There’s a darkness descending over the land this autumn, as our blockbuster Gothic season extends its bone-chilling grip around the country.
A mammoth programme of events and screenings celebrating cinematic tales of gothic horror and romance has begun to roll out across the UK. We’ve screenings in castles, gothic mansions and ancient abbeys, witching-hour showings of zombie classics, parks turned into drive-in cinemas, dark arts all-nighters, creepy live-music accompaniments, and much, much more besides.
We’ll be bringing you highlights from the nationwide celebrations right here on our new rolling blog, including photos from the events, the pick of your tweets and Instagrams, and some very special visual treats along the way.
We’ll be kicking off in earnest tomorrow. For now, let’s hear from that great champion of all things that go bump in the cinematic night, Mark Kermode on his personal highlights from the Gothic programme…
Ahead of tonight’s screening of The Ghoul at BFI Southbank, we’ve excavated this striking press book cover, which dates back to the film’s original release in 1933.
Credit: BFI National Archive
The film stars Boris Karloff as an Egyptologist who rises from the grave to reclaim possession of an ancient jewel. This was the first horror film Karloff made in his native England, and the first British film to receive an ‘H’ certificate (for ‘Horrific’) from the British Board of Film Censors.
Tonight’s screening will be introduced by Karloff’s biographer Stephen Jacobs.
In just over half an hour, Roger Corman will be taking to the BFI Southbank stage to discuss his body of work in the Gothic oeuvre, before a screening of his 1961 Edgar Allen Poe adaptation The Pit and the Pendulum. Naturally, Twitter is abuzz with anticipation.
So excited to see the great @RogerCorman at the BFI this evening.His work as a presence in my life stretches beyond the bounds of my memory.
— Monkeypuzzle Cinema (@MPuzzleCinema) October 25, 2013
— Hallowian Mantgani (@mant_a_tangi) October 25, 2013
Off to London, to see one of my heroes Roger Corman, at the BFI!
— Andrew Watson (@blackdieseluk) October 25, 2013
The good news is that the man himself seems to be in as high spirits as his London fans, having thoroughly enjoyed his time as our guest so far.
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” - Samuel Johnson @BFI
— Roger Corman (@RogerCorman) October 23, 2013
Could the British be any friendlier? Impossible!
— Roger Corman (@RogerCorman) October 24, 2013
Should you wish to kick-start your Halloween revels early, BFI IMAX plays host tomorrow night to a Real Vampires All Nighter. Commencing just before the clock strikes midnight, those with the stamina to last until morning will be treated to back-to-back screenings of Interview with the Vampire, From Dusk till Dawn, The Lost Boys and Fright Night (1985).
Gorehounds across the capital are frothing at the mouth in anticipation of tonight’s screening of Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond at BFI Southbank.
This surrealist 1981 shocker depicts terrifying goings-on at a New Orleans hotel built upon a gateway to hell. Time Out gave it a spot in their list of the 100 best horror films, describing it as “a true descent into the depths of meaningless, unpredictable, terrifyingly beautiful horror, with a scorpion-sharp sting in the tail”. Electric Sheep called it “the pinnacle of Fulci’s career”.
The Beyond screening at the BFI tonight? Not sure what world I woke up in this morning but I like it.
— Joe Scaramanga (@JoeScaramanga) October 28, 2013
— FilmLand Empire (@FilmLandEmpire) October 28, 2013
What’s that you say? The Beyond just happens to be screening @BFI when I’m in town? Might have to check for tickets.
— Jamie Russell (@jamierussell74) October 28, 2013
Our celebration of all things gothic has inspired a flurry of press activity over the past week. Here are a few of our favourite recent articles:
Over at The Guardian, Michael Newton’s feature The devil’s work: gothic films at the BFI provides an entertaining potted history of gothic cinema.
Writing for Silent London, silent film accompanist extraordinaire Neil Brand makes a persuasive case for Murnau’s Nosferatu as a love story, and argues that the film exerts a greater influence on modern screen vampires than Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.
Meanwhile Mark Kermode has compiled a list of the 10 best gothic films for The Observer. Nine of his picks are screening at BFI Southbank as part of our season.
Last year we brought the classic BBC series A Ghost Story for Christmas to DVD for the first time. These releases proved hugely popular, so we’ve returned to the BBC vaults to revive more rare vintage horror as part of BFI Gothic, just in time for Halloween.
From today, you can get your hands on the three surviving episodes of anthology series Dead of Night, chilling folk horror Play for Today Robin Redbreast, a selection of Classic Ghost Stories inspired by the work of M.R. James, and an expanded edition of the bestselling Ghost Stories for Christmas box set.
Check out the spine-tingling new trailer for these releases.
If storm warnings and the onset of long, dark nights have left you cowering at home this week, you can still get in on the gothic action from the safety of your living room thanks to our friends at Film4. Tonight sees the launch of their Dark Arts season, a six-night extravaganza of witchcraft, demonic possession and devil worship.
The programme includes undisputed genre classics Rosemary’s Baby and Night of the Demon, provocative recent independent fare such as Antichrist and Kill List, and guilty pleasures like Season of the Witch and Legend.
Head over to Film4.com for further details. But before you do that, feast your eyes on this excellent trailer.
For a spot of stimulating audio entertainment this afternoon, we’d highly recommend the latest edition of the reliably excellent Filmspotting podcast. This Halloween special, hosted by Chicago-based critics Adam Kempenaar and Josh Larsen, features a lucid and insightful debate about the merits of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist.
The pair also join forces with fellow film journalist Michael Phillips to exchange lists of top five terrifying film characters. The conversation covers the whole spectrum of screen horror, but several bona fide gothic greats are discussed.
Incidentally, our lovely partners Vue are offering audiences all over the UK the chance to watch the director’s cut of The Exorcist on the big screen this Halloween.
The festivities begin this Friday with a late-night screening of Guillermo del Toro’s hauntingly beautiful The Devil’s Backbone. On Saturday you can catch Mexican gothic classic The Black Pit of Dr M, ahead of a huge party complete with dance and theatre performances, live Latin American big band music, face painting and other fun diversions.
The BFI Player, our brand new video-on-demand service, launched earlier this month with its very own Gothic collection. A clear highlight is John Fitchen’s 1955 short film Cross-Roads, which was recently unearthed from the vaults of the BFI National Archive and is available to rent for £1.
The film earns its place in history as Christopher Lee’s first screen venture into gothic territory. In one of his earliest lead roles, he plays a man risen from the grave intent on avenging the death of his sister. Cross-Roads also screens tonight at BFI Southbank alongside Hammer’s 1958 version of Dracula, which features Lee’s star-making turn as the titular count.
Today sees the UK release of Thor: The Dark World, in which man of the moment Tom Hiddleston can be seen hamming it up spectacularly as devious Norse god Loki.
London Film Festival audiences were recently treated to his altogether more restrained turn in Jim Jarmusch’s gloriously gothic vampire tale Only Lovers Left Alive. Our video team caught up with him to discuss what makes Jarmusch’s take on vampire mythology unique.
As mentioned on Monday, we’ve just released Robin Redbreast, a deeply unsettling BBC Play for Today from 1970, on DVD for the first time.
This tale of a TV script editor who moves to a remote country village is considered an influence on Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man. Here’s a clip of writer John Bowen discussing the grizzly real-life murder that inspired him. A full-length version of this interview is included on the DVD.
To kick things off on the right note, here’s Buffy and Angel creator Joss Whedon, onstage at BFI Southbank earlier this year, talking about vampires.
To mark our theatrical rerelease of Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre, Geoff Andrew has written a great new piece explaining why the film is far more than a straightforward remake of the F.W. Murnau classic Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror - read it here.
We have plenty more fine gothic-tinged editorial content for you to enjoy. Over recent weeks, our esteemed colleagues have penned odes to the likes of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, The Wicker Man and Night of the Demon.
And if you’re still planning your Halloween home viewing, you might take inspiration from our lists of 10 great silent horror films, 10 Boris Karloff films you ought to see and the 10 best Christopher Lee movies.
Over at The Spectator, horror aficionado Peter Hoskin has singled out a few of his personal highlights from our Gothic programme.
He’s particularly effusive in his praise of Jacques Tournier’s Night of the Demon. If you’re anywhere near Leeds this evening, don’t miss your chance to watch the film in the spectacularly atmospheric surroundings of Kirkstall Abbey, as part of the Gothic Film Festival.
The ruined Abbey, which The Guardian recently declared one of the gloomiest settings in the land, is playing host to four nights of screenings and events. Tonight’s programme also includes Nosferatu with live musical accompaniment by Neil Brand, Gunter Buchwald and Jeff Davenport.
Here’s a real Halloween treat. BFI curator Nathalie Morris and film archivist Jenny Hammerton have joined forces to give us all a gothic cookery lesson.
The pair ably knock together a hearty goulash, following a recipe by none other than Vincent Price. In addition to being one of the greats of horror cinema, Price was also a talented gourmet chef, and in 1971 fronted his own UK TV cookery show, Cooking Price-Wise with Vincent Price.
More of Jenny’s forays into cinematic gastronomy can be found at silverscreensuppers.com.
This afternoon we’ve been playing a #GothicGlare game on Twitter, asking our followers to identify famous gothic film characters solely by the whites of their dreadful eyes.
We can now exclusively reveal the full set of correct answers. Drum roll, please.
Answer: Bela Lugosi as Count Mora in Mark of the Vampire
Answer: Bette Davis as Baby Jane Hudson in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Answer: Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho
Answer: Edith Scob as Christiane in Eyes Without a Face
This weekend, audiences across Scotland can catch the brilliantly eerie 1922 silent film Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages on the big screen, with a live musical accompaniment by Verity Susman, founding member of cult indie band Electrelane.
The film, a profoundly inventive exploration of medieval superstition and collective hysteria, screens tonight at Filmhouse Edinburgh, tomorrow at Dundee Contemporary Arts, and on Sunday at the Glasgow Film Theatre.
Here’s a sneak preview of Verity’s brand new, specially commissioned score.
The finalists of our Gothic Get-up competition have been announced.
Take a look at the shortlisted entries in the gallery below, then head over to our Facebook wall to cast your vote for the contestant you think is most deserving of a bumper prize package. Voting closes at 3pm GMT tomorrow (2 November 2013).
We recently caught up with artist Dan Mumford to talk about the stunning screen print he’s designed to mark the rerelease of Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror. He also discussed his love of 1980s horror film VHS sleeves. Here’s the interview.
You can buy the Nosferatu print, limited to an edition of 100, here.
Check out these wonderfully creepy photos from last night’s Gothic Film Festival screenings at Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds.
The festival continues throughout the weekend. Judging by the Twitter response to the opening night events, you’d be well advised to head on over if you’re anywhere in the vicinity.
Nosferatu was amazing last night @gothicfilmfest The live music was so dramatic and the setting was mega spooky! Perfect Halloween!
— Laura Alice (@topicalaura) November 1, 2013
— fayrebyalley (@fayrebyalley) November 1, 2013
— Steven Heaton (@steven_heaton) November 1, 2013
Let’s begin another week of gothic delights with a peek behind the scenes of BFI Southbank’s brand new Haunted: The Innocents exhibition. This display charts the creation of Jack Clayton’s masterful 1961 chiller The Innocents, and features a host of rare and never-before-showcased objects from the film.
Also on show is a costume worn by Mia Wasikowska in Cary Fukunaga’s 2011 film adaptation of Jane Eyre. The Innocents is based on Henry James’s novella The Turn of the Screw, which shares elements of Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel.
The exhibition is free to visit and runs in the BFI Atrium until 31 January 2014.
We’ve been scouring Twitter to see how you all spent the spookiest weekend of the year. Here are just a few of the tweets that caught our eye.
Well The Beyond @bfi was stonking. Heard “that was fucking mental” on way out…classic
— hotdogcinema (@hotdogcinema) November 3, 2013
— Trix Middlekauff (@tastytrix) November 3, 2013
Returning home from Kirkstall Abbey where Ive been telling ghost tales for BFI Gothic film festival. It was wonderful. Back tomorrow.
— Helen M Sant (@GothicMolly) November 1, 2013
— Emily Parrish (@Scandalmongers) November 1, 2013
Well I think we can safely say that the @bfi have put more effort into Halloween than literally anyone this year
— Sophie King (@RealSophieKing) October 28, 2013
The award for the most colourful contribution to BFI Gothic to date goes to our friends over at Rich Mix. The Dia de los Muertos Experience they hosted over the weekend was by all accounts a glorious assault on the senses. Here are some fantastic photos from the event, which was produced by De Skalon Public Relations and Movimientos, and featured live music from Voodoo Love Orchestra and G-Bop Orchestra.
Credit: Alastair Johnstone