Pete’s Peek | Hammer is back from beyond the grave

Hammer Films may have bitten the dust back in the late-1970s, but its legacy has lived on thanks to a 1980s TV series, spin-off magazines, conventions, and numerous blogs and fansites. Now, Hammer has been resurrected to scare the pants off a new generation of filmgoers and, this month, the launch of a trio of terrifying tales look certain to put the horror back in the studio franchise.

First up is The Resident, a chilling woman-in-peril drama starring Hilary Swank. After separating from her husband, young medic Juliet (Swank) begins a new life in Brooklyn. Her new loft apartment seems too good to be true and when mysterious occurrences lead her to believe she’s not alone, Juliet discovers the unthinkable… someone is watching. And that someone is Watchmen’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Unfortunately, I missed the press screenings for this one, but I’m looking forward to seeing it – if only to catch Christopher Lee (the original Hammer star) in a cameo.

Next up is the DVD release of Let Me In, the studio’s remake of the Swedish vampire hit Let The Right One In. The new Hammer was actually relaunched on the back of this effort which split critics and fans of the original. Brave or foolish? Here’s Jason Best‘s take on the remake.

For their hat-trick in horror, Hammer’s other major release is the creepily effective chiller, Wake Wood. in which Aiden Gillen and Eva Birthistle play a couple consumed by grief after the death of their daughter, Alice.

Relocating to the village of Wake Wood to begin life anew, vet Patrick and his wife Louise stumble on a big secret: the locals, led by Timothy Spall’s unofficial mayor, are using ancient rituals to raise the dead for just three days, one year after their death. But when the couple convince the locals to bring Alice back to life, they refuse to keep to the rules… which means big trouble…

Wake Wood is very much in the tradition of Hammer of old, something the film-makers wanted to honour, in tone. The Faustian theme and resurrection storyline is certainly in the tradition of Dracula and Frankenstein, while its modern setting recalls Hammer’s excellent satantic horror The Witches. But what the film truly echoes is the classic 1970s shockers Don’t Look Now and The Wicker Man, which also touch on the death of one’s child and pagan rituals. Even Alice’s costume is strangely reminiscent of the famous red coat in Don’t Look Now.

When it comes to shocks, this supernatural horror is a slow-burner; and what gore there is actually detracts from the chill that seems to fill every scene. The suspenseful storyline is helped greatly by the performances, especially young Ella Connolly as Alice (subtle, but sinister), and Timothy Spall who is quietly effective as the good natured pagan laird – even though I expected him to ham it up.

While I will always treasure vintage Hammer, it’s great to see this great British institution back from the dead. Impressed by Wake Wood, I’m looking forward to the studio’s next release – an adaptation of Susan Hill’s much-loved Victorian creepfest The Woman in Black, and I do hope that mumurings of rebooting original Hammer fare like the Quatermass franchise becomes a reality. Long live the new Hammer!

Check out the fab new Hammer website for reports on new and future productions, and a look back at the studio’s heritage. If you fancy it, you can even play the slots with the Twins of Evil.

The Resident (in cinemas from 11 March)
Let Me In (on DVD and Blu-ray from 14 March)
Wake Wood (in cinemas from 25 March, on DVD

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