Silent Horror

deadline for submissions:
August 7, 2017
full name / name of organization:
Murray Leeder/University of Calgary
contact email:

This is a CFP for a panel at the 2018 meeting of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS), to be held March 14-18, 2018 at the Sheraton Centre, Toronto, ON, March  about which you may read here:


With the term “horror film” not entering widespread use until the early 1930s, “silent horror” is perhaps an inherently anachronistic concept. And yet few would deny that the fundamentals of the horror film were established in the silent era. We are accustomed to thinking of many of the important works of German Expressionism (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari/The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Nosferatu (1922), Orlacs Hände/The Hands of Orlac (1924), Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam/The Golem: How He Came Into The World (1920) and more) as horror films. From the United States, the cycles about deformity (many starring Lon Chaney and directed by Tod Browning) and the largely theatre-derived comic horror film, emblematized by The Bat (1926) and The Cat and the Canary (1927) became part of the emerging paradigm of the horror film. Other parts of the world saw other productions that would come to be claimed as horror, notably Häxan/Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922) and Kurutta Ippēji/A Page of Madness (1926).


This panel seeks a variety of papers on the history, aesthetics and themes of the silent horror film, exploring multiple facets of a fascinating, neglected topic.


— Definitional challenges – when did the horror film begin and how far can this generic label be usefully extended. (for example, can/should certain of early cinema’s trick films be include under the heading “horror film)?

— Different national traditions of silent horror

— The relationship of silent horror to other genres (comedy, melodrama, the Western, fantasy, science fiction, romance, etc.)

— The relationship of screen horror to theatre (especially in the U.S. in the 1920s).

— Griffith and horror (The Avenging Conscience (1914), One Exciting Night (1922))

— Adaptations and cultural respectability (Poe, Shelley, Stevenson, Hugo, etc.)

— Individual monsters and horror themes (vampires, lycanthropes, apes, the Devil, disfigured persons, ghosts, etc.)

— Horror and the avant-garde

— Post-silent era silent horror, and the role of silent era pastiche in later films (Guy Maddin, William Castle’s Shanks (1974), The Call of Cthulhu (2005))

— Key figures, both famous (Chaney, Browning, Paul Leni, F.W. Murnau, Fritz Lang, Karl Freund, etc.) and neglected


Please send 300-word abstract, 200-word biography, and 3-5 citations to Murray Leeder ( by August 7, 2017.