The name Hammer has a particularly strong resonance with most horror fans. For the majority of us, Hammer means movies, horror films with a distinct look and feel to them. Think stately manors, English countrysides, dirty villages, mobs with pitchforks and torches, Victorian garb, stilted dialogue, and – perhaps most importantly – sometimes clumsy special effects adorned with blood of an impossibly garish hue, and you’re thinking Hammer. Somehow, all of these elements came together (often held together by the glue that was the presence of either Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, if not both) to make some great horror films, ones that bring a warm and unapologetic little glow to fans like me.
A few years ago we got the word that Hammer was coming back. Well, the name Hammer, in any case – these days, the venerable old studio is a subsidiary of Exclusive Media Group, a parent company that also holds a documentary studio and a distributor under its umbrella. Whatever. The fact was, Hammer was being brought back for the sole purpose of making horror movies again. That, in my eyes, is a good thing. We need studios devoted to the genre, places where horror is the emphasis rather than a side project that will make a few bucks. Clearly, this wouldn’t be the same old Hammer, but we don’t need the same old Hammer – we’ve got those films at our fingertips whenever we want them.
So, new Hammer rolled out a few years ago, working to reacquaint the public with not only the legacy of the old studio, but the mission of the new one. The first new film was Beyond the Rave, a straight-to-video exercise that didn’t really bode well for what was to come, but regained footing with Let Me In, the well-received remake of the Swedish film Let the Right One In. The upcoming slate sounds good also, with Wake Wood and The Resident and The Woman in Black ready to re-establish the studio as a solid player over the next year or so.
One of the things I’ve been hoping the new Hammer would do is find a way to really capitalize on its rich history, and this new publishing imprint that debuts on March 10 looks like a great start. In addition to a novelization of one of the new movies, The Resident, Hammer is releasing a new edition of The Witches, the source novel for the studio’s 1966 film. This old + new strategy seems like a great way to show fans where the studio has been right alongside where it is going, and I hope it is something they plan to continue.