When I was a kid, I absolutely adored the collection of Horror films made by the legendary Hammer Studios. Hammer was founded in the early 1930s, but it wasn’t until the late 1950s that the highly successful Gothic Horror incarnation emerged. I picked up the story in the early 70s with late-night re-runs of some of the classics such as The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and it’s increasingly bizarre sequels, to The Mummy, alongside more contemporary one off gems including Quatermass and the Pit, The Devil Rides Out and The Wicker Man. For a boy teetering on the precipice of adolescence, all those monsters, zombies and scantily clad vampire vixens were like ghoulish gifts from heaven (or a very desirable hell!)
The thing I really loved most about Hammer though, was that despite the creaking scripts, wooden acting, dodgy sets and even dodgier special effects, the films were still very scary indeed, and could burrow their way deep into your unconscious. This was partly down to the unique atmosphere they seemed to generate, a kind of camp hysteria, alongside gloriously over-the-top musical scores, and a stable of legendary actors such as Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and the wonderful Ingrid Pitt who would pop up in almost every film, to frighten the daylights out of anyone who dared to watch.
So when the film studio finally went bust, sets were dismantled and actors moved on, I was gutted, and I resigned myself to relentless re-runs of all the old faves.
But then in 1980, Hammer crawled out of its neglected grave with a series of one-off, made-for-TV dramas called Hammer House of Horror. I tuned in with trepidation, thinking of all that could go horribly wrong, but to my amazement and delight, Hammer House of Horror was fabulous. Classic Stories such as The House that Bled to Death, The Silent Scream, featuring a guest appearance from Hammer veteran Peter Cushing, Two Faces of Evil and Visitor from the Grave contained all the key Hammer ingredients; the same hysterical madness, dodgy acting and surreal direction, that ensured instant cult status.
Fast forward to October this year, and my short story The Sculptor, which appears in FEAR: an Anthology of Horror, is my humble tribute to this wonderfully weird slice of quintessentially British Terror. In the Sculptor, a man on his way home from work seeks momentary shelter from the rain in an art gallery. But when the artist appears and invites him down to his basement workshop, events take a bizarre and terrifying turn for the worse.
Endnote: It’s great to see that Hammer lives again.. and hopefully the success of The Woman in Black will signal a return to form for one of our most important icons of British and World Cinema .
The Sculptor appears in Fear: A Modern Anthology of Horror and Terror Vol 2.
AND… All profits go to Medecins Sans Frontiers and Baranardos