Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hammer Horror, Reclothed in Black

The new film forthcoming the Hammer Horror studios is attracting plenty of attention, and this recent piece in the New York Times reiterates the significance of this movie maker's renaissance. Known for decades as a defining maverick in British Horror, the studio has been silent for a number of years...but has recently come back with some very high-quality films.

"The early efforts by the rebooted Hammer, including the acclaimed remake “Let Me In” and “The Resident,” have not found huge box office success. But Mr. Oakes, the chief executive and president, said that those were only “building blocks” setting up his ambitious next move, a $13 million adaptation of “The Woman in Black,” opening Friday. Like the classic Hammer movies, this ghost story, shot in Britain, is a period piece with a high-toned pedigree. (Adapted from a Susan Hill novella, 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. “For Hammer to succeed, it has to honor its legacy,” Mr. Oakes said by Skype." (The New York Times, January 27, 2012)

Let Me In was, of course, a very well-received remake of a Swedish film most thought would fail miserably in an American context. The notion that it was merely a warm-up for the sort of work Hammer really wants to showcase is rather thrilling. As the article points out, younger horror fans may have little to no familiarity with Hammer's legacy and its domination of the horror genre for so many years. To revive its reputation with this ambitious period piece is a well-considered move and one that many of us are eagerly looking forward to. It doesn't hurt that Daniel Radcliffe, a young English actor who has proven his worth via the Harry Potter franchise and recent turns on London and New York stages, is the star. features this short behind the scenes video that whets the appetite nicely.
Will The Woman in Black bring back the visual and atmospheric hallmarks of the Hammer vampire films of the 1970s? Will it feature tall, willowy women in pale diaphanous gowns moving gracefully through misty churchyards? Perhaps not. But a girl can hope, can't she? Those scenes haunted my childhood and to me they simply scream "Hammer Horror."

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