Twenty years after Universal horror movies, the Hammer studio brought back to life the great mythical figures inspired from British literature as well as French and European folklore (Dracula, Frankenstein, the Werewolf, the Phantom of the Opera, etc.). It invented new incarnations rooted in a precise historical context and revisited according to the evolution of British society. This independent studio constitutes a notable stage in the history of the genre between the Gothic horror of the 1930s and the more radical productions of the 1970s, which eventually contributed to its demise. Focusing on the peculiar balance between Hammer’s inventiveness and classicism, this volume mainly explores the lesser-known productions, examining as well its contradictions, paradoxes and limitations.
The book raises the question of the paradoxical modernity of films that are innovative in various respects (themes, modes of representation challenging censorship, aesthetics), but are also trying to resurrect a dying tradition, mostly offering a rather surprisingly conservative discourse despite their efforts to comply with the expectations of new audiences. The films born from the recent Hammer renaissance are still referring to this bygone Golden Age of the horror film. One may wonder whether the Hammer studio was a mere factory churning out mostly conventional horror films now buried in the dust of a gothic dungeon, or a true laboratory of modern cinematic horror whose past glory still inspires contemporary filmmakers. This volume will provide some answers and raise quite a few questions.