Once a go-to institution for screams in the horror world, Hammer Films had a fine output of chillers from the late ‘50s to the mid ‘70s, which included the classic string of monster films in which actor Christopher Lee re-imagined iconic characters like Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Mummy. Then in the late ’70s and ‘80s, right as Americans were starting to favor gory slashers like “Friday the 13th” and brutal horror films like “Last House on the Left” and the original “I Spit On Your Grave” to name a few, the fog strewn atmospherics of Hammer Films didn’t seem quite so scary any more. As of late the company has seen a resurgence of sorts, proudly putting out Matt Reeves’ excellent “Let Me In” and the predictable but atmospheric and entertaining “The Woman in Black” this past weekend, along with a few forgettable titles like “Wake Wood” and “The Resident.” Current co-chairman of Exclusive Media Guy East, Nigel Sinclair, along with Hammer Films CEO Simon Oakes, understand that their banner carries a certain amount of prestige and they seem to be heading in the right direction on a number of future projects.
First up, while doing press rounds for “The Woman In Black,” Oakes teased to Bleeding Cool that “I think you’ll see the next [Hammer Film] within a year.” He also told the site that the next project was tentatively “The Quiet Ones” with a script by “Rampart” writer-director Oren Moverman, though Exclusive Media – who oversees Hammer Films productions — cleared that one right up by later announcing that screenwriter John Pogue would be writing the film. Though Oakes’ mistake is understandable, as it seems this “poltergeist movie,” as Oakes refers to it, did indeed receive an early draft by Moverman. Regardless, the premise sounds promising as Oakes explains that it’s “based on a true story about a bunch of young scientists on a University campus who get led astray by a sort of Svengali-like professor of physics and they go out and create a poltergeist, an ectoplasm from negative energy. As you can imagine, it goes really badly wrong. It’s based on a true story, an event that happened in Canada in the mid-70s.” The Exclusive Media press release states that the film is planned to be shopped at the European Film Market this week and hopefully they’ll help sales by landing a star — Bloody Disgusting report that Michael Sheen has been offered the lead role. Update: Hammer Films says that no cast has been decided on yet.
Oakes and company certainly aren’t putting all their eggs in one basket following the financial success of “The Woman in Black,” as they will next be tapping into historic British lore for another project. A project that sounds like it would be a little closer to this writer’s heart, Hammer has acquired the script for “Gaslight,” a thriller that’ll tell the story of what happened to Jack the Ripper after his horrific murder at the turn of the century. “Gaslight,” penned by Ian Fried, made the Black List last year, and is apparently being described as “in the vein of ‘From Hell,’ the Alan Moore Victorian-age Jack the Ripper tale, and ‘The Silence of the Lambs.’” The story will follow Jack the Ripper, who has been secretly imprisoned in a London insane asylum, but is called upon by Scotland Yard to help solve a series of murders that leave victims with two puncture wounds on the neck. Vampires?
While “Let Me In” may have proved that Hammer Films still had the artistic backing that made their legendary vault of films rise above your standard B-horror film, it’s the surprise financial success of “The Woman In Black” that seems to really be moving things forward at the studio. We’ll just have to see if these titles carry on Hammer’s legacy of favoring atmosphere over meaningless bloodshed.