Professor Jason Salcedo and colleague Kathryn Clancy are combining English composition, film studies and abnormal psychology to create a completely unique class, Film 118, at South Puget Sound Community College for winter quarter.
Salcedo said, “[Film 118] combines two popular interests of students; scary movies and psychology. I’m looking forward to teaching it next quarter.”
Salcedo said, “I’ve never really liked horror films, I can’t watch one without closing my eyes or peeking out between my fingers. They fascinate me however, because they give me an insight into my own psychology…I think our fears have more to teach us about ourselves than what we love and admire.”
Salcedo said that Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” was the embodiment of the perfect horror film.
“It incorporates human abnormal psychology as an almost artistic influence,” he said.
The plot of the film involves the story of Norman Bates, a man that cannot deal with his mother’s death or the intensity of his own sexual desires. In a perverse attempt to cope, he repeatedly takes on his mother’s identity. This makes him kill any woman that he finds attractive because she “disapproves” of anyone that might take him away from her.
Bates’ character makes, “The perfect subject for analysis,” Salcedo said.
The class will often use the principles of psychoanalysis to diagnose various characters in the films covered in the course.
When asked about the most frequent diagnoses that characters receive in his class, Salcedo said that schizophrenia is common.
In addition to the films watched in class, there will be a homework list of 10 to 12 supplemental films that students will be asked to watch on their own time.
“It sounds trivial,” Salcedo said, “and I bet my student’s parents will have raised eyebrows like ‘what!?! That’s not serious.’ But in fact nothing is more serious, it will really help students gain a wider perspective of the concepts we cover in class, and the genre itself.”
According to Salcedo, in addition to Psycho the class will also watch well-known genre staples such as Halloween and Friday the 13th.
No textbooks will be required for the film portion of Film 118; however, various readings will be assigned and posted on SPSCC’s Angle Learning Management Suite.
“This way we can cover more specific material from directors, filmmakers, or excerpts from the works of Sigmund Freud,” said Salcedo.
Psychology Professor Kathryn Clancy will be covering more of the psychologically related material in the class, which may require students to purchase a book.
According to Salcedo she will be teaching about, “the science of the mind, including the conscious mind, the unconscious mind, the id, ego, and superego.”
According to Salcedo the horror genre is special because it helps you take on a disorder or a scenario via the camera.
“However,” Salcedo said, “once it is all over, you get to have that great feeling of walking out into the sunshine and knowing that you aren’t like that. After all, what small line separates the sane from the insane?”
Film 118 students will also discuss the appeal of monsters and supernatural creatures in film, and ask questions such as, “Why do we desire to see acts of horrible violence on a screen that most of us would never commit ourselves? Especially when we avoid them in real life.”
Salcedo’s answer is that it is all part of the human desire to, “Confront the things we fear…When you diagnose a character, you overcome your own fears because you grow to understand them.”
The horror genre is something he is very passionate about, and through Film 118 Salcedo hopes to get students excited about them on a deeper level.
Salcedo said that he does not typically enjoy current horror films because the story and plot quality present an issue for him.
“They just rehash the great original stories from the classic films of the past. Plus, they don’t even represent them well. You don’t get to know the characters, and the acting is not always good,” he said.
Salcedo considers himself a “classic Hollywood/Universal Studios era purist.”
He said, “I am not a fan of computer generated effects in movies…I love it when an actual person creates a dummy that gets a hatchet in its brain! It’s not the same as pushing buttons and moving a mouse.”