SCMS Panel: Indigeneity and Horror

deadline for submissions: 
July 31, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Murray Leeder

In his classic essay “An Introduction to the American Horror Film,” Robin Wood establishes the basic formula of the horror film as “normality is threatened by the monster.” He subsequently mentions that if one were to “substitute for ‘Monster’ the term ‘Indians’ . . . one has a formula for a large number of classical Westerns.” Wood’s point is to establish the flexibility of his framework but it also points in another direction: the monstrousness of the idea of Indigeneity within the colonial mindset. Today, one of the most exciting growing areas in horror cinema at the moment comes from Indigenous persons. In Canada, Jeff Barnaby (Mi’gmaq) will soon release Blood Quantum (2019), a zombie film set on the same reserve as his earlier Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013) -- which Scott Pewenofkit has suggested “may be the first truly Indigenous horror film,” dipping as it does into the representational space of the horror film (the zombie film, especially) to allegorize the real-life, genocidal horrors of the residential school system.


Only recently has scholarship emerged on distinctly Indigenous horror and Gothic literature and film; examples include Joy Porter’s chapter in The Palgrave Handbook to Horror Literature (2018), Ariel Smith’s article “This Essay Was Not Built On an Ancient Indian Burial Ground” (2014) and Gail de Vos and Kayla Lar-son’s contribution to The Horror Companion (2019). This panel asks: how does Indigenous horror contribute to or even challenge our understanding of the horror genre and of horror theory?


We seek papers for the 2020 SCMS conference in Denver. Topics may include:


Particularities of different settler-colonialist nations (Canada, the United States of America, New Zealand, Australia, etc.) and their film industries


The monster as a figure of Othering vs. a figure of resistance


The relationship of Indigenous horror literature and film


Reinterpretations of classic horror narratives are ripe for revisiting through the lens of Indigeneity


Indigenous spins of familiar horror figures (vampire, zombie, werewolf, ghost, etc.), and conversely, settler appropriation of folkloric figures like the Wendigo


Cycles of horror production that have favoured Indigenous characters and themes (e.g. ‘70s eco-horror)


Genre hybridity (the Western, science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, drama, comedy, romance, etc.)


Film festivals, funding structures, etc.


Please submit a title, an abstract (max. 2500 characters), a bio (max. 500 characters), and 3–5 bibliographic sources to and by August 1. Responses will be given by August 13.




Murray Leeder holds a Ph.D. from Carleton University and is a Research Affiliate at the University of Manitoba. He the author of Horror Film: A Critical Introduction (Bloomsbury, 2018), The Modern Supernatural and the Beginnings of Cinema (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) and Halloween (Auteur, 2014), as well as the editor of Cinematic Ghosts: Haunting and Spectrality from Silent Cinema to the Digital Era (Bloomsbury, 2015) and ReFocus: The Films of William Castle (Edinburgh University Press, 2018), as well as numerous articles and book chapters.



Gary D. Rhodes currently serves as Associate Professor of Film and Mass Media at the University of Central Florida, Orlando. He is the author of Emerald Illusions:  The Irish in Early American Cinema (IAP, 2012), The Perils of Moviegoing in America (Bloomsbury, 2012), and The Birth of the American Horror Film(Edinburgh University Press, 2018), as well as the editor of such anthologies as Edgar G. Ulmer:  Detour on Poverty Row (Lexington, 2008), The Films of Joseph H. Lewis (Wayne State University, 2012), and The Films of Budd Boetticher (Edinburgh University Press, 2017). Rhodes is also the writer-director of such documentary films as Lugosi: Hollywood's Dracula (1997) and Banned in Oklahoma (2004).  Forthcoming from Edinburgh University Press is the monograph Consuming Images:  Film Art and the American Television Commercial, coauthored with Robert Singer.