Dark clouds are forming in the sky. A chill descends over the heart of London and with it a mist, creeping ever closer to the BFI’s Southbank cinema. Enter the auditoriums and you will find many terrifying surprises; Nosferatu slithers silently down the aisle, The Mummy lurks undetected in the darkness and at the front waits Rosemary, her baby cradled in her arms. Since the very early days of film, menacing monsters have haunted us in the cinemas, preying on our wildest fears to leave us shaken & frightened. It is these screen nightmares that the BFI is celebrating in a major new season at their Southbank theater; ‘Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film’ is a 4 month celebration of the best in cinematic horror.
From the visually arresting pieces that formed the beating heart of German Expressionism, to the Hammer Horrors that formed, and continue to be, an integral part of the UK’s film industry, horror has shaped the very fabric of cinema. ‘The Dark Heart of Film’ explores this cinematic foundation from 4 different perspectives. Throughout the end of October and all through November, the BFI will be focusing on their first 2 themes. The ‘Monstrous’ section explores the incarnations & reincarnations of the many Gothic creatures that have haunted cinemagoers for decades; from Dracula and The Mummy, to the American Werewolf that terrified London. Meanwhile, ‘The Dark Arts’ turns the lens on the Satanic Magic that has given birth to our darkest fears of control & manipulation and created some of cinema’s greatest monsters, including Boris Karloff’s legendary portrayal of Frankenstein.
Definitive to the ‘Monstrous’ section is without doubt the tale of Nosferatu, the first vampire to ever appear on the screen. Appearing at the BFI as part of a wider release, Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror continues to be the foundation of cinematic vampirism, continuing to stand tall in a medium now overrun with tales of the bloodsuckers.
Dracula is a key figure in the ‘Monstrous’ section, with screenings of Christopher Lee’s towering Hammer Horror incarnation and Bela Lugosi’s highly respected 1930s performance included, but there is also so much more on offer. The Mummy, largely forgotten about in amongst the horrifyingly awful Brendan Fraser films, has been vividly brought to life on a number of occasions – notably by Boris Karloff in 1932. Then there are the terrors of Del Toro’s debut feature Cronos and Lynch’s devastating The Elephant Man, both of which have more than one showing at the BFI over the next month.
‘The Dark Arts’ also includes some of German Expressionist Cinema’s most notable gems. Particularly Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Calligari, which bookends ‘The Dark Arts’ section. Focusing on how a man manipulates another in to committing a series of crimes, Wiene’s wonderfully stylized horror preys of the psychological fear of control that haunts many of us.
This second section also gives you the opportunity to revisit James Whale’s exceptional take on Mary Shelly’s chilling novel of Frankenstein, as well as his striking sequel Bride of Frankenstein, both starring the brilliant Boris Karloff in the lead role. Astounding and atmospheric, both films have stood the test of time and capture the terrifying essence that the BFI is examining in this superb gothic season.
Full details of the BFI’s Gothic Season can be found here: http://bit.ly/1dKx8lp