chapter  11
11 Pages

A descent into the underworld: Death Line

WithMarcelle Perks

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.