Before the likes of Paranormal Activity, Saw and 20 Days Later, the go-to horror production agency was Hammer Film Productions. Initially producing film noir and thrillers in the 1930’s, Hammer didn’t hit its high notes until after they went into bankruptcy in 1937.
Thankfully in the mid-50s, Hammer House Productions rose from the ashes for a gorier, newer form of film, leaping into huge popularity for producing some of the most challenging horror films ever created at the time.
Starring the irreplaceable duo of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, The Curse of Frankenstein was Hammer’s first horror film shot in colour, and received global success. The content of the film was startling and new to many cinema-goers and helped to reignite an interest in the Gothic in a more modern society.
Film with fangs
Following this success, Dracula was released in 1958 and is considered by many not only to be one of the best Hammer films ever made, but one of the best horrors ever. Introducing sexuality blended with horror was a common theme in early Gothic literature, but for the first time it was seen on screen and went on to influence cinema even today.
Lee’s portrayal of Dracula, created by the legendary Gothic horror author Bram Stoker, completely changed the character and the face of the vampire. Several sequels followed on from the original, but as Lee felt disenchanted by the distancing from Stoker’s original work, they never quite hit the heady heights of the original.
While the associations with Lee’s version of the monster remain in popular culture, the production company as a whole went out of mainstream favour one the Golden Era of the company ended towards the beginning of the 1970s. Thankfully, this wasn’t to last.
By recreating the modern Swedish classic Let the Right One In with a Western cast called Let Me In, a wider audience became open to Hammer production and the company was given a fresh lease of life.
By the book
Productions of Susan Hill’s Gothic literary work eventually reached a wider audience, and so The Woman in Black starred Daniel Radcliffe, recently of Harry Potter fame, became one of the biggest horror hits of the year. It not only displayed the work of Susan Hill, but proved that Hammer definitely still had it and could adapt its themes to the needs of a contemporary audience.
The future of Hammer is incredibly promising. No one could blame them for re-hashing their classic work (especially in the current nostalgic climate), but they are moving on and creating new, exciting film. A thrilling ghost film in the form of The Quiet Ones is set for release soon, while a sequel to the hugely popular The Woman in Black is also on the cards.