LAVA Center, GCC partner for course on horror films

  • RUIZ

For the Recorder
Published: 6/22/2022 2:49:34 PM
Modified: 6/22/2022 2:49:15 PM

During the school year, Greenfield Community College English professor Lillian Ruiz shares with students her knowledge of media and popular culture, Gothic literature, Shakespeare and women in literature.

Now, community members can get a taste of the type of material she teaches at GCC with a six-week, uncredited mini course called “The Horror Film in Media & Popular Culture.” Students in the course, to be held at The LAVA Center on Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. starting July 6, will view six classic horror films and talk about their social commentary.

The LAVA Center, a community art space at 324 Main St. that opened at the beginning of 2020, focuses on sharing a wide variety of art forms, as well as promoting social justice. Ruiz’s relationship with The LAVA Center dates back to Halloween 2021, when she did an hour-and-a-half-long presentation on horror films. Since then, Ruiz has started working with the center long-term, becoming a board member. The course on horror films in partnership with GCC will be The LAVA Center’s first multi-week, in-person event.

The course will begin on July 6, with “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” a 1920 German expressionist silent film often considered the first horror film ever made. It will be followed, in order, by “Dracula,” the first horror film made by Hollywood; “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” a seminal 1950s horror, which has been read as either an allegory for communism or McCarthyism; “Night of the Living Dead,” both the first zombie film and the first horror film with a Black protagonist; and “Halloween,” the film that led to the creation of the slasher genre.

The final film in the course, and Ruiz’s favorite, is “Get Out,” written and directed by Jordan Peele. The 2017 film, centering around a young Black man traveling to meet his white girlfriend’s family, only to discover a dark secret, was produced during the late Obama era, and examines the lingering racism of the time period, mainly in the form of micro-aggressions. Ruiz also praises Peele’s other films, “Us” (2019) and the upcoming “Nope.” She noted Peele has been particularly tight-lipped about the latter film, set to be released on July 22.

Regarding her history with the genre, Ruiz said, “I’ve always been interested in horror ever since I was a child.” She believes that people are naturally attracted to fear out of a sense of catharsis, and that horror films are a way of confronting one’s fears in a safe manner. Ruiz believes horror films often examine collective societal fears of the era in which they were released, but that a common fear across all eras of horror is “the idea of (the) other or difference.”

Participants can register for all six weeks of “The Horror Film in Media & Popular Culture” for $75, or pick and choose which lectures they’d like to attend for $15 each. For more information or to register, visit gcc.mass.edu/community/#horror.


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