own image of death permanently altered.

June 11, 2014 at 9pm
The Royal Cinema, 608 College St, Toronto
Cost: $15 at the door

Instructor: Dave Alexander

As the editor-in-chief of Rue Morgue – the world’s largest horror magazine – Dave Alexander is a bonafide denizen in the Dark Side. Before moving to Toronto in 2005 to work for Rue Morgue, he earned a degree in Film and Media Studies from the University of Alberta, often writing papers on genre cinema. He currently programs and hosts Rue Morgue’s monthly  CineMacabre movie night screenings in Toronto, is a published fiction writer, an award winning filmmaker, and has penned chapters for non-fiction projects, including Hidden Horror: A Celebration of 101 Underrated and Overlooked Fright Flicks, an article on extreme Quebecois cinema for the film journal Cinephile and a chapter for an upcoming Walking Dead-themed anthology. In 2012, he created If They Came From Within: An Alternative History of Canadian Horror movie poster art show for Montreal’s Fantasia film festival, which featured Canadian poster artists and established genre filmmakers (e.g. Bruce McDonald, Jason Eisener, Vincenzo Natali and Astron 6) collaborating on movie posters for Canadian horror films that don’t exist, but we wish they did. Dave created ten of the titles in the show, including Farm of Frankenstein, Tundrasaur and Wucular Women of Winnipeg. He also appears regularly at fan conventions, on television and radio, and in documentaries – such as Zombiemania, Pretty Bloody and the upcoming Why Horror? – to talk about all things scary. He indulges his own morbid curiosity by collecting animal skulls and vintage post-mortem photography.

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