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Daniel Radcliffe in the new Hammer Horror

Hammer Films, the legendary British production company famous for its many horror films of the late ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, marks a comeback with The Woman in Black.

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, the film is a ghost story and a welcome return to Gothic form for the Hammer studio.



Like the classic Hammer movies, this ghost story, shot in Britain, is a period piece with a high-toned pedigree. (Adapted from a 1983 Susan Hill novel, it also was a long-running West End play.) In keeping with Hammer tradition, it has a star. In his first post-Harry Potter film role, Daniel Radcliffe plays a guilt-ridden father and lawyer who starts seeing ghosts while going through the estate of a recently deceased woman.

Radcliffe had this to say on what Hammer Film Productions actually mean to the horror genre in relation to The Woman In Black:

“We can push the horror thing a little more and we can go back to old standards like creepy toys and an old house and all those things that recur, and because it’s Hammer nobody questions it. It feels right within the frame of the film I think.”

“One of the things I loved about it was that it felt unusual for the genre. It’s unashamedly a horror film, but it is character driven and does have some really strong themes. For me, the film is about what happens if we don’t or can’t move on from a loss.”



He does admit, though, that he may be biased as he isn’t the type of horror fan that couldn’t abide the gory fair of the genre regardless.

“I would consider myself a fan, but I wouldn’t consider myself an aficionado in any way. I’m not one of those guys that will just see a trailer and go ‘oh I’m going to go see that then’ just so I can rate it against all the other horror films I know. I’m like that about some things, but not about horror. I’ve never had that obsessiveness about this particular genre. Which comes in part because I could never cope with gore.”


Trailer: YouTube Preview Image


Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings) and Peter Cushing (Star Wars) were the key players of the original Hammer Horror films, with Lee taking on not only the Dracula character but Frankenstein’s monster and The Mummy.

Hammer had a huge influence on other artists eager to cash in on the horror genre, including notorious copycat producer Roger Corman, and Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow production and costume design was directly inspired by the old Hammer look; he even cast Lee as a judge in the film. And Kate Bush was inspired by Hammer’s body of work and wrote a song called Hammer Horror.

A group of admirers, including the director Richard Donner, looked into buying Hammer in the 1980s before discovering that it didn’t own many of its best-known properties. A consortium led by the art dealer Charles Saatchi did buy Hammer in 2000, announcing plans to make new films but never doing so. Then in 2007 Simon Oakes, a cable television executive who had noticed the frequency that Hammer was mentioned in the press, spearheaded the acquisition of the company’s film library and raised what was reported as $50 million to make new movies. His focus has not been on remaking Hammer movies, although he’s not ruling that out.

His challenge is capitalizing on the affection for Hammer while updating the company to adjust with the times. In its heyday, which roughly spanned a decade starting in the mid-1950s, the films broke ground with their lush Technicolor, sexual frankness and unlikely mix of teasing exploitation and classically trained class. None of those elements are new anymore. As popular as Hammer is among horror buffs, it is also relatively unknown to young audiences reared on Paranormal Activity.



The director John Carpenter has said that seeing “The Curse of Frankenstein, the first gothic hit by Hammer Film Productions, as a kid transformed him. Another esteemed veteran of the genre, Joe Dante, said the same movie lived up to its tag line promise to “haunt you forever.” And Martin Scorsese has described an obscure sequel, Frankenstein Created Woman, as “close to something sublime.”

With their resourceful design and startling hues, Hammer movies also looked much more expensive than they were. “It was a big deal to see color in horror movies back then,” said Tobe Hooper, director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, who explained in an earlier interview that he loved Hammer so much that as a child he made eight-millimeter imitations. Glenn McQuaid, a director whose early love of Hammer inspired his 2008 film, I Sell the Dead, argued in an interview that the vivid coloring in movies like Brides of Dracula anticipated the flamboyantly gruesome movies of Dario Argento. “It’s stunning,” he said, “the lush, surreal use of lilacs and red and deep purple.”








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