Over on the official Hammer Films twitter, they asked what your top ten Hammer horror films would be, inspired by this list. The rules were: only one movie from each of their big franchises (Frankenstein, Dracula, Mummy). Hammer horror films are my very favorite subset of any films ever, pretty much, and picking favorites is always nearly impossible for me. This time, though, I forced myself to dash off a response as quickly as possible, without giving myself undue time to become paralyzed by indecision, and I think I managed a pretty representative sample of favorite flicks.
Note: This is not, under any circumstances, to be considered a list of best films, and even then there are some staggering omissions, like any of the Mummy movies, or Seven Golden Vampires. Nevertheless, and in no particular order, here’s my list:
1. The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)
The 1967 Quatermass and the Pit is generally better regarded, and is an amazing flick, but for me Brian Donlevy + undimensioned space vampire squid = one of the best movies ever.
2. The Witches (1966)
That witch doctor mask.
3. The Abominable Snowman (1957)
Yes, I’m a big Nigel Kneale fan. No one is surprised. Plus, this one has Peter Cushing in it!
4. The Evil of Frankenstein (1964)
Speaking of Peter Cushing, my sentimental favorite of the Hammer Frankensteins even though (maybe because?) it’s the one that feels most like a fanfic of the Universal films.
5. Night Creatures (1962)
The first Hammer film I ever saw, and still a favorite, even though it doesn’t actually contain monsters. It does however contain pirates, and secrets, and people dressed as glow-in-the-dark skeletons (complete with skeleton horses), and great physicality from Cushing.
6. Paranoiac (1963)
My favorite of the Hammer suspense thrillers, a genuinely unsettling bit of gaslighting that feels almost like a mesh between a Gothic and some kind of proto-giallo. Plus, Oliver Reed at his best.
7. The Devil Rides Out (1968)
I haven’t seen it in an age, but I remember loving it, especially Christopher Lee in a rare good guy role, and the wonderful protective circle sequence.
8. Plague of the Zombies (1966)
A great bit of colonial guilt cinema, and a missing link between flicks like I Walked with a Zombie and Night of the Living Dead.
9. Brides of Dracula (1960)
Yeah, yeah, my Dracula pick doesn’t contain Christopher Lee, doesn’t, in fact, contain Dracula, and almost forgets to contain brides. But it does feature that amazing bit with the windmill, which would win it a place on this list all by itself.
10. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
Another one that’s not quite a horror film, but Cushing’s Holmes is delightful, and it’s a movie I can happily watch just about any time.
[Edit: As is inevitably going to happen with a no hesitation list, I had an absolute top ten entry completely slip my mind. Somehow, Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (1974) was not on this original list, an omission which cannot be borne. Sub it in place of Hound of the Baskervilles, and put that one with the honorable mentions.]