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October 8, 2014

Playtime is Over: Killer Dolls, Marionettes and Automatons in Horror Cinema

As children, imaginary friends and talking stuffed animals are a regular part of playtime; animation is given to that which, from the perspective of adulthood, is not lifelike, giving birth to the concept of the automaton. Human-like figures come alive under a child’s control, allowing them to play out real-life, or not so real-life, situations in preparation for the ‘real’ world. But, at some point in a child’s development, the mind rejects animism of childhood toys, and the toys in turn become silent. This silence has the tendency to turn to fear in adolescence and adulthood when confronted with toys that appear to talk and move on their own. In the horror film, these animated dolls, dummies and puppets have become trademark staples of the genre’s iconography. The most innocent of toys become vessels of pain, suffering, and death. By drawing off of Freud’s notion of the uncanny, along with theorizations of the human voice in cinema, the reasons behind the fear that many experience upon confrontation with an unlikely animated object may become more evident. Looking at how automatons and our fear of them has evolved on screen, episodes of the Twilight Zone, along with films such as Dead of Night (1945), Magic (1978), Child’s Play (1988), Pin (1988), Dead Silence (2007) and Cassadaga (2011) will be looked at, among others, in the hopes of silencing adult fears of animism in the inanimate.

October 8, 2014 at 9pm
The Royal Cinema, 608 College St, Toronto
Cost: $12 advance / $15 at the door

Instructor: Andrea Butler

Andrea is a PhD Candidate in Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto where her research revolves around the erotic feminine of the “cinema of sensations” and transgressive European horror and art house films. She has had her work on the Grand Guignol Theater and New Extremism published in Cinephile film journal and is currently in production on a documentary that was inspired by her previous Black Museum lecture on film poster art. Andrea can be seen next at the Festival of Fear where she will be co-moderating a panel of very gifted local poster artists titled, The Four Horsemen of the Artpocalypse.

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