The Media Show Investigates Horror Films

Channel 4’s art show examines the appeal of horror films in a somewhat haphazard manner.

Here’s an extract from Channel 4’s The Media Show in 1989, where a collection of critics, academics and filmmakers – as well as some ‘members of the public’ – discuss the assorted joys of the horror film. There’s smart analysis as ever from David Cronenberg and Wes Craven, but the three film critics involved – horror supporters Kim Newman, Anne Billson and Stefan Joworzyn – must have felt a touched peeved that the only clip used of their conversation makes it sound as if they don’t have any regard for the genre whatsoever. Oh, the joys of soundbite television with existing agendas.

There’s an interestingly random selection of film clips – Combat Shock, The Video Dead, Demons 1 and 2, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Fly and Dead Ringers – the latter’s UK cinema release being the reason for the episode. It’s hosted by Muriel Gray – who would later write horror novels, but also appeared on TV some years later taking a holier-than-thou, pro-censorship attitude to the Lord Horror graphic novels that she clearly hadn’t even read.

As you might expect, it’s not the deepest delve into why we love horror, but it’s a curious museum piece nevertheless.

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  1. There was another piece done under the Media Show banner in the same year, which focused on the prevailing (media hyped) trend of ‘body horror’ and which seemed to exist to highlight the UK cinema release of Hellraiser 2. As a result, it threw Clive Barker into the interview mix along with Cronenberg.
    Horror fans in the 80’s really were lucky to have sharp, erudite intellects like Barker, Cronenberg, Craven, as well as the thoughtful musings of the Shock Xpress/Sheer Filth clan. The ease with which Cronenberg and Barker can illuminate the human experience…. I could listen to them all day.
    On this occasion, Barker signed off the piece beautifully: “What Cronenberg and I do is to say ‘you can’t throw this stuff away, you don’t even want to, because it’s another part of you’; and to embrace it…is to become a little bit more human.”

    1. There is some great stuff out there, lost in time – or at least lost in my pile of VHS tapes that currently live in storage. Barker did a great interview with Tony Wilson for Granada TV where they talked about how the British film establishment hated genre films (if I recall correctly, a BFI type had done a presentation of the most successful British films of the 1980s, full of movies that hardly anyone in the UK went to see and barely even got shown elsewhere… when asked where Hellraiser was, he replied “what’s that?”). I was hoping to find the episode of a C4 media show where a feminist critic declared that all horror was misogynistic and so all shit – thought this might have been it but I think it was a couple of years earlier.
      Eventually, all the stuff I have will make its way online… but don’t hold your breath!

      1. I recently stumbled upon a Wikipedia article that was written from a similar perspective and which suggested among other things that a male viewer of horror films who chose to sympathize with a final girl was perhaps a gender traitor, because of course what you should be doing is siding with the predominantly male monsters. Depressingly binary. I’m sorry but I can count past two.
        I lost about half of my VHS tapes to a leaky lockup, so I’m in the process of transferring the remaining recordings of interest to digital format. When I’m done I may drop you a list to see if there’s any gap-fillers for you.

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