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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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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.