chapter  10
14 Pages

The Amicus house of horror

WithPeter Hutchings

There comes a moment in the British horror film Tales from the Crypt (1972) when a Christmas carol radio broadcast is broken into by the following words: ‘We interrupt this programme for a special announcement. A man described as a homicidal maniac has escaped from the hospital for the criminally insane . . . and may be wearing a Santa Claus costume.’ This is not the sort of thing that one expects in a Hammer horror film. It is not just Tales from the Crypt’s contemporary settings that separate it out from Hammer’s period horror; the announcement’s bizarre juxtaposition of elements not usually conjoined – namely, homicidal mania and Santa Claus – also seems alien when placed in the context of Hammer’s relatively sober view of the world. By way of a contrast, Amicus, the company actually responsible for Tales from the Crypt, was firmly wedded to a sense of the grotesque and the absurd, and the horror films it produced stand as a testament both to the heterogeneity of British horror cinema and to the way in which a range of British horror films differ from and in certain respects offer a challenge to what might be termed the Hammer hegemony.