Hammer Films had a huge influence on me as a child. They encouraged my love for film and particularly my love for horror. Once upon a time, for the whole month of October, AMC had “Monster Fest”. I looked forward to this every year. AMC would show all of the old classics, and many of these movies were the beautiful Hammer Films. They were gothic, macabre, eerie, erotic, and atmospheric. They were everything the imagination craved, yet feared.
I do have my favorites, but I feel that for my “Halloween Flicks” list, it wouldn’t be right to leave out any Hammer Film. So, I’ve decided to celebrate and gush about all of them. Yes, there are the great ones and the not so great ones, but even the films that fall into the latter category have their worth and are much better than most of the horror movies that are released today.
One of my favorite things about Hammer Films is that they all have atmosphere. Most of the movies took place in a different time, a different place, and no matter what the sets always looked the part. These movies took the viewers to an entirely different world where evil creatures roam the earth and hide in the shadows. There’s a creeping fog, and the moon is full and peeking through the silhouettes of dead trees in a dark forest. Many times a young woman may be wandering through these woods at night, and the haunting music intensifies the viewer’s fears that she will soon meet her end. This, my friends, is horror.
Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee appeared in many Hammer Films together. They are, at least for me, the faces of Hammer and two of the finest actors ever. When I think of Van Helsing, I think of Peter Cushing. Apologies to Bela Lugosi, but when I think of Dracula, I think of Christopher Lee. They reprised these roles many times and also played other iconic characters, such as Dr. Frankenstein and his monstrous creation. Often times they played enemies, but in real life they were great friends and had amazing chemistry on screen. These two actors were incredible in each role they played and this helped to draw the viewer into the story. These days a lot of the acting in horror is laughable. This did not occur in the Hammer Films.
Along with horror, Hammer Films had a huge influence on my love for the vampire genre. When I think of vampires, I picture the ones from the Hammer Films. Christopher Lee and Ingrid Pitt are the king and queen of vampires as far as I’m concerned. They were elegant, yet fearsome. Their faces were pale, their teeth were sharp, and they lured you in with sweet and calming voices. Often times, once the victim realized something was wrong, it would be too late! These vampires were truly soulless and evil creatures. I think the reason why I prefer the vampire movies from this era is because their sexuality was always implied, but never explicitly shown. It left a lot more to the imagination and added to their allure.
The trailer for The Curse of Frankenstein,Â one of the greats:Â
The movies were chilling and would get under the skin. The scares weren’t cheap. These were quality productions that were genuinely spooky and utilized good storytelling. Some of the films, such as Quatermass and the Pit, were downright unsettling.
If you have never seen one of these movies, for the love of the Force, watch them immediately. My favorites include:
… and many others.
If you want to watch movies that are genuinely terrifying, atmospheric, well crafted, spooky, and downright beautiful, then watch the Hammer Films. These are the standard that horror movies since have had to live up to. I hope that the upcoming The Woman in BlackÂ is able to carry on the legacy of Hammer and bring back its beautiful, yet terrifying glory.
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