This year Grimm Up North are partnering with the BFI to host a series of prestigious screening events in unique and atmospheric venues across Greater Manchester as part of their national Gothic season. More on the season Here.
Gothic. To some, the word conjures up visions of high-vaulted cathedral ceilings, flying buttresses, and ornate archways, for others, the vision is of pallid young folk in black clothes and too much eyeliner listening to depressing music. There may even be a few who think of a certain film by Ken Russell. And those latter, strangely enough, would be nearest the mark. Presented in association with the BFI, as part of a nationwide Gothic season, this is a season of film screenings dedicated to the darkest of our literary and cinematic imaginings; those monsters born when reason sleeps.
Manchester, with its wealth of imposing and dramatic Victorian Neo-Gothic architecture seems a location particularly suited to exploring such imaginings, and so, in this season we’ll be trying something new. Two of the screenings will take place in regular Grimm venues; the other two will be site-specific screenings, in which the atmospheric location will add an eerie element of supernatural sensurround to the proceedings.
The BFI Gothic season has been divided into films exploring four broad themes: The Dark Arts, Love is a Devil, Haunted and Monstrous. Each Grimm Up North screening will reflect one or more of these. But each will also focus on a particular type of cinematic horror.
The Dark Arts - ZOMBIES
WED 30th OCT. THE DANCEHOUSE THEATRE, Manchester. Art deco theatre.
Presented in conjunction with Arrow Video Club.
DAY OF THE DEAD (1985. Romero)
ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS (1979. Fulci)
SAMUEL AND EMILY VS THE WORLD – SHORT (2013. Gilespie)
The Zombie is a fairly recent addition to the pantheon of literary and cinematic horrors. The word first entered the English language in 1929, and while there were early zombie films, such as the Halperins’ seminal WHITE ZOMBIE and Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur’s I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, the walking dead only really began shambling toward total dominance of the horror genre with the release of George Romero’s definitive NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in 1968. Yet however contemporary they might seem in comparison with longer-established monsters, Zombies are very much part of a Gothic tradition – they reflect that same preoccupation with bodily decay and the parameters of what make us human, and whether they be raised from the grave by more traditional voodoo means, or by science gone bad, they still owe their existence to dark arts of one kind or another.
This programme offers an opportunity to compare and contrast two much-loved classics, DAY OF THE DEAD, the apocalyptic grand finale of George Romero’s original, seminal Dead Trilogy, which features the more familiar, modern, science-spawned zombies, and Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE FLESHEATERS, with its more traditional, voodoo-spawned Caribbean zombies.
Love is a Devil - VAMPIRES
THUR 21st NOV. THE DANCEHOUSE THEATRE, Manchester. Art deco theatre.
Presented in conjunction with Eureka films.
THE GLOAMING – SHORT (2013. Smith)
First introduced into English literature by Dr John Polidori, a product of the same Lake Geneva ghost story “contest” that also produced Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (and was the subject of the aforementioned Ken Russell film, GOTHIC), the Vampire has always always carried connotations of dark romance, the dangerous sexual “other”. What could be more appropriate, then, for our “Love Is The Devil” strand than a double-bill featuring two very different interpretations of that most archetypal of vampires, Count Dracula?
First off, to celebrate its imminent remastered BluRay release from Eureka, FW Murnau’s “Symphony In Shadows”, NOSFERATU. There is a strange irony in the fact that possibly the most iconic, most defining adaptation of Stoker’s Dracula was entirely unauthorized. Thus, Dracula became Count Orlok, and the term “vampire” is never used. Stoker’s heirs were not fooled however and sued to have all copies of the film destroyed. Thankfully, the film proved as indestructable as the Count himself, and Murnau’s extraordinary Expressionist Gothic fairy tale continues to chill audiences to this day. Francis Ford Coppola’s ambitious and underrated BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, by contrast, announces in the very title its fidelity to Stoker. An exercise in excess, this baroque, bombastic, and beautifully-realised film manages to incorporate every single subtext in the novel, from racial paranoia to sexual disease, from patriarchal distrust of “the New Woman” to the changes wrought on the world by new technologies. Couple this with jaw-dropping production design, a score featuring vocal effects by Diamanda Galas, and an outrageous lead turn from Gary Oldman which manages to incorporate mischievous references to all of the more eccentric earlier Draculas, from NOSFERATU’s Max Shrek (or maybe Klaus Kinski’s reinterpretation of that role), to Bela Lugosi, to Udo Kier. Subtle it isn’t, but it’s not something you’ll forget in a hurry.
Haunted - GHOSTS
13th DEC. ORDSALL HALL, Salford. Haunted Tudor Mansion.
Christmas has long been a time for tales of the supernatural. Go back as far as Anglo-Saxon times, and you find the saga of GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT offering a macabre parable of death and rebirth, of the old year yielding place to the new. The most famous Christmas story of all, Charles Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL is essentially a ghost story. And so, as the festive season draws nigh, we’ll be celebrating in what we consider to be an appropriately traditional fashion. For the first of our site-specific screenings, we are delighted to be offering the ultimate in spectral sensurround: two classic haunted house films showing in a genuine haunted house – the historic Ordsall Hall in Salford.
THE INNOCENTS (1961. Jack Clayton)
THE OTHERS (2001. Alejandro Amenabar)
This beautiful and atmospheric Grade I Tudor mansion, incongruously situated in the centre of Ordsall was once the family seat of the aristocratic and ill-starred Radclyffes, great favourites at the court of Elizabeth I. It was also, local legend has it, the location where the Gunpowder Plot was hatched, and thus features prominently in W. Harrison Ainsworth’s typically macabre historical novel, GUY FAWKES. It is also home to the mysterious, ghostly White Lady, who walks the hall by night. Is she the spirit of Margaret Radclyffe, Maid of Honour to Elizabeth I, or Viviana Radclyffe, beloved of Guy Fawkes? This could be your chance to ask her in person. We’ll be setting up in the Great Hall, in the hope that she might join us for the screening.
Whether she puts in an appearance or not, we think she’ll enjoy the show. Our ominous opening feature is arguably the greatest haunted house film of them all, THE INNOCENTS, Jack Clayton’s eerie and beautiful realisation of Henry James’ “The Turn of The Screw”; itself often regarded as the greatest ghost story ever written. James’ story has been adapted many times over the years, for stage, screen, and television. It has inspired everything from an Opera by Benjamin Britten to an erotic graphic novel by Italian comics maestro Guido Crepax. There is even an ill-advised cinematic prequel to Clayton’s film, THE NIGHTCOMERS, directed by the king of cinematic crassness, Michael Winner. But Clayton’s subtle, intelligent, genuinely spooky film remains unmatched. Boasting stunning deep-focus black and white cinematography by the great Freddie Francis, a lovely score by Jean Cocteau’s regular composer, Georges Auric, and a powerful and sympathetic lead performance from the great Deborah Kerr, this is a genuine genre classic, and a masterpiece of British cinema. We’ll be pairing it with a more recent, but equally unsettling take on the classic ghost story; Alejandro Amenabar’s smart and spooky THE OTHERS. Inspired, as the director freely admitted, by James’ story, and conceived in part as an homage to Clayton’s film, with Nicole Kidman’s performance clearly and consciously modelled on Kerr’s, the film nevertheless offers some effective and affecting chills of its own, a powerful allegory about the legacy of war, and one of the greatest twist endings in modern cinema.
Come along, and savour some genuine Christmas spirits.
Monstrous - MONSTERS
10th JAN. JOHN RYLANDS LIBRARY, Manchester. Victorian Gothic library.
LA BELLE ET LA BETE (1946. Cocteau.)
The sleep of reason produces monsters, so they say. And so it was perhaps inevitable that the Enlightenment, the so-called Age of Reason, also saw the birth of Gothic; grotesque, melodramatic, dreamlike, resolutely anti-rational. The Gothic sensibility made itself felt immediately, in art, in architecture, and in literature. And once it was established in the collective consciousness, it refused to go away, renewing and reinventing itself for every subsequent generation. Thus it is that, over three hundred years later, we find ourselves celebrating the Gothic Tradition in Cinema.
For the grand finale of our season, however, we find ourselves looking backwards as well as forwards, in an attempt to provide a little context. The last two films in our season, while both ideally suited to the Monstrous strand also serve to echo the other themes of the season as a whole. Both are twisted fairytale romances, reminding us that Love is The Devil, and both feature creatures spawned by the Dark Arts, be it bad science or black magic. True, neither features any ghosts as such, but both are genuinely haunting. And both serve to remind us of the literary origins of the Gothic sensibility. Where better, then, to hold the screening than the main hall of John Rylands Library?
One of the great literary treasure houses of the world, the library, designed by Basil Champneys, is a startling example of late Victorian neo-Gothic architecture at its most imposing and delightfully decadent. The great hall, with its ornate pillars and high-vaulted ceiling, its shadowy, shelved alcoves, groaning under the weight of priceless, leather- and vellum-bound ancient tomes is a veritable cathedral of learning. To call it atmospheric doesn’t even begin to do it justice. A perfect space in which to hold our second and final site-specific screening, featuring a brace of book-born monsters, both of whom can be traced back to the earliest literary manifestations of the Gothic imagination.
We begin with BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, James Whale’s darkly funny and mordantly mischievous take on Mary Shelley’s celebrated parable of overweening pride, scientific arrogance and man-made monsters. Shelley’s creature, spawned during a night of ghost story writing during a holiday in Geneva, was very much a product of the clash between the rationalist scientific values of the Enlightenment, and the more macabre aspects of the Gothic imagination, and thus perhaps reflects the contradictions of its author, a child of two leading Rationalists, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, who married one of the more morbid of the Romantic poets. Whale’s film actually begins with a droll depiction of the Geneva ghost story competition, where Mary Shelley is being berated by Lord Byron for the unsatisfactory conclusion of her tale. So she spins him a sequel… BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN sees Whale actually improving on his original FRANKENSTEIN. With its inventive production design and expressionist visuals, archly witty and moving script, and striking, eccentric performances, this exploration the need for love even among monsters offers a high-camp, Hollywood-Gothic take on the fairytale which forms the basis of our second film of the evening, Jean Cocteau’s lyrical, surreal, and startling LA BELLE ET LA BETE.
The story of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is a traditional one, with folk origins. But the first written version, by Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve, dates from the Enlightenment Era and the birth of the Gothic sensibility. Jean Cocteau’s cinematic interpretation sees him utilising all of his considerable skills as poet, playwright, artist and designer to create a truly magical film, by turns elegant and eerie, romantic and nightmarish, with a powerful performance from the great Jean Marais as the suave, sinister and strangely seductive Beast. A fairytale for children and adults alike, and a far cry from Disney’s saccharine animated version, this is a dark and delirious movie that will haunt your dreams.