This semester the English Department’s Jay McRoy is teaching one of the most unique classes I have ever seen offered by this university: English 358—Contemporary European Horror. This class takes a deep analytical look at 13 films from different counties in regards to genre, psychoanalytical philosophies and social and political views. More than you thought you could find in a horror flick? You are not alone. Many people seem to look down on horror movies. So why European horror, or even horror in general? McRoy not only disagrees with those who look down on the entire genre, but explains a thing or two about these genres and his class.
When I asked why he chose contemporary European horror for this semester’s class, he said that “Most genre classes stick to the larger overarching genre classifications,” and that “with a scope that expansive I find it difficult to find any kind of sustained inquiry.” Mcroy stated that when the “horror genre is often grounded on paradoxes, it becomes difficult to get new-aged analysis” in a class that begins with the classics and works all the way through time. He chose contemporary horror from one part of the world so that he could spend his time, as well as the class discussions, in focusing on things that I never knew were part of the horror genre, things such as “shifting political climates.” He also told me about his past in working mostly Asian horror, primarily Japanese horror. He has multiple essays and articles published in the subject, as well as having written an entire book on Asian horror. Although he has taught a class in Asian horror before, he is looking for a refresher through other cultures, but could possibly return to it someday when he has “fresh eyes” for the subject matter.
To those people who say that horror movies as a whole are bad or that it is the worst genre, McRoy says, “Sometimes they are right. Most of the films created, a good 80-90 percent, are really bad.” He points out that most people feel this way because of a preconceived idea that all the horror movies are the same, which a lot of them are. “Horror is a genre that people assume is relatively easy because of certain tropes that are indicative of horror which then become cliché unless you’re going to push boundaries and do something new,” something that he strongly believes everyone should do. He points out that other types of movies also follow a formulaic ritual such as romantic comedies or the ever so popular superhero movie. These have a sort of “recipe” that they follow, and by going through the motions create sometimes the same movie over and over again. Never fear, there is a hope for these genres. McRoy says that “With any film tradition there are moments where you can be innovative. Take an element of horror cinema like a focus on bodies, have an image based on certain philosophies or social ideas.”
As a teacher and an artist, McRoy strongly thinks that everyone should create art. “I feel like everyone should create; write, paint, draw, even if you don’t have the talent for it. Because eventually you won’t be able to.” When asked about his own films that he has created as part of his art and the screenplays that go into making them, he says that because he is more of an experimentalist his screenplays are really a “series of prompts” rather than written dialogue. He believes that even a well-trained actor will read a dialogue as just that: a written dialogue. That being said, his belief in making art and doing things that you’d like to see done yourself because no one else is going to do it for you, makes him recommend a class being offered in screenwriting through both the English and the Theater departments next semester, which is to be taught by Patrick McGuire. I suggest that on top of picking up that class, make sure to keep an eye out for McRoy’s next film genre class. Chances are it won’t be in European horror, but I have no doubt that it will be interesting, challenging and well worth the time no matter what he chooses next.
Article by Krista Skweres