Every few years, word arrives that the much-lamented Hammer Studios will shortly rise from the ashes. Back in the 90s, for instance, Richard Donner was supposed to be behind a resurrection of the Quatermass films. Well, the word has arrived again, and the revived Hammer has gone at least as far as releasing a teaser trailer and a set visit for its first production in decades: a vampire tale called Beyond the Rave.
You’d think I’d be ecstatic. I love the old Hammer films. When I was a wee tyke, I read about them in my first horror film book. Denis Gifford was writing in 1973, did he but know it very close to the end of the Hammer era. Some of his comments are ironic in one sense or another today. In his introduction, he speculates that “Perhaps time will add its own patina to the Hammer horrors of today.” Very true. But: “In quantity Hammer films are fast approaching Universal, but in quality they have yet to reach Monogram.” Harsh, and history has certainly reached the contrary conclusion, elevating Hammer’s efforts far above those of that poverty row studio. Something else Gifford says has bearing on today’s subject: “The new age of horror was geared to a new taste. Where the old films had quickly cut away from the sight of blood, Hammer cut in for a closeup.” Well, The Curse of Frankenstein and its ilk look pretty tame today, but they were strong meat in their day, and yes, Hammer offered much that was new even as it revived classic gothic horror, which had effectively vanished from the face of the earth from 1946 until 1957, when Hammer stepped up to the plate.
I repeat, you think I’d be ecstatic at news of the revival. And one could make the case that, once again, Hammer is combining the old (vampires) with the new, which in this case is the means by which the film will be distrubuted: as a series of vignettes on MySpace before migrating to DVD. And here’s where I grow worried. While I grant that the Internet will surely be the ideal home for some new form of storytelling, I’m not sure a chopped-up movie on a tiny screen-within-a-screen is quite what we’re looking for.
Also worrying is the film itself. Now, all I’ve seen is the fragmentary images of the teaser, so bear that in mind, and I devoutly hope that everything I’m worrying about will turn out to be utterly foolish. However, isn’t rave culture so 1990s? My spine tingles uneasily, as I am reminded of Hammer’s previously ill-advised attempts to tap into a youth culture it understood not at all, with such sorry productions as Dracula AD 1972. Furthermore, the brief images of fanging, swordplay and automatic rifle fire do not inspire confidence so much as they do depressing memories of whatever straight-to-video horror effort slouched onto the shelves last week.
I hope I’m wrong. I want Hammer to be a phoenix. I don’t want it to crash and burn again. I don’t want the dream to die.
But I’m worried.