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. In 2013 the BFI’s spellbinding season lifted the lid on this dark storehouse of the imagination, which found its heart in Britain, and came to life on film. Delve into a dark heart of film here.
The Elephant Man
Biopic1980124 minsDirector: David Lynch
David Lynch's moving true-life tale of the severely deformed Joseph Merrick and his rescue from the hell of a Victorian circus sideshow.
The Reflecting Skin
Horror199096 minsDirector: Philip Ridley
Stunningly photographed drama about a young American boy caught up in the nightmare of a sinister rural community.
Nosferatu the Vampyre
Horror1979107 minsDirector: Werner Herzog
English language version of Herzog’s stimulating take on the Dracula story starring Klaus Kinski, with echoes of Murnau’s 1922 Nosferatu.
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Period drama192591 minsSilentDirector: Rupert Julian
'Man of a thousand faces' Lon Chaney stars in the first version of Gaston Leroux's oft-filmed novel.
Drama194798 minsDirector: Charles Frank
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.
Horror192289 minsSilentDirector: F.W. Murnau
This influential Dracula adaptation contains some of the most famous images of expressionist film, with a new score by Hammer composer James Bernard.
The Mask of Satan
Horror196086 minsDirector: Mario Bava
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.
Horror1977101 minsDirector: Dario Argento
Dario Argento’s phantasmagoric gothic nightmare blends operatic violence, disorienting dream logic and hyper-real visuals to create a horror classic.
City of the Living Dead
Horror198093 minsDirector: Lucio Fulci
Lucio Fulci’s sensationally gory zombie horror finds undead hordes overtaking a sleepy New England town, with only a reporter and a local psychic to stop them.
Period drama197194 minsDirector: Robert Young
A dying vampire swears vengeance on the townsfolk who killed him. The promise seems to have been realized when, years later, plague arrives.
Twins of Evil
Period drama197187 minsDirector: John Hough
Chilling vampire horror from Hammer in which a pair of innocent twins come under the influence of the evil Count Karnstein.
Hands of the Ripper
Horror197185 minsDirector: Peter Sasdy
In Edwardian London, a series of gruesome murders match those of the Whitechapel Ripper, revealing an unlikely suspect.
The Iron Rose
Drama197380 minsDirector: Jean Rollin
A pair of lovers have a tryst in a vacant tomb, but then find themselves unable to escape from the graves and crypts of the massive cemetery.
The Living Dead Girl
Horror198390 minsDirector: Jean Rollin
When toxic waste spill disturbs her grave, a deceased girl comes alive to walk the earth again in Jean Rollin's macabre tale of zombie carnage.
Horror197982 minsDirector: Jean Rollin
Jean Rollin’s best-known film is the most full-blooded of his vampire tales, teeming with sex and lavishly filmed gore scenes
Shiver of the Vampires
Horror197095 minsDirector: Jean Rollin
Newlyweds visit their cousins at a remote rural chateau, finding them under the spell of two vampire girls.
Requiem for a Vampire
197287 minsDirector: Jean Rollin
Two female fugitives hide out in a deserted castle, only to become embroiled in a plot to extend the bloodline of a horde of blood-crazed vampires.
Drama197491 minsDirector: José R. Larraz
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.
Seance on a Wet Afternoon
Crime1964111 minsDirector: Bryan Forbes
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.
The Body Beneath
Horror197082 minsDirector: Andy Milligan
Vampires rampage around Hampstead in a strange, bloody cult horror by low-budget sex-gore auteur Andy Milligan.
The Tell-Tale Heart
Drama195321 minsDirector: J.B. Williams
Stanley Baker enacts the classic Edgar Allan Poe story in this chilling short film, only recently rediscovered after being lost for 50 years.
The Fall of the House of Usher
Animation & Artists Moving Image198016 minsDirector: Jan Svankmajer
The first of Švankmajer's 'tactile experiments', the subject chosen partly because the title was on an official list of 'approved' texts. In this version there are no humans, just a brief glimpse of a live raven as the camera roams around an eerie derelict house.
La Belle et la Bête
Fantasy194695 minsDirector: Jean Cocteau
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
Horror1993103 minsDirector: Michele Soavi
Michele Soavi’s compelling concoction of anarchic Evil Dead-style horror-comedy, tragic romance and gore.