A descent into the underworld: Death Line
There are certain films which remain mostly obscure to mainstream audiences but which supply a litmus test for informed good taste among real horror fans. The British ﬁlm Death Line (US: Raw Meat, 1972) is one of those ﬁlms. Over the years it has attained a cult following, particularly in the United States, and was the inspiration for Guillermo Del Toro’s Cronos (1993). Once described (admiringly) by the ﬁlm critic Robin Wood as ‘one of the most horrible horror ﬁlms ever’, this seminal cannibal film, with its postmodern blurring of the boundaries between monster and victim, is the British equivalent of the acknowledged American classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974). The fact that it is the American ﬁlm – released two years later – which has become a household name is a testimony to the fate that inevitably befalls British genre product. Critics, press and distributors have so mishandled our Gothic heritage that the reception of British horror ﬁlms in their own country is almost as interesting as the ﬁlms themselves. There is more at stake here, then, than simply making the case for a ‘forgotten gem’: the example of Death Line reveals how the reaction of critics affects the process of distribution, exhibition and, ultimately, production.