A month's worth of basic writing lesson plans stemming from monsters.
I have found monster theory to be an extremely rich vein to mine. If I can control the pace, my cadets will stick with this topic and write mulitiple essays on aspects of fear, horror, and movie-making (if I rush the material and overwhelm them, I get blank faces and dead class time).
My students have, like yours, seen thousands of hours of movies. They can respond well when asked to break down the components of good (or bad) movie-making. They especially engage when I can refer to specific scenes in movies they know, and how the moviemakers approached creating that particular illusion. The trick (I think) is to start small and sprinkle nuggets of fascinating information so they will follow the trail into really challenging thinking and writing.
They all have personal fears as well.
I always have an international student who has never seen a slasher movie or heard of Twilight, so included are “open-source” lesson plans where students select their own stories.
I have attached links more advanced essays on fear and society, also breakdowns of the cinematic elements of good horror shows