Screams on screen: University of New Mexico teaches students about vampire films



(The Center Square) – A new class at the University of New Mexico is about vampire movies.

The class, Vampire Cinema: Blood, Bats and Bedrooms (FDMA 330/*430), debuted this semester in UNM’s College of Fine Arts.

Adjunct Lecturer Teresa Cutler-Broyles, who teaches the course, was inspired to create it due to her love of vampires, their role in film and her experience analyzing them in media.

“I watched ‘The Hunger’ with David Bowie and ‘Dracula’ with Frank Langella when I was young, and it dawned on me that more was going on in these movies than simply some normal world being invaded by a monster,” she said. “While I didn’t at the time quite understand all the implications or the details of that, I did begin to see that vampire films were about far more than what they showed on screen.”

Cutler-Broyles proposed the class to the Department of Film & Digital Arts. The Department agreed to allow her to teach it.

“I began to research not only the films I would show – there are hundreds to choose from, from around the world – but the ideas and concepts I would introduce and the authors I would ask students to read,” she said. “From there, it was just a matter of putting it all together.”

Cutler-Broyles said the discussions and readings of the class focus on theoretical concepts and historical contexts.

“We explore those concepts in relation to that particular film or vampires in general – often having to do with historical context at the time the film was made and what might be going on beneath the surface,” Cutler-Broyles said.

Over the semester, students view a wide variety of cinema. They include: four versions of “Dracula”, “Interview with a Vampire”, “Let the Right One In, Blade” and “Underworld.” Additionally, they watch television about vampires, including: “What We Do In The Shadows”, “True Blood”, “The Munsters”, and more.

“One of the great things about the format of the class is our follow-up discussions. We are not only watching films but students are being presented with new ideas in relation to them each week. Out of our (online) class of 250 students, 30-50 of them join in our optional discussions each week with their insights, interacting with each other in quite insightful ways,” Cutler-Broyles said. “Having this many students doing an assignment that they aren’t required to do is fantastic and a testament to their interest in these ideas and in sharing them with others.“

Some of the movies, like “Ganja & Hess’” are lesser-known. Cutler-Broyles appreciates the obscure films on the syllabus.

“Introducing students to films they might never otherwise see and presenting them with new concepts – both film and cultural theory – that relate to them is my favorite part,” she said. “Reading my students’ brilliant discussions of both those films and ideas is amazing, and every semester I am impressed by all of my film students’ insights and perspectives.”

She said the class allows for new perspectives on old films and ”is able to keep the media just as immortal as the vampires which star in them,” according to a press release.

“I hope they end up with a list of new movies to watch and show to their friends, new ideas to explore, and a new appreciation for film monsters of all kinds, along with an understanding that monsters in film are more than simply scary creatures, but have a lot to do with us culturally,” Cutler-Broyles said.

Cutler-Broyles encourages anyone, not just students of the class, to explore the vampire genre. She said there is more to them than merely being scary.

“It’s a misconception vampires are just another film monster and don’t really mean much more than that. In truth, there’s a lot more going on and they represent a whole host of things that people are afraid of,” she said.

Cutler-Broyles explained why she thinks such films have a greater meaning.

“Ultimately, vampire (and most) films are a reflection of what we are afraid of, what we value, and how we try to integrate ourselves into our world. Films show us who we are – and shape us as well,” she said. “To study them is to study ourselves, our history, and our everyday world. Also, it’s plain fun to watch vampire movies – they scare us, they draw us in, and ultimately they entrance us, as all good movies do.”

UNM receives over $502 million in state funding annually between budget appropriations, bonds, grants and contracts.



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