Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film

Gothic horror and romance tales feed on our darkest fears and desires, and conjure the creatures of the night into being.

Gothic horror and romance tales feed on our darkest fears and desires, and conjure the creatures of the night into being. image

The sensational tales of 18th and 19th century writers like Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker and the Brontës, have defined popular culture, inspiring some of film and television’s most memorable characters, from Dracula and Frankenstein to Cathy and Heathcliff. The technology of film always did fulfil a deep-rooted Gothic fantasy, by capturing the spirits of the living, conjuring ghostly and disembodied forms, and re-animating the dead. Now the undead creatures of the Gothic imagination return to our screens again and again, shape-shifting and breeding new genres. Over the coming months, and four compelling themes, the BFI’s spellbinding nationwide season lifts the lid on this dark storehouse of the imagination, which found its heart in Britain, and came to life on film. You can look into this dark heart of film through the collection here, and also discover the contents of a mysterious black box.

I love the idea of decent, upstanding citizens stripping away layers of mystery to discover the craziness and horror at the heart of things. Charlie Higson (author and actor)


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Witchfinder General image

Directed by Michael Reeves

A witchfinder traverses 17th-century England executing those he suspects of witchcraft.

Cross-Roads image

Directed by John Fitchen

Christopher Lee in perhaps his earliest supernatural screen role, as a ghost who returns from the grave to seek revenge.

Dead of Night image

Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer

A group of guests assembled at a country house swap uncanny and supernatural stories in this classic Ealing chiller from 1945.

Things We Leave Behind image

Directed by Andrew Brand

For whom does the bell toll? A man discovers a dreadful secret among his late father's belongings.

Alice Cooper on Whatever Happened To Baby Jane image

One of cinema's more unlikely stories, Alice Cooper recalls living next door to a genuine legend, and using one of her films to kickstart his career.

The Cicerones image

Directed by Jeremy Dyson

A terrifying encounter in a Gothic cathedral. The League of Gentlemen's Jeremy Dyson and Mark Gatiss collaborate on a twisted tale.

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