Viscous Victorians: Hammer, colour and realism

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Hammer distinguished itself from Universal’s films through a utilisation of innovations included placing its horrors in period, filming them in colour and taking a more naturalistic (in addition to a more graphically sexual and violent) approach. Hammer through these means managed to update familiar monsters so that they engaged with contemporary audiences and made old characters appear new. Prior to these strategies it seemed one could not directly place supernatural monsters into the real world nor, until Psycho (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, US) in 1960, even more human ones. Universal had achieved the believable presence of monsters through presenting the world as an expressionistic fantasy and spatial displacement (setting horror in fictitious European countries) and Val Lewton through ambiguity as to whether the monster was just a figment of the imagination. To make its colour supernatural world tenable Hammer needed to distance its horror in another way and achieved this through temporal displacement by retreating into a specific period in the past. This paper discusses Hammer’s decorous nineteenth century Britain, an era most appropriate not for its heritage of horror, but rather its milieu that retained for its audience Jeremy Dyson’s essential requirement for horror, ‘the provision of an experience that was ‘removed from their experience of everyday reality.’ Whilst this intention was in direct contrast to the British New Wave both thematically and stylistically, it is notable that in relation to generic verisimilitude Hammer shared the New Wave’s desire for greater realism.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Mar 2010
EventBloodlines: British Horror Past and Present - De Montfort University, Leicester, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Mar 20105 Mar 2010

Academic conference

Academic conferenceBloodlines: British Horror Past and Present
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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