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Book Celebrates the ‘New Golden Age’ of British Horror Films
26 November 2012
Leicester, University of
Horror fans are living through a new ‘Golden Age’ of British horror films, according to the author of a new book on the subject which is being launched at the University of Leicester.
Renowned horror critic MJ Simpson says that changes in technology and distribution mean that, on average, a new feature-length British horror film is now released every week. But because the media are only interested in big-budget productions such as The Woman in Black, many low-budget independent films remain largely unknown, even to keen horror fans.
Simpson’s book, Urban Terrors: New British Horror Cinema – published by Hemlock Books and with a foreword by actor Sean Pertwee – describes more than one hundred UK-produced horror movies released between 1997 and 2008. In the four years since then, according to Simpson, production rates have sky-rocketed with nearly 200 more British horror features finding distribution. And there is no sign of this ‘British Horror Revival’ stopping…
“British horror films were popular in the 1970s but by the late 1990s there were hardly any being made,” says Simpson. “Over the last ten years production has steadily increased and now it’s gone through the roof. This boom has come partly from the availability of cheap, professional-quality equipment, but mostly from new opportunities in distribution and marketing for independent horror films.
“The stumbling block for indie film-making in the UK was never making movies, it was letting people see them. As long as that meant cinemas, or even video stores, the opportunities were very limited and localised. Once film-makers were able to promote their films online, and then sell them online – on DVD or as downloads – that created a global audience of horror fans eager to watch new movies.”
In Urban Terrors, Simpson describes how 21st century British horror films have largely rejected the traditional gothic approach of old Hammer horror pictures in favour of ‘social realist horror’, setting their tales of zombies, vampires and psychos in recognisable, contemporary settings like housing estates and tower blocks.
“People started to notice the British Horror Revival in 2002,” says Simpson. “That year brought us not only 28 Days Later, Danny Boyle’s reinvention of the zombie genre, but also Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers, in which a British army squad battle werewolves. Since then, film-makers have continued to set their stories in the here and now, reflecting life in 21st century Britain – not 19th century Transylvania. But for every British horror film that gains critical attention, there are a dozen more which remain completely unknown, some of which are excellent movies.”
Simpson, known to horror fans for his work in magazines such as Fangoria and Scream, has interviewed many of the film-makers whose work features in the book and has tracked down some of the rarest and most obscure films of the past 15 years, although he emphasises that every film in Urban Terrors was commercially released – somewhere.
Among the ‘forgotten gems’ described in the book are:
• Urban Ghost Story, a ‘haunted house’ tale set in a Glaswegian council flat.
• London Voodoo, in which a man calls on the local African Caribbean community when his wife is possessed by an evil spirit.
• The Last Horror Movie, a serial killer’s video diary.
• Blood, about a genetically engineered young woman and her destructive love for the scientist who created her.
When not writing about films, Mike Simpson is Senior Web Communications Officer at the University of Leicester. There will be a launch/signing for Urban Terrors at the University Bookshop at 5.30pm on Wednesday 5 December, followed by a free screening of The Last Horror Movie.