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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.

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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Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film

Recommended

View The Elephant Man
The Elephant Man
HD

The Elephant Man 1980 PG

John Hurt stars David Lynch's exceptionally moving true-life tale of the severely deformed Joseph Merrick and his rescue from the hell of a Victorian circus sideshow.

124 mins USA Director. David Lynch

View The Beyond
The Beyond
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HD

The Beyond 1981 18

Lucio Fulci's Italian zombie-horror classic about a New Orleans hotel built upon one of the seven gateways to Hell.

Italy Director. Lucio Fulci

View Frankenstein
Frankenstein
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Frankenstein 1931 PG

The gothic horror that ushered in a wave of cinematic terror, starring Boris Karloff as the reconstructed monster with a human soul.

70 mins USA Director. James Whale

View The Reflecting Skin
The Reflecting Skin
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HD

The Reflecting Skin 1990 15

Stunningly photographed drama about a young American boy caught up in the nightmare of a sinister rural community.

95 mins United Kingdom Director. Philip Ridley

View Nosferatu the Vampyre
Nosferatu the Vampyre
HD

Nosferatu the Vampyre 1979 15

English language version of Herzog’s stimulating take on the Dracula story starring Klaus Kinski, with echoes of Murnau’s 1922 Nosferatu.

107 mins Federal Republic of Germany Director. Werner Herzog

View Blanche Fury
Blanche Fury
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HD

Blanche Fury 1947 PG

Valerie Hobson stars as the scheming governess with designs on taking over the Fury estate, in this atmospheric Gothic melodrama

95 mins United Kingdom Director. Marc Allégret

GOTHIC COLLECTIONS

View The Uncanny
The Uncanny

The Uncanny 1977 15

An author becomes convinced he's unearthed a feline conspiracy to control mankind.

85 mins Canada Director. Denis Héroux

View The Beyond
The Beyond
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HD

The Beyond 1981 18

Lucio Fulci's Italian zombie-horror classic about a New Orleans hotel built upon one of the seven gateways to Hell.

Italy Director. Lucio Fulci

View Dracula
Dracula
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HD

Dracula 1958 12

Hammer's 1958 version of Stoker's Gothic novel was the most exciting to date, boasting lavish costumes and sets, a vibrant score and red, red blood.

82 mins United Kingdom Director. Terence Fisher

View Joss Whedon on Vampires
Joss Whedon on Vampires
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Joss Whedon on Vampires 2013

The Avengers' director pays his debt to a novelist and ponders how the Buffy series could have gone further.

United Kingdom

View Christopher Tucker on creating The Elephant Man
Christopher Tucker on creating The Elephant Man
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Christopher Tucker on creating The Elephant Man 2013

Compelling account of the struggle to recreate the Victorian legend, from the film's makeup creator - and David Lynch's saviour - Christopher Tucker.

United Kingdom

View Frankenstein
Frankenstein
Watch from £2.13

Frankenstein 1931 PG

The gothic horror that ushered in a wave of cinematic terror, starring Boris Karloff as the reconstructed monster with a human soul.

70 mins USA Director. James Whale

View The Reflecting Skin
The Reflecting Skin
Watch from £2.98
HD

The Reflecting Skin 1990 15

Stunningly photographed drama about a young American boy caught up in the nightmare of a sinister rural community.

95 mins United Kingdom Director. Philip Ridley

View Twins of Evil
Twins of Evil
HD

Twins of Evil 1971 15

Chilling vampire horror from Hammer in which a pair of innocent twins come under the influence of the evil Count Karnstein.

87 mins United Kingdom Director. John Hough

View The Shout
The Shout

The Shout 1978 15

Cannes’ Grand Jury Prize was awarded to this unnerving drama about a man who claims to be able to kill people with a ‘terror shout’ learned from an Aboriginal shaman.

82 mins United Kingdom Director. Jerzy Skolimowski

View The Beyond
The Beyond
Watch from £2.98
HD

The Beyond 1981 18

Lucio Fulci's Italian zombie-horror classic about a New Orleans hotel built upon one of the seven gateways to Hell.

Italy Director. Lucio Fulci

View The Mask of Satan
The Mask of Satan
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HD

The Mask of Satan 1960 15

Italian horror classic from acclaimed Italian horror auteur Mario Bava, about a beautiful witch Asa (Barbara Steele) who rises from her grave to take revenge upon her enemies.

Italy Director. Mario Bava

View Seance on a Wet Afternoon
Seance on a Wet Afternoon

Seance on a Wet Afternoon 1964 PG

Bryan Forbes’ stylish psychological thriller about a medium who plans to kidnap a child and help the police solve the crime to bolster her reputation as a clairvoyant.

Great Britain Director. Bryan Forbes

View Frankenstein
Frankenstein
Watch from £2.13

Frankenstein 1931 PG

The gothic horror that ushered in a wave of cinematic terror, starring Boris Karloff as the reconstructed monster with a human soul.

70 mins USA Director. James Whale

View Suspiria
Suspiria
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HD

Suspiria 1977 18

Dario Argento’s phantasmagoric gothic nightmare blends operatic violence, disorienting dream logic and hyper-real visual to create a horror classic.

98 mins Italy Director. Dario Argento

View Things We Leave Behind
Things We Leave Behind
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Things We Leave Behind 2009

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

16 mins United Kingdom Director. Andrew Brand

View The Phantom Light
The Phantom Light

The Phantom Light 1935 PG

Michael Powell’s gothic mystery of a haunted lighthouse where insanity thrives.

72 mins United Kingdom Director. Michael Powell

View Cross-Roads
Cross-Roads
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Cross-Roads 1955

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

19 mins United Kingdom Director. John Fitchen

View Haunters of the Deep
Haunters of the Deep

Haunters of the Deep 1984 PG

A ghostly boy returns from the grave to warn against reopening 'The Devil's Mine' in this spooky drama.

61 mins United Kingdom Director. Andrew Bogle

View The Mistletoe Bough
The Mistletoe Bough
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The Mistletoe Bough 1904

Discover a haunted gem, the earliest film of the Christmas ghost story The Mistletoe Bough. Guaranteed to spook a whole new generation over a hundred years after its creation. With new music by Pete Wiggs of Saint Etienne, commissioned by the BFI.

5 mins United Kingdom Director. Percy Stow

View Dead of Night
Dead of Night
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HD

Dead of Night 1945 PG

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

104 mins United Kingdom Director. Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer

View The Pledge
The Pledge
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The Pledge 1981 15

The restless spirit of a highwayman looks back over a lurid life of sin as his worm-ridden corpse rots on the gallows.

22 mins United Kingdom Director. Digby Rumsey

View Uncle Silas
Uncle Silas

Uncle Silas 1947

Gothic chiller based on the novel by J. Sheridan Le Fanu. Jean Simmons stars as an heiress pursued by her unbalanced uncle and his perverted son.

103 mins United Kingdom Director. Charles Frank

View The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera
HD

The Phantom of the Opera 1925 PG

'Man of a thousand faces' Lon Chaney stars in the first version of Gaston Leroux's oft-filmed novel.

111 mins USA Director. Rupert Julian

View La Belle et la Bête
La Belle et la Bête
HD

La Belle et la Bête 1946 PG

Jean Cocteau’s ravishingly restored 1946 film is a cinematic classic. “Five stars. [This] magical exploration of the fairytale is a compelling and bizarre masterpiece” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

89 mins France Director. Jean Cocteau

View The Man in Grey
The Man in Grey
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HD

The Man in Grey 1943

James Mason, Margaret Lockwood and Stewart Granger star in the first of the fantastically successful Gainsborough melodramas.

116 mins United Kingdom Director. Leslie Arliss

View Symptoms
Symptoms
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HD

Symptoms 1974 15

The official British Palme d'Or entry at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival, Symptoms is a sophisticated modern gothic horror film exploring the themes of sexual repression and psychosis.

90 mins United Kingdom Director. José R. Larraz

View Blanche Fury
Blanche Fury
Watch from £2.98
HD

Blanche Fury 1947 PG

Valerie Hobson stars as the scheming governess with designs on taking over the Fury estate, in this atmospheric Gothic melodrama

95 mins United Kingdom Director. Marc Allégret

View Tell Tale Heart
Tell Tale Heart
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Tell Tale Heart 1934

A madman harbours murderous thoughts about an old relative with an evil eye in this chilling Edgar Allen Poe adaptation

49 mins United Kingdom Director. Brian Desmond Hurst

View Neil Gaiman on Gothic
Neil Gaiman on Gothic
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Neil Gaiman on Gothic 2014

Sandman's creator gives a personal definition of the genre that still inspires him.

United Kingdom

View Neil Gaiman on Gothic Vs Horror
Neil Gaiman on Gothic Vs Horror
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Neil Gaiman on Gothic Vs Horror 2014

The author of the Sandman series ponders the distinction between genres, superficially similar but, when analysed, deeply different.

United Kingdom

View The Ossuary
The Ossuary
Watch from £0.85 10 mins

The Ossuary 1970

A surreal vision of an ornate ossuary built from the bones of Black Death victims.

10 mins Director. Jan Svankmajer

View To Have and to Hold
To Have and to Hold

To Have and to Hold 2000

A woman finds that death will not part her from her deceased lover.

13 mins United Kingdom Director. John Hardwick

View Un Chien Andalou
Un Chien Andalou

Un Chien Andalou 1928 15

A scabrous study of desire, the subconscious and anti-clericalism - Buñuel and Dalí’s provocative first film is a classic of Surrealist cinema.

17 mins France Director. Luis Buñuel

View Amelia and the Angel
Amelia and the Angel
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Amelia and the Angel 1958 U

A young angel scours London for her wings in this tender short by the young Ken Russell.

25 mins United Kingdom

View Rapunzel Let Down Your Hair
Rapunzel Let Down Your Hair
HD

Rapunzel Let Down Your Hair 1978

An imaginative, experimental and playful look at myth, storytelling and female identity.

78 mins United Kingdom Director. Susan Shapiro, Esther Ronay, Francine Winham

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