Next month sees the cinema release of The Woman in Black, the latest addition to the classic Hammer series of horror films that includes Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974) and The Reptile (1966). Below, Clive Perrott, co-founder of the Flicker Club, which is presenting a series of Hammer screenings as part of the forthcoming Vault Festival, provides a beginners’ guide to the films.
1. Don’t be too rich or poor
In classic Hammer films, if you’re a peasant, then you are likely to be bitten, either by a werewolf or a vampire. I also wouldn’t be an aristocrat, like Count Dracula, as the chances are you will be in league with the devil and get your just deserts. You are better off being middle-class and well-educated. A character such as Peter Cushing’s Dr Van Helsing in the Dracula films is most likely to survive.
2. Don’t show any cleavage
Any heaving breast is to be avoided. Naughtiness in general is likely to be punished. In Hammer, sex may not have been as graphic as it is in films nowadays but, if you were a young boy in the 1960s and the 1970s, then the first time you would have seen breasts would most likely have been in a Hammer film such as Countess Dracula (1971). At Vault we will show violent, sexual footage from Dracula (1958) that was cut from the original. It will be most interesting to see where Hammer drew the line.
3. Do avoid castles
Entering a castle always end in tears! In Countess Dracula, for example, victims are brought to the castle to be murdered. Any horse-drawn carriage is also to be avoided, as in Dracula AD (1972). You are always forewarned of this – the background music pretty much tells you “get ready to be scared”, which is comforting. Hammer plays honest and fair with viewers.
4. Do be prepared
You should be properly armed and must do your research. Garlic wouldn’t save you from a zombie and you couldn’t try to kill a vampire with a silver bullet. The Woman in Black will be the first Hammer ghost story. Audiences have seen how you fight werewolves or zombies, but how do you fight a ghost? I’m hoping that The Woman in Black will become one of my top Hammer films and that in 30 years it will be as highly rated as the Dracula films are now. You can’t kill off a Hammer film; they’re as undead as their vampires.
Vault runs from February 9-26; check website for Hammer screenings, www.thevaultfestival.com/cinema/