To bring our first Women in Horror Month Celebration to a close, CineDump is proud to present Andrea Subissati. Now Editor in Chief at Rue Morgue magazine, Subissati’s roots in horror go back to a scholarly origin. While many critics and academics have long maligned horror movies for their violence, sexuality, and the uncomfortable mixing of those two, Subissati looks at how horror movies are often a comment on our world. They’re not simply puerile fantasy, they’re countercultural texts waiting to be explored.
In addition to her writing, Subissati is also co-host with Alex West on the popular podcast “Faculty of Horror,” which takes a serious look at how horror movies respond to and react with society. Like her Toronto based “Black Museum” lecture series, “Faculty of Horror” is fun, interesting, and effortlessly erudite. For anyone who is proudly an unapologetic nerd, the Faculty of Horror is an endless source of fascination: from the podcasts themselves to the “Required Reading” and “Extra Credit” articles they provide to give context to their discussions, I could crawl into this site and never come out. In fact, if my output drops in March, you know why. Thanks, Faculty of Horror!
Now that she’s helming Rue Morgue, look for a smarter, edgier treatment of horror films and their impact on our ever more frightening world. It’s exactly this analytical perspective that horror movies--and our culture in general--needs right now. For too long, horror movies, like women, have been dismissed out of hand. Here’s to you, Andrea Subissati, for revealing the empowering core of even our nastiest fixations, and for bringing some much needed brains to all that blood.
Pennie Sublime: What made you interested in looking at horror movies through a more scholarly lens?
Andrea Subissati: I studied sociology at school because I was fascinated by cinema’s role in socializing us. John Hughes taught me how to be a teenager, you know? Mission: boyfriend. Obsession: prom. Avoid: calories. My parents never taught me that stuff, I didn’t pick it up from my sisters or my friends; we all drank the same Kool-aid that was film and popular culture. After that, I became interested in Marxism and feminism and discovered the ways in which popular culture can also oppress us and train us to accept certain injustices as unchangeable and immutable. With that theoretical foundation, I realized that horror films didn’t talk down to me or try to sell me on anything. If anything, they showed people confronting their oppressors and challenging those systems. I realized that horror was terribly empowering to me and I love discussing that.
PS: Why do you think people are so drawn to horror movies and stories?
AS: Well, I think horror fandom has a vast and diverse community and I’ve noticed that everyone has their own unique relationship to the genre. I’ve heard incredibly insightful speculations from fellow Rue Morgue alum about how violence is innate in humanity, and horror has become an acceptable outlet for those instincts. I’ve heard fans describe being bullied as kids and how that experience enabled them to relate that to Frankenstein’s monster and his alienation. Whatever it is that draws you to horror is personal but most horror fans I’ve encountered respect one another’s journeys, which is part of why the fandom is such a great and inclusive community.
PS: Tell us more about your lecture series, The Black Museum.
AS: The concept for The Black Museum was inspired by the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies in Montreal. I heard that they were conducting classes on horror topics, so I teamed up with a fellow Rue Morgue writer, Paul Corupe, and we developed a format for a similar series in Toronto. We’re on indefinite hiatus right now – it was an awful lot of work for us to put together and finding appropriate venues in the city was challenging as well. We’ve still got videos of many of the lectures available for download on our website HERE, though, and I had a blast meeting so many passionate horror fans in the city.
PS: You've written about the sociology of zombie movies. What do you feel studying zombies can teach us about our current culture?
AS: That’s actually a far more interesting question now than when I wrote my thesis years ago! I wrote about zombies when they were just starting their “second wave”, if you will – 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake had come out, so I was interested in why zombies were popular again and why filmmakers might be compelled to speed them up. I drew conclusions that had to do with racist conceptions of the other, and a growing awareness that the luxuries of Western life came at a cost to the rest of the world, but I couldn’t have predicted how popular zombies would become, or the extent to which racist discourse would peak the way it is now. Apparently zombies still have a lot to say about us!
PS: What was your favorite horror book/movie of 2016?
AS: It’s a bit of a cheat since I saw it in 2015, but it’s The Witch. There were several movies that captivated me in 2016 (honorable mentions go to The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Neon Demon and The Invitation) but The Witch was a game-changer, in my opinion. With regard to books, I chewed through House of Leaves last fall, and it kinda blew my mind in terms of what a novel can do.