11 April 2018



The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies is an international educational community through which established horror writers, directors, scholars and programmers/curators celebrate horror history and culture with a unique blend of enthusiasm and critical perspective. Taken from their website.

Last month I did a write-up on something my readers (yeah yeah, both of 'em, lol) found immensely absorbing and extremely exciting. Apparently there exists in deepest, darkest London a place where one can attend movie screenings, lectures and seminars on virtually all aspects of the horror genre, a place called the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies that opens its doors to horror fans of all types.

You've got your hairy, beardy, black-movie-T-shirt-wearing mostly male horror fan who comes to screenings and seminars armed with a million questions about the movie to put to whomever's taking the class. They can also point out mad discrepancies like who was wearing a watch in a movie set in a time where the wrist-watch had clearly not been invented yet, ie, the age of the dinosaur. That kind of horror fanatic and smart-arse, lol.

That category probably comprises, like, ninety-nine-point-nine percent of all horror fans. The remaining teensy-weensy percent consists of all other random and miscellaneous types of horror fan, including but not limited to women, I believe, women such as myself who adore horror even though the genre is probably still dominated by men. How very dare we, lol again. How did the Institute get its rather distinctive name, by the way?

Named for the fictional university in H.P. Lovecraft’s literary mythos, the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies is an international organization that offers university-level history, theory and production-based masterclasses for people of all ages. The Miskatonic is a non-profit endeavour through which established horror writers, directors, scholars and programmers/curators celebrate horror history and culture with a unique blend of enthusiasm and critical perspective. Taken from their website.

Here's a section taken from my previous write-up about the Institute that gives a little information on the work of the Institute and its wonderful instructors:

'Stacey Abbott has (recently) given a masterclass at the Institute on Richard Matheson's horror novel, I AM LEGEND, which popularised both the zombie-vampire genre of horror and also the concept of a grim post-apocalyptic future after most of the world's population has succumbed to a horrible plague or disease. Now, doesn't that sound grim?

Numerous horror films were influenced by Richard Matheson's book, two of my favourites of which are THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964), starring Vincent Price, and George A. Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), which needs no introduction from little old me. It's definitely one of my favourite films of all time, though.

Stacey Abbott, by the way, is one of the Institute's instructors. She is Reader In Film And Television Studies at the University of Roehampton, and has penned the following books: Celluloid Vampires (2007), Undead Apocalypse: Vampires and Zombies in the 21st Century (2016), and co-author, with Lorna Jowett, of TV Horror: The Dark Side of the Small Screen (2012). No doubting her credentials, then...!

Speaking of instructors at the Institute, they certainly count some bonafide members of horror writing and critiquing royalty amongst their number. The full list of instructors is on the website, but the few who caught my eye are as follows:

Stephen Jones, the horror/fantasy writer and editor, some of whose excellent horror anthologies grace my own humble shelves; Ramsey Campbell, the English horror author, editor and critic
with about a million books to his name; and Kim Newman, the author, film critic and broadcaster with a slick sartorial style and a great sense of humour.'

Because I love ye, I won't tell my Kim Newman story again today. If ye really want to read it, it's in the text of my previous write-up on the Institute. What I really want to spread the word about today is an event taking place at the Institute next week.

It's a fantastic show-and-tell lecture on the process of restoring F.W. Murnau's NOSFERATU (1922), one of the creepiest and best of all the silent movies. It's going to be super-technical, going right into the nitty-gritty of the restoration process, so I foresee this event being extremely popular with the horror lads, those lovely beardy bespectacled fellas we talked about earlier. Everyone's welcome though, even women, lol.

For those of you who haven't seen Murnau's film, I'm including below a short review of the film I penned when it was re-released by the British Film Institute a year or two ago:


'This horror classic was the first screen adaptation of Bram Stoker's 'Dracula,' although it's not quite as simple as that. Everyone knows the story of how Mrs. Bram Stoker wouldn't let Murnau have the rights to her hubby's book so Murnau re-jigged a few things and changed a few names and basically created one of the most memorable-for-all-the-right-reasons horror movies of all time.

Werner Herzog's NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE (1979) is an amazing film tribute to Murnau's original movie. Klaus Kinski's softly-spoken, love-starved Count Dracula, however, is probably a much more sympathetic figure than Schreck's nightmarish boogeyman.

SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000), directed by E. Elias Merhige and starring John Malkovich as Murnau and Willem Dafoe as Schreck/Count Orlok, is another brilliant film to watch out for in the Nosferatu-canon.

It's a fictionalized account of the making of Murnau's 1922 movie which makes out that Schreck was an actual real vampire whose motivation for making Murnau's movie was simply to kill and suck the blood of as many cast-and-crew members as he could sink his fangs into, in particular the lovely Greta Schroeder, Murnau's leading lady. It's fictionalized, remember, but oh my Lord, how exciting it would be if it were all true...!

The story of NOSFERATU differs from that of DRACULA in that it's set in Germany in the mid-nineteenth century as opposed to the England of the 1890s. Jonathan Harker is now called Thomas Hutter and his wife is called Ellen, and he travels from his home town of Wisborg across the Carpathian mountains to the castle of Count Orlok at the behest of his employer, Knock, who wants to sell the Count a house. So you see that the names have been changed, but the basic plot is still the same.

It's so unintentionally funny when Hutter tells his missus that he's 'off to the land of phantoms, ghosts and robbers, etc...!' I mean, what exactly is a wife supposed to say to that? 'That's nice, dear. Don't forget to bring back the milk...?' My Jaysis.

NOSFERATU: A SYMPHONY OF HORRORS is chock-a-block with iconic scenes and images, so it's tough enough to isolate a few for special mention, but here goes. I personally love the scene where Count Orlok first emerges from the shadows of his castle into the glare of Murnau's camera, and the one where the Count masquerades as his own coach-driver and brings the nervous Hutter to the castle.

All the scenes on the ship are so spooky, too, especially the one where the First Mate goes
below deck and receives the worst shock of his life, and then the terrified captain ties himself to the wheel and he's eventually found by the townspeople of Wisborg, stone-dead and still tied to the wheel of his former vessel. 'The ship of death had a new captain...' Ellen's sleep-walking scenes are dreamily, poetically eerie too. They're as beautiful and graceful as scenes from a ballet.

The most iconic scene of all, though, would have to be dear old Nozzie himself climbing the staircase to Ellen's bedchamber with his hideous form silhouetted on the wall in all its warts 'n' all glory. It's a much-watched, much-parodied scene. Remember THE FAST SHOW's funny take on it?

Yes indeed, Nosferatu might not have actual warts but he's as bald as a coot, bat-eared and buck-toothed, and as far from the late Christopher Lee's portrayal of the demonically handsome, sexually dominant lover in the Hammer films of the 50s, 60s and 70s as it's possible to get.

The poor guy, he just wants to be loved. It's not his fault he fell out of the Ugly Tree and hit every goddamn branch on the way down. Well, is it...?

Do we all know how the real-life story ends? Every copy of Murnau's wonderful film was ordered to be destroyed after Bram Stoker's heirs sued over his adaptation of DRACULA. A few copies survived, however, and were copied in turn. Thank God for that. I say thank God for that...'

Anyway, the event taking place on April 19th in London sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime chance to chew the fat over this wonderful film and the work that went into restoring it. The prices are ridiculously low and I strongly advise anyone who can get to it to do so. Here are those all-important details and links taken from the website and stay tuned to this blog for further developments:

'The Miskatonic Institute Of Horror Studies - London welcomes Watchmaker Films founder Mark Rance to discuss the proccess and importance of film restoration while putting a spotlight on his challenging work on the NOSFERATU release.

This show-and-tell lecture will illustrate many of the issues encountered and (with varying degrees of success) resolved in a digital restoration of Murnau’s NOSFERATU. We will begin with a description of the original production and the technology used to make the film. The film’s own troubled history complicated the film’s physical reconstruction, and that impacted the digital restoration.

The reconstructed master print was made from many disparate elements, as a single negative was simply not available. We will examine many scenes and shots in a side-by-side comparison of the unrestored reconstructed print and the digitally restored version of the same material.

As we do, this talk will investigate many of the problems faced by any restoration team when not all the original elements are available. We will examine the use of VFX tools, grain management, tinting processes and photo-chemical to digital translation issues when restoring motion pictures.

This talk will primarily explore the complex and subjective issues currently floating around in many analog-versus-digital discussions of film and how those opinions can influence the determination of what the restored version should look like if the goal is to replicate the original projected image at the time of first release. Can digital restorations generate valid preservation copies of photo-chemical materials? Let’s find out.'

About the Instructor:
Mark Rance is a documentary filmmaker who for many years was a producer at The Criterion Collection
before forming his own company in Los Angeles and producing DVDs and Blu-rays for the Hollywood studios. His titles include THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, HARD EIGHT (aka SYDNEY), BOOGIE NIGHTS, MAGNOLIA, SEVEN, I,ROBOT, THE PRESTIGE, RESERVOIR DOGS and THE DARK KNIGHT. He moved to London in 2004 and established Watchmaker Films to restore and distribute lost independent films. Those restorations include Eagle Pennell’s THE WHOLE SHOOTIN’ MATCH and LAST NIGHT AT THE ALAMO; Tobe Hooper’s first feature, EGGSHELLS; and Jack Hazan’s A BIGGER SPLASH.

The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies – London - A Restoration of 'Nosferatu' (1922)
Date: April 19th 2018
Time: 7:00pm-10:00pm
Venue: The Horse Hospital Address: Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 1JD
Prices: £10 advance / £11 on the door / £8 concs (students/seniors with ID)


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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