As Radcliffe walks away from the last decade’s shining success of the British film community — the “Potter” movies were filmed in England by local crews and starred several generations of top British and Irish actors — he steps into a project that taps into an older and edgier part of U.K. cinema lore: “The Woman in Black” is being made under the banner of Hammer Film Productions, the most revered brand name in European horror, which is coming back from the grave after three decades without a feature-film release.
Radcliffe, a devoted student of the British stage and film, is eager to be part of the resurrection of Hammer. The studio dates back to 1937 but really began carving out its reputation with the release of “The Curse of Frankenstein” in 1957 and “Horror of Dracula” the following year.
“It does bring a smile to my face, and it’s an absolutely genuine smile,” Radcliffe said. “Hammer is the company that everybody wants to see succeed. It’s such a part of our film heritage. It was a massive producer of films in its heyday — they were really prolific, there were tons of them — and with actors like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. It’s wonderful to see that company, that name, in a resurgence.”
That resurgence begins with the October release of the wintry vampire tale “Let Me In,” directed by Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”) and starring Chloe Moretz (“Kick-Ass”) and Kodi Smit-McPhee ("The Road"). Hammer also recently wrapped production on “The Resident,” which stars two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“Watchmen”) and was directed by Finnish filmmaker Antti Jokinen. In a bridge to the Hammer past, Lee also appears in the film.
Hammer Chief Executive Simon Oakes said some recent compass points for the reconstituted Hammer and its ethos might be "The Sixth Sense," “The Others,” “The Orphanage” and "Let the Right One In," the Swedish film that is being remade in English as “Let Me In.” He said that sets the horror-house apart from the shock-and-splatter “Saw” and “Hostel” crowd of today.
“We’d like to try to re-ennoble the horror film — it’s ‘smart’ horror, if you like, intelligent films that are not gore-nography, as I call it, and have good story lines that attract talent and are relevant to a modern audience,” Oakes said. “It’s a much-loved and revered brand, certainly in the U.K., but like many of these things, people have a nostalgic love affair with it and they’re not entirely sure why. There are some people who are not old enough to remember the films, and some are old enough but only remember the good ones and don’t remember the not-so-good ones.”