The academic study of horror cinema has become increasingly established in recent years. Yet, the study of the transnationalism of horror cinema, and its revival in non-Western national contexts is relatively limited. While the transnational approaches are discussed in key anthologies on international horror (2002; 2005), and a handful of later collections devoted to national horror traditions, including East Asian and European contexts, there is still much to be said about the specifically transnational dynamics of horror filmmaking and its circulation.
Emergent uses of paranormal imagery in popular culture, that are informed by religion and folklore, often demonstrate crises in hegemonic scripts of national identity and belonging. In this sense, the revival of folk horror in national (e.g. Brazil, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, Philippines, and South Korea) and transnational (e.g. the Insidious, Conjuring, Paranormal Activity, and Ring franchises) contexts of filmmaking provides a fertile ground to critically examine the ways in which the secular-religious and modernity-tradition divides, and (post-)colonial/ethnic conflicts in national politics inform cultural representations. The recent popularisation of the paranormal/folkloric imageries has not been previously addressed by an international academic framework that brings together national and transnational aspects of contemporary cultural production.
This collection builds on a small pilot study funded by NTU, which proposed a theoretical and methodological framework to account for the post-millennial revival of horror movies in popular Turkish cinema. Expanding its corpus and theoretical insights, this pilot project has recently been extended into a more international framework and is granted a BA/Leverhulme SRG (SRG21\210027, 01/09/2021 – 30/08/2023). The extended project seeks to further develop the pilot framework and carry out an inquiry that unpacks social, cultural, and political meanings behind the recent revival of folk horror, and locates these meanings in local, national, regional, and transnational settings of cultural production.
The project has so far mobilised a diverse international community of researchers and cultural practitioners who agreed to participate in various outputs and activities, including the symposium “Transnational Horror, Folklore and Cultural Politics” which took place on 18 May 2022 at Nottingham Trent University, and a “folk horror”-themed programme of film screenings the investigator curated as part of the Istanbul Film Festival (8-19 April 2022) sponsored by the British Academy and MUBI Turkey. The edited collection will be the reflection of these collaborative efforts shaped by the participants’ shared ambition to “internationalise” horror scholarship and generate innovative interdisciplinary frameworks to conceptualise contemporary genre formations/revivals.
The project also feature a Turkish case study that focuses on the post-millennial emergence of the horror genre in the cinema of Turkey. Investing in the djinn, one of the key figures in Anatolian folklore, Turkic/Turkish shamanism and Islamic mythology, Turkish horror films tell paranormal stories of witchcraft, black magic, demonic possession and exorcism. Adopting a transnational style that appropriates various aesthetic modes from Asian and American horror, the Turkish horror genre uses djinns to narrate stories that represent conflicted relations of gender, kinship and property in contemporary Turkey. Ranging, thematically and stylistically, from found-footage “techno-horror” to “horror dramas” of grief, revenge, jealousy and class conflict, Turkish horror movies cite folklore and religion to represent the contemporary crises of gender politics and kinship relations in post-secular Turkey. This project explores this genre formation by locating it within a critical framework informed by both the national political context, and the international mobility of paranormal horror narratives in world cinema.
This platform is built to share publicly available information on paranormal/folk horror film cultures from various national contexts and scholarly practices, and to circulate information on the project’s progress, the outputs produced, and the events organised as part of it.
Cüneyt Çakırlar, Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom