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The five Hammer Films-produced horror movies everyone should see

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This past weekend’s premiere of “The Woman In Black” marks the return of famous British studio Hammer Films to the world of horror movies — a genre the studio helped define during the 1950s, and then throughout the ’60s and beyond.

While “Harry Potter” franchise star Daniel Radcliffe stars in the terrifying new film by Hammer, the studio has played a role in launching the careers of many notable actors over the years, especially those of award-winning cinema veterans Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Whether the studio was tackling well-known characters like Dracula and Frankenstein or putting their own spin on lesser-known objects of terror, Hammer Films built a legacy out of pushing the boundaries and giving theater audiences nightmares.

Earlier this month, we took a look through the Hammer Films archive via the recently released book Inside the Hammer Vault, and now that “The Woman In Black” is finally hitting screens, it seems like a good time to list the five films everyone who wants to know what all the fuss is about should see.


“Horror of Dracula” (1958)

Considered by many to be the best film ever made by Hammer Films, this was the project that made household names of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. In the film, Lee plays the lord of the vampires, who decides to leave Transylvania for England and proceeds to bite, stab, and rip a bloody path through England’s nightlife. Cushing plays Dracula’s nemesis, Van Helsing, kicking off an on-screen pairing that would persist throughout many more Hammer Films projects. While other vampire movies portrayed Dracula as a subtle, seductive villain, this film was one of the first to present the Prince of Darkness as a ferocious, demonic force of otherworldly nature. “Horror of Dracula” is widely considered must-see material for horror movie fans, so if you haven’t watched it yet, do so.


“The Curse of Frankenstein” (1957)

One of the first breakout movies for Hammer Films on both sides of the Atlantic, “The Curse of Frankenstein” was also one of the first pairings of Hammer’s celebrated duo of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. In the film, Cushing plays Victor Frankenstein so memorably that many consider this the character-defining portrayal of the the mad scientist. Meanwhile, Lee’s debut as Frankenstein’s monster will likely surprise modern audiences with how graphic it was for the time. While often overshadowed by Boris Karlof’s lumbering take on the creature, Lee’s version of the sewn-together monster will give you nightmares even today.


“The Gorgon” (1964)

Yet another pairing of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing with “The Curse of Frankenstein” and “Horror of Dracula” director Terence Fisher, this film diverged from the classic Universal Monsters fare by featuring an unlikely villain: a snake-haired woman whose gaze turns subjects to stone. Barbara Shelley plays the title character to terrifying perfection, while Lee and Cushing put in the now-expected amazing performances. without revealing any spoilers, the film also features one of the most bleak endings you’ll ever see in a film.


“The Plague of the Zombies” (1966)

Several years before George Romero put his stamp on zombie cinema, Hammer Films released this bizarre film that clearly influenced the work of Romero and many subsequent undead-friendly filmmakers. Rather than present the zombies as barely moving, minimal threats, “The Plague of Zombies” had them chasing down victims and wreaking some serious havoc on the living. While the notion of brain-munching hadn’t entered the zombie scene yet, director John Gilling took big steps in this film toward making the cinematic version of zombies closer to what it is today.


“The Curse of the Werewolf” (1961)

In this often overlooked film, award-winning British actor Oliver Reed played one of the most tragic incarnations of the Wolfman ever brought to the screen. “The Curse of the Werewolf” unfolds after a jailed, bestial beggar rapes a mute servant girl, who then gives birth to the lycanthropic title character, played by Reed. It’s one of the more disturbing entries in the werewolf genre, and the first and only Hammer Films project that deals with werewolf lore. As Reed’s character struggles to deal with his curse and hopes to find an end to it through true love, the audience is carried along on an adventure filled with impressive highs and terrifying lows. Not only is the film filled with excellent performances by all involved, but the makeup effects on Reed are years ahead of their time.


What are some of your favorite Hammer Films horror movies? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.