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Hammer Film Productions is arguably the best-known British studio. Founded in 1934, it staggered for more than twenty years making truly dreadful, low-budget second-features like Death in High Heels, Crime Reporter, and Dick Barton Special Agent. It wasn't until the mid-1950s, with innovative remakes of the Frankenstein and Dracula classics, that it hit a formula that would make it a legend in Gothic horror cinema. The strength of Hammer films lay in a repertory company of classically trained actors led by Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and production techniques that turned cheap thrills into classy kitsch. One ohter factor played incredibly well for Hammer. They were the first English-language studio to make low-cost horror flicks in color, with the spilled blood a vivid red.
I was tempted to call this list "Children, Grandchildren, and Stepchildren of the Damned." One scary kid on film breeds legions of others, it seems, in hit after hit--though it's fascinating to note that monstrous children never appeared onscreen until after 1945. Strictly speaking, the arrive in the late 1950s: but that's in keeping with the rebuilding of the world which followed Spain's civil war, the Nazi genocide against the Jews, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the whole of World War II. Humanity had never been obliged to consider so many displaced, lost children at one time before. The notion of "mutation" (for which we can thank our friend the atom) was also new. How better to dramatize these terrors and potential horrors than by focusing on children, whose potentials are by definition limitless?
My mother, Marina, will not be so keen on me exposing this list, but no matter. See, my mom, herself a horror nut as a teenager, is the red-handed culprit who passed on the virus of horror to me (as well as my two younger brothers) at a very susceptible age. It was that early exposure to the ghoulish that made me fall in love with horror, be it good, bad, or ugly. Yet, it was watching these movies that first clamped my eyes open like a reformed droog to the power of manipulative cinema and visual storytelling, and to how profoundly the medium had its grip on an audience.
So, this is the epitome of a "subjective list"--it's not for you to agree or disagree with...frankly, it's a chance for me to possibly embarrass my mom, but also thank her for giving me the gift of appreciating great genre filmmaking, both by watching and appreciating it, and now by making it.
Thanks for scaring the *beep* out of me, Mom...I wouldn't have had it any other way.