Directory of World Cinema: Australia and New Zealand 2 published

Edited by Ben Goldsmith and Mark David Ryan and Geoff Lealand

Building on and bringing up to date the material presented in the first installment of Directory of World Cinema: Australia and New Zealand, this volume continues the exploration of the cinema produced in Australia and New Zealand since the beginning of the twentieth century. Among the additions to this volume are in-depth treatments of the locations that feature prominently in the countries’ cinema. Essays by leading critics and film scholars consider the significance in films of the outback and the beach, which is evoked as a liminal space in Long Weekend and a symbol of death in Heaven’s Burning, among other films. Other contributions turn the spotlight on previously unexplored genres and key filmmakers, including Jane Campion, Rolf de Heer, Charles Chauvel, and Gillian Armstrong.

Accompanying the critical essays in this volume are more than one hundred new film reviews, complemented by full-colour film stills and significantly expanded references for further study. From The Piano to Red Dog, from Pictures to The Orator, Directory of World Cinema: Australia and New Zealand 2 completes this comprehensive treatment of two similar – but also different – consistently fascinating national cinemas.

Available for Purchase here:,id=4951/

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Call for Papers – 2015 XVIIth Film and History Association of Australia and New Zealand (FHAANZ) Conference in association with the Screen Studies Association of Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand (SSAAANZ)
Date: Wednesday 1 July to Friday 3 July 2015
Place: Queensland University of Technology, Kelvin Grove Campus, Brisbane.
Deadline for abstract submission: Friday 27 February 2015


The 17th FHAANZ Conference invites papers and panel suggestions from scholars, archivists, educators, policymakers, filmmakers and post-graduate students on any aspect of screen studies and film history. Suggested topics for the 2015 conference include, but are not limited to:
•    Screen history
•    Australian cinema 1999 –2015
•    Realism and documentary
•    Digital media: online and mobile screen content, social media, digital distribution
•    Television aesthetics, genres and ethics
•    Sound and the screen
•    Screen theory and philosophy
•    Creative practice and production
•    Aesthetic cycles, genres, key thematic and stylistic concerns
•    Reimagining landscape
•    Production, distribution, exhibition, audiences
•    Screen education, industry frameworks and policy settings

Abstracts for individual papers and for pre-constituted panels (of up to four speakers) are welcomed on any of the conference themes listed above.

For papers, please submit an abstract of 150-200 words and a bio of 50 words for each presenter, using the abstract template.

For panel proposals please submit a proposal for a panel comprising 3-4 speakers (3 x 20 min or 4 x 15 min papers). Please provide a descriptive title for the panel, abstracts of 150-200 words each and a bio of 50 words for each presenter, using the panel proposal template.

Call for papers:
Open: Monday 27 October 2014
Close: Friday 27 February 2015
Presenters notified: Friday 27 March 2015

Please submit your proposals to the following email address:

Refereed Publication
The conference will not have a refereed paper stream. We anticipate publishing selected papers from the conference as a journal special issue, with other publication opportunities also possible.
The 2015 FHAANZ conference convenors are:
Mark Ryan, Ben Goldsmith (Queensland University of Technology) and Jane Stadler (University of Queensland).
For general conference enquires please send an email to

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Queensland State Library – Behind The Screen: Scary Movies

Youtube video recording of the event

Since the inception of cinema, audiences have loved to be scared by movies. Is it for a quick thrill, or a deeper primal need to confront our fears? Lance Sinclair, Dr Mark Ryan and film maker Andrew leavold examine our fascination with cinematic danger. This video is from a recorded session titles ‘Scary Movies – Why Do We Watch Them?’ for the Behind the Screen Series held at the State Library of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 19 April 2012.

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Horror and its cycles: current trends in horror movies


Mama (2013, Universal Pictures)

By Mark David Ryan

The popularity of the horror movie genre tends to go in cycles. So what are the latest trends in scary movies and where is the genre heading?

Every year, millions of people around the world pay money to watch their worst fears and nightmares on screen. Horror is comprised of many sub-genres – from werewolf, zombie and vampire movies, to slasher, splatter and cannibal horror – all of which have fluctuated in and out of fashion over the years. As a genre, horror films revolve around monsters and protagonists’ struggle for survival, fear of the unknown, fear of death (especially horrific ones), and the transgression of boundaries. A horror film aims to scare an audience through ‘gross-out’ or ‘creep-out’ factors (some combine both).

The former relates to evoking reactions to shocking portrayals of gore and violence, as represented by the graphic torture of backpackers in Hostel (2006) from limbs being hacked off to eyes being cut from nerve endings. A more recent example is the remake of the 1980s classic Evil Dead (2013) which is high on nauseating gore and nasty violence. The latter refers to crafting fear through mood and suspense without explicit bloodshed achieved brilliantly in The Sixth Sense’s (1999) chilling encounters with ‘dead people’. For creep-out films it is what you don’t see that is most disturbing.

Friday The 13th (1980, Paramount Pictures)

In the late 1970s and into the 1980s, horror was dominated by slasher movies – masked madmen with knives staking and killing young teenagers; especially women and anyone partaking in illicit activities. Halloween’s (1978) Michael Myers wielding a butcher’s knife and sporting a white mask and Friday the 13th‘s (1980) Jason Voorhees behind a hockey-mask and brandishing a machete, are key examples. But by the mid-1980s the cycle had become tried and cliché. The only innovation for many of these films was the killer’s weapon – perhaps a pick-axe instead of a machete. Audiences became sick of the formula and the cycle became less profitable.

Into the 1990s, horror was dominated by two cycles. One was the teen slasher trend made popular by Wes Craven’s Scream franchise and included titles such as Urban Legend (1998), Valentine (2001) and Cut (2000), Australia’s Scream-inspired teen slasher. A young hip cast, a twist as to the slasher’s identity and tongue-in-cheek referencing of horror clichés (let’s split up to find the bad guy and oh no my flash doesn’t work and I’m pretty sure the killer is behind me) were essential ingredients.

The Sixth Sense (1999, Buena Vista Pictures)

The second key cycle was characterised by suggestive horror films that traded more upon creep-out factors than explicit violence and gore – movies like The Sixth Sense (1999), The Blair Witch Project (1999), and The Others (2001). Unlike the slashers of the 1980s, these movies were more restrained in their portrayal of explicit violence and instead offered stories about strange occurrences, fleeting glimpses of apparitions and spine-tingling suspense and terror.

Since the mid-2000s, the horror genre has been dominated by a cycle of movies labeled as ‘torture porn’ and typified by films such as the gruesome Saw franchise, Hostel (2005), Hostel: Part II (2007) and Turistas (2006). These movies featured extreme violence and depicted the worst deaths imaginable – with heads being crushed in bear-traps, bodies being punctured and ripped open and jaws being ripped from their sockets to name a few. In other words, they attempted to gross out an audience through vile depictions of sadistic violence which left nothing to the imagination.

Saw (2004, Lionsgate)

By the end of the 2000s, this cycle of highly violent torture movies was winding down.In recent years, the horror genre is at an interesting juncture. Zombie and vampire movies continue to be highly popular thanks to Warm Bodies (2013) and World War Z (2013) and the Twilight series respectively among many other examples. International horror movies, and in particular Asian horror movies, have been both highly popular and influential following the success of Japanese-inspired remakes like The Ring (2002)The Ring 2 (2005), and The Grudge (2004).

Moreover, horror flicks from most corners of globe have brought new sensibilities to the genre. Let the Right One In (2008) from Sweden is an understated and innovative vampire tale, Dead Snow (2009) from Norway is a quirky horror comedy about Nazis zombies set in snowy alps, and Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010) is a Finish tale about a monstrous Santa Claus based on ancient folklore who devours young children.


Mama (2013, Universal Pictures)

But most importantly, there has been a return to atmospheric horror flicks that trade in fear, suspense, and mood. In many ways this is unsurprising. As torture movies have become less popular, more and more titles have been released that attempt to scare audiences in different ways. This return to creep out movies has been led by tales of the supernatural and old fashion spooks stories about thing that go bump in the night. Mama (2013) is a narrative about two young girls who miraculously survive in the wilderness for five years. After they are rescued and returned to civilization to live with their uncle, strange occurrences being happening and the secret to their survival is no coincidence – a supernatural force is now linked to the children. The movie hinges upon classic haunted house tropes, is driven by a dark ominous visual style and preys upon fears of the unknown.

Others examples include the eerie haunted house horror Insidious (2010) – from James Wan and Leigh Whannell behind Saw – and the slow-burn supernatural horror The Orphange (2007). After the dominance of the torture cycle, the shift back to implied and atmospheric scares may be a welcome development for many movie-goers sick of nihilistic representations of gruesome torture. Yet as history has shown us, as audience sentiment for such fare wanes, or a new landmark movie emerges that challenges expectations for horror flicks, new cycles will begin to form. What these cycles might be, however, only time will tell. But for now atmospheric horrors may have some years to run yet, while other popular cycles such as zombie and vampire flicks continue to bubble away.

Originally published 18 July, 2013:

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“Scaring Aussie to Death: OZ’s top horror movie expert reveals the future of films that go bump in the dark” – Zoo Magazine

An article written for Zoo Weekly which appeared in issue 384, July 15 2013, pp.62-63.

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“Fanning the Ice and Fire”

Dr. Mark Ryan, “the pop culture expert”, on Game Thrones in the article “Fanning the Ice and Fire” by Natalie Bochenski for the Brisbane Times.

“Fanning the Ice and Fire”

Game of Thrones delivered a sucker punch of colossal proportions to its millions of fans worldwide this week.

The death of a number of key characters saw thousands hit social media to vent their despair and outrage at writer George R. R. Martin and series producer HBO.

When people die in Martin’s book, they’re dead, they’re not coming back and TV viewers are not used to that level of brutality and honesty.

Reaction videos were uploaded to YouTube, the Twitter account @RedWeddingTears was created solely to retweet anguished outbursts, a Downfall parody was created and even 2009’s meme of the year Keyboard Cat made a return.

Martin himself has said the scene was the most difficult he had to write, skipping over it until he’d finished the rest of A Storm of Swords, the third book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series.

The pop culture expert

Queensland University of Technology Film and TV lecturer Mark Ryan said long-form television allowed viewers to form deep attachments to characters.

“Particularly in Game of Thrones where there are so many plotlines, so many houses … audiences get invested,” he said.

Dr Ryan said the HBO series was part of a trend in contemporary TV to subvert expectations, citing Breaking Bad, True Blood and The Walking Dead as other current examples.

“TV shows are trying to steer away from being predictable, and as a result killing off main characters and plot twists that are not favourable keeps viewers on the edge of their seat, keeps them guessing.”

Thousands of reactions captured on social media included fans’ pledge to “give up” on the show.

But Dr Ryan doubted Game of Thrones was in any danger of burning out its audience with emotional upheaval.

“Because of the power of the brand, because people are so invested in the characters, the following keeps growing and growing.”

As of press time, Dr Ryan had not seen the now-infamous “The Rains of Castamere” episode.

“My guess is someone like Jon Snow, or Robb, might be in danger,” he said.

“Am I warm?”

No comment.

The geek whisperer

Paul Russell is a manager at Brisbane’s Ace Comics & Games store, and has been dealing with fanatics of all kinds for over ten years.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that fans feel really entitled, and they get really angry when things aren’t the way they think they should be,” he said.

“The problem is that gets really dull if you get everything handed to you the way you want it.”

He said Martin’s strength is a willingness to torture his fans.

“You need failure and despair to make a story work … he’s not there to pat you on the head and whisper comforting things in your ear.”

Russell admitted he found that out first hand.

“When I first read the Red Wedding scene, I threw the book across the room and didn’t touch it for two weeks,” he said.

So he was ready for this week’s outrage.

“I was waiting for the shitstorm afterwards – it’s fun to watch fans lose it.”

The author

John Birmingham often kills beloved characters in his techo-thrillers, such as the Axis of Time and Wave trilogies.

“If you’re writing a story where you’re putting your characters in danger, if you’re being true to that, some of them are going to be hurt,” he said.

“As soon as you accept some of them have to die, you get past that emotional blockage … it’s a very, very powerful thing, having the ruthlessness to do that.”

Birmingham said even now fans will occasionally tweet him to voice their displeasure at a character’s grisly end.

“But I’ve never gotten that weird, stalk-y Misery reaction where they tie you up in the basement, break your legs and demand you re-write it,” he said.

“I’m aiming for it, one day I’ll get there.”

The author said TV viewers were used to seeing characters meet their maker – but only temporarily.

“How many times did Buffy die … in Stargate, Daniel Jackson probably died half a dozen times but always came back one way or another.”

“When people die in Martin’s book, they’re dead, they’re not coming back and TV viewers are not used to that level of brutality and honesty.”

Birmingham also said book readers had more control over how they consumed the horror, whereas TV watchers were the prisoners of HBO producers DB White and David Benioff.

“Those of us who put in the hard yards knew exactly what was coming and were prepared.”
Read more:

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The Cabin in the Woods: Allure of the Cult horror panel


Hi Everyone,

I will be presenting at the Gold Coast Film Festival on April 20th at The Cabin in the Woods: Allure of the Cult horror panel. Joining Mark is filmmaker, writer and lover of cult movies Andrew Leavold and Todd Farmer, screenwriter of Jason X, My Bloody Valentine and Compound Fracture. 

The three will be discussing the evolution of horror and the various benchmarks for success in Australia, the US and beyond.

The Gold Coast Film Festival is running from the 19th of April until the 28th, and features some of the most anticipated new horror, pop-culture and anime films.

The Cabin in the Woods: Allure of the Cult

When        11am, Saturday April 20th
Where        Pacific Fair Westside
Tickets        Free, registration required
Bookings   Follow this link

For more information about the festival and the panellists please visit the festival website at:




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Oz Horror Con ’12

Hey everyone,

Australia’s first Horror movie convention. There’s a mini-convention in October 2012 and then the fully-fledged convention in Early 2013. Check out the details below.


Press Release 4 (PR4)

As a more atmospheric teaser for Oz Horror Con ’13, which is at the Melbourne showgrounds in January (guest starring the British Master of Horror, Ramsey Campbell), we are running a mini-Con in October, at the eerie, Haunted Royal Melbourne Hotel

When? October 27th – you can shuffle on over after the Zombie Shuffle (From 1pm to 6pm)

Where? The Royal Melbourne Hotel, Bourke Street, Melbourne. This is a unique historic (haunted) venue with holding Cells (!), Atrium, Outdoor courtyard, bars, kitchen, ambient music, etc.

What, Why? Designed as a meet and greet for volunteers, friends and press in anticipation of Oz Horror Con ’13, includes token for free drink, nibbles, (Hot food extra), with trade tables (limited space), Cos Play, Charity Auction, Horror Trivia Panel game, book readings, Paranormal activities, videos, panellists and more… all while you CozPlay!    Oh.. there is alcohol of course, and we advise drinking responsibly and safely J

How much? $25, Tickets via PayPal from:
(There only a small number of trade/exhibitor table spaces left)

Who is invited? Friends of Oz Horror Con (CozPlay is optional) restricted to over 18s only, as this mini-con may contain products, services or people that younger people may be offended by…? (apparently)
We have a limited number of spaces… shhhh!!! We will advertise closer to the time if we think we’ll be rattling around on our own in there J

How? There’s a google map on:
off the a tram or a train at Southern Cross, or park @ DFO or nearby:

  • The Australian Paranormal Society are doing something especially for us… watch this space!
  • There is a special Horror Movie Trivia Panel game, courtesy of Popcorn Video 
  • Book readings, prizes, presentations, local guest speakers, trade tables, T-Shirts, etc.
  • CozPlay competition with prizes. First prize: an engraved Oz Horror Con ’12 Funerary Urn!
  • Charity Auction (all proceeds to charity, please bring something if you can donate)
  • An update on Oz Horror Con ’13… and news from Ramsey Campbell
  • More to be announced!
  • Event-appropriate background music
  • One free drink, nibbles (platters)
  • The bar will be open and hot food available
  • At 6pm, we have to vacate, but there are plenty of nearby venues to retreat to…

More details from: or by email:


© logos for Oz Horror Con ’12 and Oz Horror Con ’13 Copyright Oz Coz Con Pty Ltd

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Call for contributions: Directory of World Cinema: Australia and New Zealand – Second edition

Ben Goldsmith and I are seeking offers to contribute short essays (1000-1500) and film reviews/critiques (500 words) for the Australian section of the second edition of the Intellect Directory of World Cinema: Australia and New Zealand. This ambitious volume offers an in-depth and exciting look at the cinema produced in these two countries since the turn of the twentieth century. Though the two nations share considerable cultural and economic connections, their film industries remain distinct, marked by differences of scale, level of government involvement and funding, and relations with other countries and national cinemas. Through essays about prominent genres and themes, profiles of directors, and comprehensive reviews of significant titles, this user-friendly guide explores the diversity and distinctiveness of films from Australia and New Zealand.

The structure of the book will be as follows:

Introductory sections:

•     Introduction by the Editors

•     Film of the Year

•     Festival Focus

•     Industry Spotlight

•     Cultural Crossover

•     Film Locations

•     Star/Actors – short essays on significant actors

•     Marketing mix – short essay on domestic/international marketing of certain successful films

•     Directors – short essays on significant directors


•     Period films

•     Glitter cycle

•     Action-adventure

•     Science-fiction

•     Comedy

•     Crime

•     Romance/romantic comedy

•     Thriller

•     Musicals

•     Horror

•     War

•     Western/bushranger

•     Road

•     Animated

•     Experimental

•     Short

If you would like to contribute to this exciting project, in terms of a thematic essay, film reviews, or both, please contact the editors of the Australian section:

Ben Goldsmith – Mark Ryan –

Contribution Deadline: 30 November 2012

About the series:

The Intellect Directory of World Cinema series aims to play a part in moving intelligent, scholarly criticism beyond the academy by building a forum for the study of film that relies on a disciplined theoretical base. Each volume of the Directory takes the form of a collection of reviews, longer essays and research resources, accompanied by film stills highlighting significant films and players.

The project consists of three components:

•     A pre-print web-based database, which facilitates content collection and provides free access to this content. You can use the search facility to explore the database or read film reviews featured in the volumes published so far.

•     A series of printed volumes for each world region, of about 300 pages per volume. For each region, a new volume with original content will be published every two years. You can order these books from Intellect’s web site.

•     E-book versions of the published material are also available to libraries and individuals for £6 each from Intellect’s web site:,name=ebooks/

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Scary Movies – Why Do We Watch Them?

Since the inception of cinema, audiences have wanted to be scared by their movies.  Why?  Is it for a quick thrill, or a deeper primal need to confront our fears?  Sarah Ward and her panellists examine our fascination with cinematic danger.

I will be part of a panel for the State Library of Queensland that will dicuss the age old question of why people what horror movies. The details to the event are below.

Part of the SLiQ Flicks: Behind the Screen series

When        6pm, Thurs 19th April
Where        slq Auditorium 1, level 2
Tickets        Free, bookings required
Bookings or 3840 7768

For more details on the event:

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