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Horror and Its Traditions

Carl Sederholm, associate professor in the Department of Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature, spoke at an International Cinema lecture on horror as a genre and its traditions.

PROVO, Utah (Oct. 28, 2014)—“International horror is growing in popularity, and it’s important to follow these trends,” said Carl Sederholm, associate professor of humanities, at an International Cinema lecture about the Hong Kong film The Eye.

Carl Sederholm, associate professor in the Department of Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature at BYU

In 1901, Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain toured the garden of Versailles. While walking, they came across a man who instructed them to take a less-walked path. En route, they saw people wearing clothing from 1789, including Marie Antoinette herself. The ladies presumed that it was a historical re-enactment.

“They came out the other side of the gardens and realized they might have seen real ghosts,” Sederholm said. The ladies published their accounts in 1911 in a book entitled An Adventure. “The story had an impact on a lot of people because it was two people who claimed to witness a ghost event at the same time.”

That brings up an interesting point, said Sederholm. “What do we do when people see ghosts? It’s hard to take people seriously when they claim things like this, but what happens if those experiences repeat themselves or when more than one person sees them?”

In The Eye, blind Mun has a corneal transplant and can now see, but she sees more than most people do. In the film, there’s a scene where Mun sees the things in her room shift back and forth between one reality and another. Sederholm asked, “What do we do if our reality changes? Can we trust our eyes and ears? How would you respond if your world was shifted?”

The Eye makes viewers think about what it would be like to see a phenomenon that you don’t understand while you’re processing the world for the first time.

Sederholm explained the value of movies like The Eye. “When I talk about horror, people bristle. But it’s not so simple. It’s like science fiction or western. As a genre it asks questions, such as to what extent are our fears cultural?” he said. “They do certain cultural work. Horror asks very interesting questions about ourselves and what scares us.”

He gave the example of September 11, 2001. After the attacks on the U.S., movies reflected the fear Americans felt. Home invasion movies and movies that reflected on enemy attacks without a clear motive became more popular, said Sederholm.

According to Sederholm, understanding the tradition and history of horror movies leads to a better understanding of different cultures and what they value and fear.

For more information on International Cinema’s showings and lectures, visit their website.

—Stephanie Bahr Bentley

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