The second Cardiff sciSCREEN event was organised as part of National Science and Engineering Week. The panel and audience discussed our fascination with the monstrous and the anomalous, the rise in popularity of the gothic in film, the historical treatment of madness, and trigger events for psychiatric disorders.
The ‘Wolfman’ plays on themes that would have been familiar to audiences in the late-nineteenth century when the events of the film are set. Film itself was beginning to make an appearance as an exciting new technology and although representations of the Victorians like to show them as stiff, repressed and controlled, contemporaries were fascinated by spectacle, sensation, horror and the macabre; a fascination that can be best described as the ‘attraction of repulsion’. But it is not just the gothic dimension of the Wolfman that would have been familiar.
Tropes from the horror genre continue to fascinate and frighten us across a range of contemporary media forms including television, literature, and film. Indeed, the final line of Joe Johnston’s ‘The Wolfman’ perhaps sums up one of the questions so central to discussions over the representation of the werewolf, and cinematic monsters more broadly, within media and cultural studies. The final words of the movie echo those uttered earlier in the narrative - “It is said there is no sin in killing a beast, only a man. But where does one begin and the other end?”.