Dr Cecilia Sayad has kindly invited me to the University of Kent on 18 February to deliver a paper as part of their Research Seminar Series. Find the title and abstract for my talk, below.
‘From the makers of The Woman in Black’: Hammer Films and contemporary horror cinema
Since the release of Hammer Films’ The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957, the sobriquet ‘Hammer Horror’ has, for many, become synonymous with British horror cinema. Known the world over for its Gothic horror films ‘set in a dislocated but quintessentially Victorian hinterland’, Hammer enjoyed box office success throughout the 1950s and 60s with this ‘distinctive generic style’ (Meikle 2009: xiii). As David Pirie notes, it was Hammer’s penchant for an ‘English Gothic’ modality—at least until its closure in 1979—which helped position it as the main producer of British horror cinema: ‘the only staple cinematic myth which Britain can properly claim as its own, and which relates to it in the same way as the western relates to America’ (Pirie 2008: xv).
In light of these grand claims and Hammer’s alleged centrality to the cultural purity of the genre in Britain, this paper will explore how Hammer attempted to reintegrate itself into the horror movie mainstream as a major transnational brand between the release of its first contemporary films, including Beyond the Rave in 2009 and The Resident and Wake Wood in 2010, to its higher-end productions of recent years such as Let Me In, The Woman in Black and The Quiet Ones.
Having briefly considered the factors that led to the company’s rebirth—including the numerous company handovers between 1979 and 2007—the paper will argue that the company’s perceived centrality to British cinema history and nationally specific discourses of horror cinema ultimately proved inconsequential to its various developments in the 2000s and 2010s.
Dr Johnny Walker
Senior Lecturer in Media, Northumbria University