Hammer Wakes Up in the Woods

The thing about Hammer Film’s iconic versions of Frankenstein and Dracula is that the monster doctor and the vampiric monster lord always return. You just can’t kill ’em!

Seems we can say the same thing about the studio itself.

Not everyone appreciates Hammer Films and their particular brand of gothic horror. But for me, the UK Studio produced some of the great horror films during its lifetime, including the classic Quatermass films — especially Quatermass and the Pit (1967) — and Terence Fisher’s superb series of Frankenstein films, featuring Peter Cushing as the titular mad scientist.

Hammer Studios started out producing TV spin-off comedies and the like, moved into scifi and then found their forte in horror — a combination of lush photography, period settings, prominent cleavage and a level of gore and monstrous violence that was not normally found in mainstream cinema horror before then. It was The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) that did it, followed by The Horror of Dracula (1958). The films were massive hits and re-juvenated the genre. The two leads of these films went on to represent all that was classy about Hammer films; Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee can reasonably be considered the faces (and voices) of Hammer. But they weren’t the end of it. Hammer boasted a large repertory of excellent actors and directors. They all knew what they were doing and the result was a library of films that looked much more expensive than they actually were and which changed the way the world thought about cinematic horror.

The irony is, of course, that Hammer horror films were denigated by contemporary critics and social puritans as sensationalistic, unsubtle and nasty, though now they seem atmospheric and almost discreet.

When times changed and Hammer found it could no longer remain at the leading edge — or didn’t want to adjust to the more extreme levels of realistic violence and sexsploitation that horror films adopted in the post-Exorcist era — they closed shop, their last foray into the genre (in feature films) being To the Devil … A Daughter (1976).

Now, 30 years on, Hammer is back!

The Wake Wood poster

Going into production even as we speak is The Wake Wood (UK-2009; dir. David Keating):

Still grieving the death of nine-year-old Alice – their only child – at the jaws of a crazed dog, vet Patrick and pharmacist Louise relocate to the remote town of Wake Wood where they learn of a pagan ritual that will allow them three more days with Alice. The couple find the idea disturbing and exciting in equal measure, but once they agree terms with Arthur, the village’s leader, a far bigger question looms – what will they do when it’s time for Alice to go back? (Bloody Disgusting.com)

David Keating directs from a screenplay he co-wrote with Brendan McCarthy.

In an interview on the Hammer website, Keating and McCarthy express their excitement in being involved with this awakening of the Hammer monster:

[Commented Keating], “Actually I’m quite disappointed that the deal wasn’t done at midnight in a crypt with everyone wearing capes.” Although he says it with a smile, one gets the distinct impression that he would have been perfectly happy to go full Gothic for the historic moment that sees Hammer’s return to features. McCarthy, who has lived with The Wake Wood’s story for longer than anyone, can’t wait to see the cameras roll. “Making a horror film with Hammer – it just doesn’t get any better.”

As they say in the vernacular, I’m there!

This entry was posted in Film, Ghosts, Horror, News, Zombies. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Hammer Wakes Up in the Woods

  1. Pingback: Planet-x.com.au » Hammer Wakes Up in the Woods

  2. Pingback: Ispey Images » Blog Archive » the wake wood 739198

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.