If It Looks Like Horror: Mechanics of Fear in Cross-genre Cinema (Part 1: Sinister Subversions) (Panel)


Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Stacey Baran (University of California, Davis)

Jeremy Freeman (University of California, Davis)

In Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 (2004), the hospital scene has been paid special attention for seeming “more at home in a horror movie than a superhero sequel,” according to Bloody Disgusting’s Meagan Navarro: it depicts Dr. Octopus’ mechanical tentacles as they slaughter the surgeons who are about to remove them from his body. The scene is rife with the imagery of gaping screams, fingernails clawing into the floor, and limbs going limp, evoking an atmosphere of terror which even Dr. Octopus recognizes once he awakens to the carnage before him.

Indeed, the “leakage” of horror mechanics into the Spider-Man trilogy comes as no surprise considering Raimi’s legacy as the Evil Dead director. At the same time, there seems to be nothing anomalous about the infiltration of conventional horror techniques in films which are decidedly not horror. War film Saving Private Ryan (1998) has been previously read as “military” horror, for instance, and few could forget the terrifying spectacle of the rainbow tunnel scene with Gene Wilder in the children’s film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971).

How do non-horror films interpolate these instances of fear within the established narrative structure? What place do such discursive moments have in non-horror films, and what purpose do they serve within the context of both production and audience reception? Rather than approaching these inquiries through genre hybridity, we are specifically interested in projects that consider films which operate within a definitive non-horror genre yet simultaneously borrow cinematic conventions recognized as belonging to horror. The session invites 250-word proposals which consider the interpolation of cinematic horror conventions into films of other genres. This panel aims to situate these projects in the larger discourse of film genre theory and the evolving changes in contemporary cinema which emerge through new modes of media consumption.


A panel session aimed at the exploration of cinematic horror conventions in films outside of the established horror genre. It considers the role of interpolating traditional horror mechanics into other genres and the effects of this displacement on reception, genre classification/codification, and classical film analysis.