Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hamming up the horror

click photo to enlarge
I've never been one for horror films. The graphic, gore-laden offerings of today leave me cold, and I simply exclude them from my viewing. I can't say that I'm particularly enamoured of the older horror films either, though there have been a few that I've enjoyed. These have usually been those that approached the subject with either "art" or "comedy" uppermost in mind.

Of the artistic horror movies my favourite has to be Werner Hertzog's 1979 film,  "Nosferatu the Vampyre". It's a homage remake of a 1922 German silent film, and though Bram Stoker's basic Dracula plot underpins it there are differences, principally the focus on Nosferatu's loneliness and disgust with what he does. It's usually the very different depiction of the vampire in this film, and the absence of camp humour that people see as setting it apart from others of the genre. However, I would also cite the sets and the photography as very different from the usual Stoker-derived offerings.

Of the humorous takes on horror one that I liked better than most of the critics and fans is another one based on Bram Stoker's tale. "Dracula: Dead and Loving It", the 1995 film starring Leslie Nielsen is fun and funny. But, being British, I've also seen quite a few Hammer horror films. These were often made with a fairly serious intention - in so far as you can be serious with any horror film - but often ended up being unintentionally funny. They seemed to almost invariably cast either Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, with, often, Ingrid Pitt to add the glamour. Dracula, Frankenstein, Mummies and the murders of Victorian London seemed to figure large in their plots.

It was Hammer Films that came to mind when I visited this ruined medieval church in Norfolk. It is located in a piece of woodland close to a country house, and in the past was used as a folly-cum-eyecatcher by the owners. They built ruinous arches and other structures around and in it to make it into a romantic feature that the family and guests could come upon during short walks from the house. The Victorian tomb must have been placed there at that time, and perhaps the medieval stone coffin. A wooden cross had been placed at one end of the building, and its derelict state combined with the other artefacts suggested the kind of set that a Hammer Films version of Dracula might use. To that end I converted my colour image to black and white, upped the contrast, gave it a slight vignette, and burned in the clouds that the graduated ND filter had already made quite striking. Perhaps you can imagine Christopher Lee in a long black cloak hurrying in through the pointed arch as he averts his eyes from the cross.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 24mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/50
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On
Filter: Graduated ND8