With the recent horror outbreak in Wales you may be left thinking there’ s more horror films being made than there is sheep.
Last year saw the release of Panic Button and 2012 sees the release of The Reverend, Elfie Hopkins, Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection and Dead Of The Nite. This explosion may seem recent but much like rugby, Tom Jones and unpronounceable villages – horror has always had a home in Wales.
In 1932, when Universal were looking for a setting for The Old Dark House – a tale about five travellers who one stormy night seek refuge in a remote mansion that hides a terrible secret – Wales must have been immediately at the top of the list.
The Old Dark House reunited director James Whale and Boris Karloff fresh-off their success withFrankenstein and features Whale’s trademark humour like when Karloff, playing the menacing butler Morgan, greets the travellers with an inhuman groan and Melvyn Douglas replies:
“Even Welsh ought not to sound like that!”
Universal, knowing a good gothic setting when it sees one, went back to Wales in 1941 for The Wolf Man. It’s the story of Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jnr) who returns to his ancestral home – the fictional village of Llanwelly - only to be bitten by a werewolf and hilarity ensues. Llanwelly may not exist but I like to think that the inspiration behind Talbot’s surname is the Welsh town of Port Talbot. Having spent a considerable amount of time there myself I for one can attest that “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a monster when the Stella flows and the rugby result is shite”.
The Wolf Man may lack the polish of the Whale-helmed Universal horrors, but it is still my favourite in the cannon because werewolves are furry balls of badassery. Unfortunately the 2009 remake transferred the lycanthropic hijinks from Wales to England so no wonder it sucks lupine ass.
For the next four decades Welsh-set horror took a lull but then exploded back to the silver screen in 1983 with House of the Long Shadows!!!
Okay I’d never heard of the movie before this week but its existence should be branded into my brain. Directed by the excellent British exploitation director Pete Walker, it marks the last time Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing appeared together in a movie and was the only time that they both starred with Vincent Price. The Holy Trinity of the Silver-Age of horror together for the first and alas last time.
The premise is that an American writer comes to a remote Welsh mansion (you may think that they’re just stealing the set-up from The Old Dark House but in Wales we all really do live in remote mansions) only to discover he’s… NOT ALONE!
Tagline of the movie was “Room for every nightmare… A nightmare in every room” which will resonate with anyone who’s spent a weekend in a B & B in Tenby.
1992 saw the release of Welsh writer/director Julian Richards’ film Darklands – a London journalist investigating a mysterious death in Port Talbot discovers a devil-worshipping cult (not surprising really as Satanism is Wales’ fastest growing religion). Darklands has Craig Fairbrass in the lead-role so I recommend you watch Richards’ superior The Last Horror Movie instead which does not.
Promising all the dark but none of the lands of Darklands, The Dark was released in 2005. Starring Sean Bean and Maria Bello it’s about a family haunted by the ghost of a dead girl. “So fucking what?” you’re thinking but what makes The Dark so different is that it’s not set in a remote, Welsh, mansion but a remote, Welsh… cottage!!!
Yes, that red mess splattered on the ceiling above you is the result of your mind just being blown.
The next big Welsh set horror was the 2008 virus outbreak movie Pontypool…
Wait… it’s set in a small town in Canada?
But it’s called PONTYPOOL! It’s almost as misleading a movie title as The Beaver.
Okay so lets move forward one year and Wales gave the world the nano-budget movie Colin. Writer/director Marc Price proved you could make a zombie feature and still have enough money leftover for a bag of chips and your bus fare home.
So ever since cinema’s Golden Age horror and Wales have gone deformed hand in deformed hand but in the last couple of years it has spread faster than the Rage virus. Currently in development is Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming, my own project New Year’s Eviland a still untitled zombie movie set around the 2012 Olympics from the people behind Donkey Punch and Hush.
So fuck Transylvania, Wales is the horror capital of the universe.