Bodies at rest and in motion
: Space, place and the material in cinematic horror

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Horror, particularly cinematic horror, is often culturally disparaged. It is often regarded as pandering to humanity's base instincts, and at times associated with pornography. Horror cinema displays such a diverse array of themes and motifs, techniques and tropes that it makes it difficult to comprehensively define horror as a genre. Academic discourses are well-established exploring the apparently paradoxical pleasures of horror, the semiotics of the myriad economies of power and privilege evident in its stories, or interpreting the work of its auteurs. However, in analysing these films, the focus is primarily on narrative function and little attention has been paid to the integral roles that space, place and the material play in them. This research establishes a beach-head in this unexplored academic terrain, combining theoretical analysis with Practice-as-Research methodology. Using an holistic approach which synthesises intersectional analysis of horror cinema with the academically neglected film making practice of production illustration, it suggests that horror is a narrative mechanism which crosses genres to perform key diegetic functions using both intellectual embodied cinematic cues. It posits the imbricated nature of horror, and situates the monstrum at its centre. This character - human or otherwise, preternatural or supernatural - acts as a cautionary device, where it facilitates the emotional excavation, from a collective cultural
unconscious of unresolved social anxieties through story. Using the works of Lovecraft as a diegetic lens, it deploys the developmental cinematic technique of production illustration to reflect on and manifest filmic spatialities, places, things and states of being, visually realising and testing theoretical concerns. This is achieved through a body of reflective imagery meeting industry standards. These representations visually and theoretically analyse the function of space, place and the material, uncovering horror as a region of conceptual blending where cognitive schemata and epistemologies are tested. It recognises that the unpredictable destabilisation of space, place and the material renders unreliable the core human percept upon which cognition rests, providing a powerful generative force for horror.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsVice Chanchellor's Research Scholarship
SupervisorVictoria Mc Collum (Supervisor)


  • Lovecraft
  • Space
  • Place
  • Material
  • Embodiment
  • Horror
  • Film
  • Production illustration

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