21. 4. 2023 / 14:00–16:00 / Kinodvor / Free admission

The Cult Film Conference is presented in collaboration with Northumbria University (Newcastle, UK) and chaired by Dr Russ Hunter, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television at Northumbria. Lectures are conducted in English. Free admission.

It is a real honour to be present at the 10th anniversary of Kurja Polt. For any festival to run for more than a handful of editions – and some only ever run once – it is already a fantastic feat. But to create and keep running such a dynamic, innovative, and important festival is a rare and wonderful achievement, indeed. The Kurja Polt team, led by the irrepressible queen of all things genre Maša Peče, should be congratulated for bringing to Ljubljana and Slovenia such a brilliant event and for making it stick. The last ten years have seen a compellingly eclectic range of films screened and knowing that genre greats like Christina Lindberg, Lamberto Bava and Fabrice du Welz, amongst many, many others, have tread the streets of Ljubljana (let alone having seen them hanging out in the Kinodvor café!), is truly magical for a city that I have grown to love like it was my own.

We hope you can once again join us at our annual Cult Film Conference. This year we are delighted to welcome back two academic stalwarts of Kurja Polt in Dr Alexia Kannas (RMIT, Melbourne) and Dr Steve Jones (Northumbria University). I know that they are both as honoured as I am to be present at the festival’s 10th anniversary edition. Alexia’s talk will explore how the 1990s saw a seemingly curious collision: industrial music and the decade’s fascination with neo-noir cinema somehow cohered to create a number of highly successful soundtracks. Following this, Steve will unpack the ways in which innovation and change in horror cinema can come about – seemingly counter-intuitively – by taking away or compressing what we might expect to see rather than by fashioning new (and seemingly more ‘original’) elements.

We are very much looking forward to sharing the Cult Film Conference with you all and, even more, celebrating Kurja Polt’s 10th anniversary with you in true Slovenian style! We can’t wait.
Dr Russ Hunter

Dr Russ Hunter is a Senior Lecturer in Film and Television in the Department of Arts at Northumbria University. His research focuses on Italian genre cinema, European horror cinema and genre film festivals. He has published on a variety of aspects of Italian and European genre cinema and is the co-editor (with Stefano Baschiera) of Italian Horror Cinema (2016). He is currently writing a book on Italian giallo and horror director Dario Argento. He has published in numerous film encyclopaedias and reference guides and works closely with a number of European genre film festivals.

Downward Spirals: 1990s Neo-Noir and the Pop Industrial Soundtrack

Dr Alexia Kannas, RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia)

Kyle Cooper’s highly stylized opening credits sequence for David Fincher’s neo-noir Se7en broke new ground in 1995; the influence of its scratched surfaces and typographical deconstruction has been felt for decades since, both in cinema and graphic design more broadly. But the materialist quality of the sequence’s images is modulated by a remix of the Nine Inch Nails hit ‘Closer’ on the film’s soundtrack, and the song’s mechanised rhythm and attenuated creaking and screeching both precipitates the narrative violence to come and plugs Se7en into a cultural moment that saw the mainstreaming of industrial music occur via the rise of “industrial pop”. The 90s neo-noir soundtrack demonstrates this crossing from periphery to mainstream, with bands like NIN, Marilyn Manson, Ministry and Rammstein featured on the soundtracks for crime films such as Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992), The Crow (Alex Proyas, 1994) and David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997). This talk investigates the confluence of industrial music and neo-noir cinema in the 1990s, examining how this symbiosis became financially viable, and how the sound of popular industrial music inflects the meaning-making structures of the neo-noir genre.

Dr Alexia Kannas is Lecturer in Cinema Studies in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia). Her research interests lie in the areas of cult cinema, performance, sound and cinematic place. She is the author of Deep Red (Columbia UP/Wallflower, 2017) and Giallo: Genre, Modernity and Detection in the Italian Horror Film (SUNY Press, 2020).

Subtraction and Compression in Contemporary Indie Horror

Dr Steve Jones, Northumbria University (Newcastle, UK)

Viewers rely on genre conventions to recognise that a film belongs to a specific genre. Conventions help viewers to anticipate and appropriately decode the filmmaker’s intentions and aesthetic choices, so that they can react accordingly. Recently, several contemporary independent horror filmmakers have been playfully innovating within the horror genre by playing with those conventional expectations. These filmmakers take standard horror plot setups but remove or compress what might seem to be essential conventional components. This approach is particularly significant because innovation itself is synonymous with adding rather than removing or subtracting. In this talk, I will take two films that take the same kind of standard horror plot – teens camp in the woods and are murdered in succession – but play with audience expectations in different ways. For example, I Didn’t Come Here to Die (2010) jettisons the killer we would expect to see in such a narrative. This subtractive approach might sound absurd since it removes a seemingly essential subgeneric component (the killer), but the approach is naturalised by the generic narrative setup. Normally in films like I Didn’t Come Here to Die, the main cast are gradually “subtracted” as the bodies pile up, and the killer is also usually eliminated in the film’s finale. Another subtractive approach is illustrated by Murder Loves Killers Too (2009), which takes a similar plot setup, but compresses virtually all of the murders into the opening third of the film. By compressing the standard plot in this way, viewers are left without a clear roadmap for what is to follow in the remaining runtime: In this respect, most of what happens in Murder Loves Killers Too comes across as a surprise. By recasting an archetypal narrative structure and the genre’s concerns in a new light, these films demonstrate that that even well-worn horror plots can generate new perspectives.

Dr Steve Jones is Assistant Professor in Media and Film at Northumbria University. His research principally focuses on sex, violence, ethics, and selfhood within horror film and pornography. He is the author of Torture Porn: Popular Horror after Saw, and his forthcoming book – The Metamodern Slasher Film – will be published later this year.