“If we saw the logo of Hammer Films, we knew it was a very special picture. We knew it was a certain kind of film. A surprising experience, usually—and shocking.” — Martin Scorsese
There are more than a hundred Hammer Horror films to enjoy, and it can be hard to know where to start. But whether you’re a horror fan wading in for the first time, or a seasoned buff, Grimmfest’s double-bill should be marked in your calendar. Plucked from the iconic British studio’s golden age (1955 to 1976) – and selected by Grimmfest’s loyal audience – The Devil Rides Out and The Plague of the Zombies are vintage Hammer and should play spectacularly at Stockport’s huge art deco super-cinema.
Christopher Lee’s most recognisable Hammer role might be the titular one in Terence Fisher’s 1958 version of Dracula but he’s also earned plaudits for his (more heroic) part battling Satanists in the director’s 1968 film The Devil Rides Out. Based on Dennis Wheatley’s novel and set in the 1920s, this is a classic of British horror that combines devil-worshipping aristocrats with impressive special effects to terrifying ends.
We’re transported to a gothic vision of Cornwall in 1966’s The Plague of the Zombies. Released just before George A. Romero’s seminal Night of the Living Dead (1968), John Gilling’s influential film is set in August 1860, in a small Cornish village whose inhabitants are suffering from a mysterious plague. Investigations find empty coffins, and Voodoo is to blame. A vital link between the zombie movies of early studio cinema, and later Romero-influenced works, The Plague of the Zombies is very rarely screened.