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The Best of British Horror: "Hollow" is the Latest Scare From Across the Pond

Spanning “The Wicker Man” to “Shaun of the Dead,” Matthew Holt, the writer/producer of “Hollow,” shares his picks for the best of British Horror.

Editor’s Note: When we think of the traditional “British horror” film, many familiar images come to mind—fog-swept moors, sinister mansions on secluded estates, and the ravaged face of Christopher Lee, to name a few. From these memorable roots, British Horror continues to evolve, with a modern and terrifying London often replacing isolated and eerie country houses. In fact the genre, which is very much alive and well, has launched the careers of a surprising number of notable British filmmakers, including Terence Fisher, Nicolas Roeg, Edgar Wright, and Neil Marshall.

Since Halloween will soon be upon us, we thought it appropriate to ask Matthew Holt, the writer/producer of Hollow, to share his recommendations for the best in British Horror. What better way to get in the spirit of this spookiest of holidays?

Horror of Dracula (1958)
Dir. Terence Fisher

Starring Christopher Lee in the lead role, before his turns as Count Dooku in Star Wars and Saruman in Lord of the Rings, he cut his teeth (pardon the pun) as an arch villain in this masterpiece of high camp, Gothic horror. Sexy, luxurious and creepy as hell (when I was 12, at least), it’s a definitive Dracula piece. It helped spawn a whole British industry of Horror films from the Hammer Films stable, including such classics Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde (1971) and Curse Of The Werewolf (1961).

Peeping Tom (1960)
Dir. Michael Powell

A documentarian kills women with his cine-camera—possibly the original ‘found footage’ film, from 1960—Peeping Tom is an early masterpiece rediscovered and championed by Martin Scorsese, and recently re-mastered by the Criterion Collection. A brilliant study in psych-horror, the film is an innovatively conceived and executed pioneer, and a daring study of sexual violence. The way the camera is used gives a fascinating first-person dynamic (one we try to employ in Hollow) that puts the viewer in the role of voyeur and asks the question: Is this any part of us?

Village of the Damned (1960)
Dir. Wolf Rilla

In the small English village of Midwich, everybody and everything falls into a mysterious sleep in the middle of the day. Some months later, every woman of child-bearing age is pregnant. The children born out of these pregnancies all grow very fast and have blond hair, piercing blue eyes and frightening telepathic powers. The original 60s production (remade in 1995 to less effect) is a small masterpiece. Simply made, with few special effects, it excels in creating a claustrophobic chill and taps into a primal fear of all parents, who feel they should love their children no matter what. It’s also a masterpiece in leaving out all you can, not explaining everything, and allowing that to add to the mystery and sense of unease.

The Wicker Man (1973)
Dir. Robin Hardy

One test of a good horror film is whether it stays with you once the credits have rolled. The incredibly memorable dénouement of the original Wicker Man (remade in 2006, also to less effect) has meant this film certainly passes that test, as it has stayed with me through the years. It’s an occult thriller—you feel the seductive, irresistible undertow of a pagan history pulling at you, with half-forgotten myths and legends looming at you out from the past (a creepy feeling we tried to recreate in Hollow). You are reminded that our civilised society is just a few generations from something darker, chaotic and animalistic.

28 Days Later (2002)
Dir. Danny Boyle

Part of the joy of this film was set in the city in which I live and work, London, completely empty. This made it personal. The film echoes a primal fear that seems resonant today, of mindless, reckless violence simmering just below the surface of civilised society (just think of the London riots last year). In addition to fantastic direction, 28 Days Later also has an amazing kinetic energy, much of which was created by British film editor Chris Gill. We liked the way it was put together so much we asked Chris to edit Hollow, and we feel his cut brings a real stylistic punch to our film.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Dir. Edgar Wright

Great self-deprecating and ironic British humour and classic horror moments are finely balanced in this terrific British zombie comedy. At the same time, the emotional journey of the characters made it a lovable buddy flick and rom-com, whilst having enough scare and gore to keep horror fans happy. Above all, the filmmakers’ genuine love of the horror genre shines through in an immensely engaging way.

The Descent (2005)
Dir. Neil Marshall

A caving expedition goes horribly wrong, as the explorers become trapped and ultimately pursued by a strange breed of predators. The film is written and directed by Neil Marshall, who also did the brilliant British indie horror Dog Soldiers. Done on a relatively low budget, this claustrophobic ensemble piece grips you and doesn’t let you go, oozing menace and foreboding for the duration. It has a slow build, but pays off spectacularly without ever falling into creature feature clichés. A sort of British Alien, set in a cave rather than space, if you see what I mean!

Can’t get enough international frights? Hollow is currently available on iTunes, Amazon and Cable VOD nationwide!

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