This is part of my childhood. Amicus. Hammer was the horror film granddaddies, all that Dracula and Frankenstein goodness, but Amicus, like Tigon, seemed a little but more…opened out.
Even more legitimate. I’m not saying that Hammer wasn’t excellent, established, legitimate film makers, they won the Queen’s Award For Industry, for goodness sake, but those Hammer films had a repertory of actors who were linked to the studio and their films – Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing had a great career in film before, during and after, but were captured by their Hammer performances.
Amicus were different. Known for their portmanteau horror films, even though they did so much more, they had actors who were big names, Kurt Jurgens, Terry-Thomas, Sir Ralph Richardson for goodness sake.
Those compendium movies, like 1972’s ‘Tales From The Crypt’, ‘Vault Of Horror’ the year after and, more famously, ‘Asylum’ (1972) – these enabled audiences to have several bites of the cherry – if you didn’t like the Terry-Thomas and Glynis Johns comedy horror piece ‘The Neat Job’ from ‘Vault Of Horror’ or Ian Ogilvy in ‘The Door’, a portal frightener in ‘From Beyond The Grave’, there were so many others to enjoy.
I loved and love the Amicus portmanteau movies, plus their Dr Who movies and overcooked horror fare like ‘The Beast Must Die’.
As the Guardian described;
‘But where Amicus really sang was in its “portmanteau” films, made up of five or six short stories connected by a loose overarching theme. These films were not only masterpieces of creativity (after all, it’s much easier to string out one bad idea for 90 minutes than to cram in half a dozen) but also of marketing. Most of the seven Amicus anthologies were sold on the star power of one actor who, given the brevity of each story, might have only appeared on screen for a couple of minutes.’
After Amicus, one of the leading lights, Milton Subotsky, tried to continue with the compendium, cat-based ‘The Uncanny’ in 1977 and much-liked ‘The Monster Club’ 4 years later.
The Return Of Amicus
That’s what Scottish horror house Hex would like. Head honchos Lawrie Breqdter and Sarah Daly are setting production on a new movie, ‘The Grip Of Terror’ and will be partly crowd-funded; Brewster told the BBC,’
Our aim is to re-establish Amicus Productions as a beacon of independent British horror. We’re concocting a film that captures the essence and panache that rendered the studio iconic. By emphasizing atmospheric storytelling, tangible effects, and a genuine respect for the genre, our vision is to teleport audiences back to British horror’s golden epoch.’
He’s been in contact with the owners of the Amicus name for 2 years and is now ready to announce this project.
Who Are Hex?
You could call them a smaller Horror production company, they’re no Blumhouse for instance, but their business model seems to work. They focus on films with smaller budgets, but we’re still talking about $300-450,000, with Kickstarter input allowing those who contribute to pre-order DVDs of the movie, a credit or even a walk-on for higher contributions.
But Will It Be The Amicus We Knew?
Hex intends it to be. Brewster says,
‘It’s a continuation of the Amicus that many people know and love. We don’t want to ‘re-invent’ them for modern audiences. I almost want us to pretend that Amicus didn’t die and the films we make feel like they were made in 1973…If we do our job carefully then it will feel like something that sits very comfortably with the old Amicus films.’
And I would love that. But it isn’t just a different lighting or film stock that’s needed for that 70’s look. So much else has changed.
The UK film world Amicus knew, whilst not burgeoning, was making regular commercial movies, so many came from sitcoms, successful series would expand onto the big screen – we just don’t have that growth any more.
We also don’t have that UK film world any more, not the slate of films made nationally in the 70s that weren’t under pressure to double their budget, for example.
Several reasons for that, but the main one is economic, short-termism, tax breaks, and a different economic belief than turbo-capitalism, a country where we had a manufacturing basis, whether boats, cars or coal.
Another is the demise of the B movie. Films used to be packaged together and that meant that if there wasn’t a big-starring, roller coaster of a film, it could be packaged with one of those movies and find its audience.
The kind of Horror that Amicus was famous for was slow to unfold, character-based and not gore based (even though Hammer blood had a lovely bright red hue). Any Amicus return would need to observe this style, otherwise, what would be the reason to bring the name back? It would just be a financial decision and then why negotiate for 2 years?
No, this looks like an attempt to bring the glory days back. Except they aren’t here, are they? Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, the dictum goes, so the new film can’t be just Amicus, that would be too slow for today’s tastes, but it can’t be a gore fest either.
A balancing act worthy of Blondel, but I can’t wait for them to try.