English professor explores rich vein of symbolism in horror films

University News – CU Denver Today

Assistant Professor of English Andrew Scahill is fascinated that the same movie can be repulsive or enthralling to different audiences. Scahill’s knowledge of cinema is masterful, but his reactions to it are surprising. “In ‘The Exorcist,’ when Raegan vomits on the priest, I know the film wants me to see her as abhorrent,” he said. “But I love it,” he winces with a smile, “I think it’s hilarious.”An expert on horror, Scahill describes himself as a “film historian” who considers how a movie’s successes are both deeply idiosyncratic and indelibly linked to larger cultural forces. At the same time, Scahill suggests there are no right or wrong ways to experience a film, and his classes ask students to consider how their own identities make certain reactions inevitable or impossible.Scahill joined the CU Denver faculty in fall 2017, coming from Salisbury University. CU Denver Today sat down with Scahill discuss his history with monsters, as well as his new class on censorship.What was the first horror film that you saw, and how did it set the tone for your research?Monstrous children in film and why people are entertained by them are among the topics Andy Scahill discusses in his film courses.I think it was “Nightmare on Elm Street.” I liked it because it had this very dynamic villain, Freddy Krueger – it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. This was the era of lumbering Jason (from “Friday the 13th”), and here was this wisecracking, almost comic relief villain. It was also the first time I saw the teenage victims as capable. I’ve taught it since then, and even my students are surprised. Essentially, the ending of the film is a war film – it’s like “Rambo,” where (the protagonist) is booby-trapping her own house to catch this monster.That whole franchise is …

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