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Dr Catherine (Cat) Lester

Associate Fellow, Department of Film & Television Studies

As of September 2018 I am based at the University of Birmingham.

Doctoral Research

‘The Children’s Horror Film: beneficial fear and subversive pleasure in an (im)possible Hollywood subgenre’

View and download my thesis at the University of Warwick repository:

My PhD thesis examined horror films made for children, a sub-genre which has been gaining increased popularity in recent years with the release of films such as ParaNorman (2012) and Frankenweenie (2012) but which has received very little critical attention. One focus of the research is to begin a discourse in the academy on what the children’s horror film actually is, exploring its place in the history of Hollywood throughout the 20th and 21st centuries and building upon existing scholarship on the history, censorship, and characteristics of children’s cinema. The primary focus, however, is to examine the themes inherent in horror films made not only for children, but which are about children and the experiences of childhood. By exploring the presentation of childhood themes in the corpus texts, the thesis explores how the fears and experiences of childhood are represented, and are particlarly suited to being represented, using monstrous and frightening elements associated with the horror genre. This research was funded by an AHRC Doctoral Award and supervised by Dr Helen Wheatley.


Past teaching includes National Cinemas, Film History, Hollywood Cinema, Discovering Cinema, and delivering guest lectures on 'Children's Horror' on the modules Horror and the Gothic in Film and TV and Ethical Beings (run by IATL).


Horror Films for Children: Fear and Pleasure in American Cinema. London: I.B. Tauris (under contract).

‘Frozen Hearts and Fixer Uppers: Villainy, gender, and female companionship in Disney’s Frozen’ in Discussing Disney, ed. Amy M. Davis. New Barnet: John Libbey Publishing (forthcoming 2018).

‘The Children's Horror Film: characterizing an “impossible” sub-genre’, The Velvet Light Trap 78 (2016), 22-37. (Runner-up prize, Best Doctoral Student Article, BAFTSS awards 2018)

‘Scary children’s media: what are we so afraid of?’, The Children’s Media Foundation. 25 April 2016. Available at:


I am currently planning a symposium dedicated to Watership Down (1978) which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The Call for Papers is currently open until 30th June 2018. For submission details and other information please see the website.

In March 2016 I co-organised the HRC-funded interdisciplinary conference '"Let's Hear it for the Girls": Girlhood, Media and Popular Culture, 1990-present' with Leah Phillips (English).

For a full list of my confernce papers and invited talks, click the tab in the banner above.

Other Work

I contribute reviews and articles to the dual review and film criticism site Pieces I have written for the site include articles on Frozen (2013), The Lego Movie (2014), The Boxtrolls (2014), and a comparison of the treatments of optimism and apocalypse in the films Mad Max: Fury Road and Tomorrowland (2015).


Former Editor of Exchanges: the Warwick Research Journal (2017-18).

Former convenor of the Girlhood postgraduate reading group (2015-17). Facebook. Twitter.

Former convenor of the Film & TV Postgraduate Research Group (2015-17).

profile pic 2015


Norman watches a horror film on television

ParaNorman (Laika, 2012)

watership down