The speed of the VCR: Ti West's slow horror

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This essay makes two interrelated arguments. First, it engages with the notion of cinematic slowness, and the recent emergence of ‘slow cinema’ as an object of analysis. The canon of slow cinema as it has been constructed to date is challenged, and an expansion is proposed. In addition to the roster of examples of international auteurist art cinema now recognised as ‘slow’, it is suggested that instances of slow films can also be found within the parameters of popular genre fiction, such as horror. In order to support this proposition, the essay provides an overview of the workings of horror as a genre, its dominant temporal forms and devices, and highlights various examples that could be characterised as slow. Second, it argues for a recalibration of the slow cinema debate, which tends to focus on matters of form and aesthetics, to include sustained considerations of technological slowness. Specifically, it is suggested that, especially retrospectively, videotape and VCRs can be understood as slow technologies. Bringing these arguments together, the final section of the essay examines nostalgically-inflected contemporary horror cinema – in particular, those indebted to a culture of consuming horror on home video which exhibit elements of slowness. The essay interrogates the ways in which these contemporary films – including examples made by Ti West such as The House of the Devil (2009) – reveal the changing temporal dynamics of genre cinema across history, as well as the complex interrelations between genre texts, distribution platforms, viewing technologies, narrative form and aesthetics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-58
Number of pages18
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2018


  • Film studies
  • Film theory
  • Slow cinema
  • Horror cinema
  • Independent film


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