Anyone who saw last weekend’s surprise hit “The Woman in Black” knows that it was a step in the right direction for Hammer Films studio. After a string of woefully underseen, contemporary set horror films (among them the wonderful vampire tale “Let Me In” and the pervy Hilary Swank thriller “The Resident“), Hammer got back to what it does best: a Victoria-era setting, and an emphasis on period costumes, eerie effects, spooky ghosts, hostile villagers, and dimly lit hallways. And in an interview with Hey U Guys, Hammer CEO Simon Oakes, who was heavily involved with “The Woman in Black,” says they plan to dip into the studio’s catalog for future projects, including rebooting the Dracula franchise that made Hammer something of a household name. At least if your household was really into fangs.
Hammer was a studio whose bread and butter was a string of garish Dracula and Frankenstein movies (mostly starring icons of fright Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing), so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Oakes would reveal that they’re looking to reboot the Dracula franchise. “I think Hammer should make a contemporary Dracula, and I think if we can find a route in, which we’re looking at right now, then the answer is yes,” Oakes said. “The thing is that most of the films are remarkable as such, they’re caught in a time capsule of their own but we should do a contemporary Dracula, we should do our version of a Frankenstein film.”
And while the Dracula movies were a big signature of the Hammer brand, there were also all sorts of weird little avenues the studio took, which Oakes says they also plan to explore (sadly he doesn’t make mention of bringing back Hammer’s wonderful “lesbian vampire” movies). “We’re looking at a monster movie right now as Hammer did ‘The Abominable Snowman‘ and ‘The Reptile,’ ” Oakes said, while clarifying these new films intent: “More rebooting than remaking.”
Another Hammer staple that might get a new big screen treatment is Bernard Quatermass, a highly intelligent scientist who was head of the British Experimental Rocket Group and investigated space-related weirdness. He was the subject of a number of BBC television and radio specials and three Hammer feature films. “We are developing Quatermass at the moment. Completely contemporary, but rooted in his character,” he said. Oakes has found a good touchstone for this new version, too: “If you look at the BBC’s ‘Sherlock‘ – it’s got enough DNA there, so you could bring him forward and say that this is what Bernard Quatermass would be like today. So he’d still be gruff, an outside, contrary, fighting authority but what would he be doing today?” Oakes then teased that we’d get word about the wacky scientist shortly. “We’re going to be announcing something about that soon,” Oakes said. And while hiring “Sherlock” and “The Adventures of Tintin” writer Steven Moffat would be an absolute coup, this is Hammer we’re talking about, not exactly a studio historically known for its lavish spending.
While watching “The Woman in Black,” we thought how cool it would be if someone did a true Hammer homage, but within the Hammer brand – painted backdrops, heaving corseted bosoms, bright red blood, optical title cards – sort of the approach Tim Burton took on “Sleepy Hollow” but to the nth degree. Maybe in a few years once Hammer establishes itself once again, then they’ll be ready for some kind of cheeky introspection. But with the stellar line-up they’ve recently announced (including “The Quiet One” and the Jack The Ripper tale “Gaslight“), it might be a while before Hammer gets goofy again.