We do not dispute that Londoners are spoiled for choice when it comes to movies, and we’re not just talking about the new releases. You can catch classic and cult movies any night of the week in the capital, but what if you want to go a little deeper? What if you’re looking to really get to grips with a horror classic, learn more about a sub-genre, or have the joy of discovering your new favourite niche?
The Miskatonic Institute Of Horror Studies was founded by mighty genre expert and writer Kier-La Janisse back in 2010, with the London branch opening in 2015. Miskatonic offers university-level history, theory and production-based masterclasses for people of all ages on an incredible range of topics, from classroom safety films and Satanic Panic to cannibal movies and Twin Peaks. On 15 March (tonight!) you can attend a class on Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and its cinematic legacy.
It’s a treasure trove and an amazing opportunity, and we talked to co-director Josh Saco to find out more.
Can you tell us a bit about what the Miskatonic Institute is for people who might be unfamiliar?
The Miskatonic Institute Of Horror Studies is a place to gain in depth knowledge about both the more general and more obscure elements of this massive genre that so many of us love. Inviting various masters in their field we help to bring an academic look all aspects from literature to z list films to the technical workings behind the scene, the influences and thoughts behind this vast aspect of cinema are all put on the table and dissected.
What does a typical class consist of?
The classes take place at the Horse Hospital in London, and run from 7-10, with a 15-20-minute break, the lectures feature slides and clips.
One of my favourite aspects is the growing sense of community in the classes, which of course pours over to the pub over the road where the new information is processed and interpreted.
What is the process of selecting the subjects? There’s a great range of horror, and there’s noir too…
We have touched on noir with our German Krimi class, Krimi being a precursor to the more familiar Giallo, itself a precursor to the Slasher
Kier-La (co director and founder) and I are curious creatures with a thirst for knowledge ourselves, and so subject selection can come from a random thought or conversation with a person on the street. Then we make a note and hunt down an expert, alternatively we may encounter someone we like, or who has an interesting angle and we run with it from there.
Ultimately, there’s no shortage of rabbit holes to go down, the scary story has been with us since man’s first grunt.
Can you tell us about what’s coming up?
April sees us turning our eye to the technical and examining what’s involved in restoring a film, with so many restorations coming out these days it’s increasingly important to understand what exactly that means, both the technical aspects and the artistic choices that are made. In May we venture to the US and travel with West Coast cults and their influence on film, so Jim Jones, Charles Manson, and more.
We’re still working on our Autumn programme, but we have some fantastic courses up – One of the great things about this is we’re learning as much as the anyone else, it helps keeps us passionate and excited.
Do you remember what your first horror movie was?
I’m not sure either are my first, but I recall sitting on my grandmother’s floor being terrified of Silas Barnaby and the Bogeymen in Babes In Toyland when I was 4 or 5. And being at my friend’s house when I was 10, and excitedly sliding his brother’s Toxic Avenger tape into the VCR. I still vividly recall the exploding head scene.
Find out more about Miskatonic London here. Keep up with the latest genre news with the new issue of SciFiNow