highgate cemetery

Film

Hell comes to fog town

North London and the horror film

Lauren Jane Barnett explores the filmic horrors of North London and Highgate Cemetery…

For the contemporary horror fan, the thought of North London will likely conjure up Edgar Wright’s 2004 horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead. Shaun of the Dead sees average lad Shaun (Simon Pegg) become a hero in zombie-ravaged London when he puts himself and his friend, Ed (Nick Frost), at risk in order to collect his girlfriend and mum and bring them to the presumed safety of his local pub. The majority of this film is shot on location in the North London neighbourhood of lead actor, Simon Pegg, giving a sense of authenticity to the surreal idea of the dead walking among us. The setting is not glamorised, with shots of Pegg’s eponymous Shaun walking along a bland road to the corner shop, living in an anonymous flat conversion and drinking at a traditional pub complete with fruit machine.

It is the epitome of film historian Charlotte Brunsdon’s notion of ‘local London’ on film: ‘Instead of the exceptional, local London offers the ordinary and the quotidian, the unspectacular’.[1] Brunsdon openly makes this connection in her book, London On Cinema, noting it is part of a wider filmic tradition of presenting an ‘authentic’ perspective on London by avoiding its well-known landmarks and over-familiar streets. In ‘local London’ the focus is less on the location than on the people who live there day-to-day.[2]

In horror, the ‘local London’ feel is not limited to North London. The authenticity allows evil and violence to jolt the average life of an individual, family, or group, often enhancing fear. We see other local Londons of horror scattered throughout the city, from the Greenwich-set London Voodoo (Robert Pratten, 2004) to the more comfortable upper-middle-class Kensington of Full Circle (Richard Loncraine, 1977). Each of these local Londons focus on the person over the location, but the location generally ties London to the middle and upper-middle-class. When one steps back, the local Londons recur in North London from the 1980s onwards, and indeed films set in North London are defined by this ‘local London’ aesthetic.

Though local London’s focus is on the people who truly live in London, the North London of horror is used to reflect more broadly on wider British cultural identity, generally middle-class and suburban. That is not to say there are no wealthy families in North London – there are in reality and horror films – but that North London neighbourhoods and the horror films set in them are dominated by a sense of middle-class malaise and identity. Shaun of the Dead is an ideal example with Shaun and Nick starring as average lads, one working a mundane job and the other freeloading in his friend’s tiny apartment.  Simon Peg and Nick Frost as actors went into the film with associations from their cult television show Spaced (Channel 4, 1999-2001), where they again played disenfranchised middle-class lads.[3] Though the film includes the city life of corner shops and generic electrical stores, there are also touches of suburbia when Shaun goes to his mother’s manicured home and sneaks through various fenced back gardens anyone living in a central London shoe-box would envy.  In this pull to the generic middle-class suburbia, the North London of horror is at once in a specific location, and yet representative of everywhere in Britain.

Shaun of the Dead was not the first to present North London as a microcosm of the British middle-class experience. Clive Barker’s 1987 Hellraiser, perhaps the one major horror success of the British Film industry in the 1980s, similarly uses North London to reflect on contemporary middle-class British culture.[4]  Hellraiser tells the story of a family irrevocably altered when the husband, Larry (Andrew Robinson), and wife, Julia (Clare Higgins), move into Larry’s family home in Cricklewood. While in the attic, Larry cuts his finger and unwittingly this blood gives form to the body of his missing older brother, Frank. Frank, it transpires, had been captured by an extra-dimensional realm, accessed through a puzzle box, where torture and pain are taken to their most exquisite. The fleshless body of Frank manages to seduce Julia – with whom he previously had an affair – and convince her to bring unsuspecting men to the house so Frank to turn their flesh and blood into his own.

The majority of the film takes place at the very specific location of number 66 Lodovico Street (an intentional reference to A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)) and was filmed on location in Cricklewood.[5] The suburban location of Hellraiser was seen by James Rose in Beyond Hammer in much the same way Brunsdon describes local London: ‘[…]horror exists on the periphery of the banal existence of daily life within Barner’s narratives, with the numbing routines of work and domesticity waiting to be ruptured by the emergence of the monster’.[6] This daily routine and ‘banal’ existence was set in a specific location but also offers a generic sense of family and middle-class life. This family, in other words, could easily be any British family. 

Furthering the sense that these characters are not representative of a specific family are the accents. Film critics like Kim Newman and  James Marriot have openly disagreed with the decision to dub some – though not all – of the British actors with American voices.[7] However, in Splatter Capital, Mark Steven builds on the work of Patricia Allmer to argue that the muddle of accents spanning both sides of the Atlantic combines with the generic suburban location to create a living embodiment of the Thatcherite ideal in this family. Steven remarks: ‘[… Thatcher’s] Tory axiom: “there is no such thing as society only individuals.” That is what we encounter in Hellraiser, whose evidently wealthy characters all subscribe to Thatcherite ideology, whether they know it or not’.[8] Steven’s argument makes sense of the muddle of accents because the three different accents across the three family members suggest a family where there is no sense of system beyond the individual. This subscription to individualism at all costs also allows for Hellraiser’s local London story to comment more broadly on Britain and general Western society.[9] Larry Julia and Frank are hallmarks of their age more than they are real characters in a real home.

At the heart of this story is the Thatcherite sense of individual power and the sense of people as consumer and consumed. In this framework, London becomes the centre of human exchange. We see this in Julia’s attempt to regenerate Frank’s original body. In order to give Frank his life back, he must consume the blood and bodies of others, whom Julia helps acquire, and ultimately also leads to the death of Julia and Larry. Frank’s rebirth by the climax of the film has come at a disproportionate human cost to men throughout London and at the cost of the family unit. This bodily exchange – at least six individuals for the price of one – is also made possible through another form of human commodification: sexual exchange. In order to find men to sacrifice to Frank, Julia goes out into the city of London to lure men back to her home with the promise of sex. Sex is also the ultimate goal for Julia, who is willing to be an accessory to murder, even the death of her own husband, in order to have another sexual liaison with Frank. Sex as a driving force in the film is reminiscent of commercial advertising, which also uses sex for its own gain.

Hellraiser 1987

All of these commercial components rely on the individual taking power while undermining the family unit. From the start, Frank represents a fracture in the family because of his previous relationship with Julia. He goes further in undermining Larry and Julia’s relationship by demanding the blood of his brother for his survival. This is not only a destruction of Frank’s bond with his brother, and Larry’s bond with his wife, but also sacrifices the family Larry and Julia have with Kristy, Larry’s daughter from a previous marriage. By hiding Frank in the family home and luring Larry to his death, Julia also undermines the family, using it for her own benefit and to the detriment of the family. Even Kristy and Larry, who are relative innocents in the narrative, push their own agendas at the cost of family: Larry ignoring his wife and what is happening in his own home and Kristy refusing to be a part of the family which includes her new stepmother.

One could devote a separate book to the family dynamics and social politics of Hellraiser, this emphasis on the disastrous consequences of putting the individual above the unit is useful here because it can be read into the North London location. Alongside the broad social narrative, Barker actively makes the audience aware of the specific Cricklewood location, both by filming on location and with the inclusion of street signs, the specific house address, and exterior shots of the house which build a sense of North London and their neighbourhood. The effect unites the story of individual power and destructive Thatcherite consumerism with North London’s generic suburban streets.

Small scenes filmed from the house offer fleeting moments where location brings a sense of community. For example, Larry and his daughter make a rare emotional connection over noodles in China Town. Similarly, Kristy finds the puzzle box in the house but is only able to solve the puzzle and have an honest discussion with the coenobites in order to save her family once she is out of the house and in a hospital. These rare spaces outside of North London are designed for communal social experiences: restaurants and hospitals cutting across sections of the community, but back in the house connection and honesty are lost to individual narcissism. For most of the film, in this increasingly familiar North London home, the location is tied to Frank and his singular desires. In the world, Frank has created in the house, London dissolves, as does the sense of community. Inside the Cricklewood home, the family is sacrificed to the individual, without even their accents to unite them. All is run by Frank’s desire for regeneration, and the home is where both Larry and Julia die at Frank’s hands. 

And in becoming a location only for the individual, North London and the house lose all sense of identity. The house’s wallpaper is peeling and generic; the front of the home is lifeless and barren of plants. Even symbolically, the house represents nothing. The family living in it is destroyed (even Frank dies in the end, leaving only one individual standing at the end). As a location, the Cricklewood home is firmly ‘local London’ but in lacking a distinct identity it becomes nowhere. In a sense, though, North London is also anywhere – the muddle of accents, the portal to another dimension, and the revival of the dead mixed with the living all combine with the commentary on British culture to make the location speak to life beyond London, and even beyond Britain.

The North London of Hellraiser is on the border between being nowhere and anywhere, at times taking on aspects of both. This theme continues in the other horror film representations of North London to varying degrees. In the case of Dream Demon (Harley Cokeliss, 1988), which was heavily influenced by Hellraiser, we have another large family house in North London opening up to a threatening parallel world through the dreams of its inhabitant, the upper-middle-class, Diana (Jemma Redgrave). She is able to confront these mortally dangerous dreams only with the help of an American woman, Jenny (Kathleen Wilhoite) whose father once lived in the home. The majority of the film takes place in Diana’s home on Eaton Avenue in Swiss Cottage, and though we see her house number and watch her walk home on a few occasions, the actual location of the home is insignificant to the plot and disintegrates into a non-space as the dream world takes over Diana’s real home. 

The dream dimension takes over the physical space of the home and collapses time making the North London location feel like a non-space, something which exists entirely out of reality. At the same time, the international characters and generic plot mean that Diana’s story could take place anywhere across Britain. The film’s major social commentary is on the British press, two of whom get trapped in the nightmare house. As pseudo-villains, they firmly keep the film situated in Britain, but one could easily move the story to any leafy suburb in the UK. Though there is no strong Thatcherite commentary, the influence of Hellraiser on the plot, if not the feel, of Dream Demon is clear. This influence, I would imagine, is the source for the representation of the North London home as a non-location that at once could be set anywhere, and feels like nowhere – at least, nowhere real. 

This sense of North London is continued in 2010 by Paul Andrew’s Cherry Tree Lane, a home-invasion horror set in a house on the titular Cherry Tree Lane (shot on Dukes Avenue in Muswell Hill). Unlike Hellraiser and Dream Demon, Cherry Tree Lane makes more of its London location as part of the genre of what film historian Johnny Walker called ‘hoodie horrors’.  Walker argued that from 2008 a series of hoodie horror films were produced which ‘[…] would allegorise asocial anxieties surrounding the perceived ‘decline’ in respect and morality of British young people, by presenting hooded youths of the underclass as monstrous antagonists.’[10] This tied in with the British government’s campaign against youth crime with the ASBO (Anti-social behaviour order) system instituted a decade earlier in 1998 and the Anti-Social Behaviour Act of 2003. Though Cherry Tree Lane was relatively late in this string of films playing on middle-class fears of the working-class youth, it was responding to social anxieties and politics of the time which firmly ground the location as a large city suburb in the UK.

The home location and focus on a seemingly average, though unhappy, middle-class family encourage a reading of Cherry Tree Lane where the home invasion is frightening because it could happen to anyone. While the action takes place in a specific house in North London, the concerns of the family and the effort to make the home and characters generic expand the narrative to suggest the whole of Britain, or at least its suburbs. The focus on hoodies specifically keeps the film rooted in the politics and social climate of the UK but does not insist on the London location as many of the other hoodie horrors were not set in London. Even the titular location – Cherry Tree Lane – suggests a space outside of London, as Cherry Tree Lane refers to the studio-created Disney street on which Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964) was filmed. This reference suggests an Americanised version of the ideal British family, which will be further undermined by the violence and deception that occurs in the house. The interior set for most of the film also removes the family from their London location and into the symbolic world of the British family unit. All of these traits allow for the reflections on gang violence in Cherry Tree Lane to speak more broadly to British culture and social fears rather than to a specifically London concern.

In much the same way, Shaun of the Dead finds horror in, and critiques, the British social climate using the North London site-specific location. As previously noted, Shaun of the Dead was shot almost entirely in North London, with the key locations of Shaun’s flat on Nelson Road in Weston Park, Liz’s flat in Highgate, and the electronics store where Shaun works in East Finchley. The only exception to this is that Shaun’s local pub, The Winchester, was shot in the Duke of Albany pub at New Cross Gate, though in the film it is supposed to be Shaun’s local pub, and therefore in North London.

North London is used specifically to give a sense of ‘local London’ as Brunsdon describes it and Forshaw eloquently argues this is central to the viewer’s reception of the film:

But the first thing that strikes audiences is the picture of Britain presented here. In fact, although played for comic purposes, the opening scenes of the film showing a dull quotidian modern London (all un-reconditioned pubs and identical Asian corner shops) actually present a vision of Albion unlike that being shown in most other British films of the day.[11]

Forshaw’s description insists on the rare depiction of this ‘quotidian modern London’ as a representation of Britishness stretching back even to the earliest days of Great Britain – the Albion of mythic poems and ancient stories. Forshaw argues that this London is a historic ideal of Britain, which itself is critiqued in the film. Even before the outbreak, everyone Shaun encounters in London acts like a zombie, suggesting this emotional vacuum is quintessentially and recognisably British. Forshaw speaks specifically to the Britishness presented in the film as a singular unified ideal, going on to insist that the inclusion of a variety of subtly distinct middle-class characters ‘present a rounded picture of British society’.[12] What is on display in this ordinary North London borough is not London, but Britain.

shaun of the dead

 ‘Britishness’ appears in critical reception and academic study of the film as well as in an interview with Simon Pegg on creating Shaun of the Dead in which he explained: “We wanted to take a very sort of British style of romantic comedy, in the vein of Richard Curtis and stuff and people in London, and then subvert it.”[13] Pegg’s comment points to the way in which London-based films have shaped the vision of Britishness in romantic comedy with his reference to Richard Curtis. Though Pegg’s film does not, unlike Curtis’s, make use of ‘landmark London’ locations to present the tourist version of London.

Perhaps because Shaun of the Dead drew on the heritage films of Richard Curtis, the people of his film represent a different kind of middle-class than we see in the other films. In Cherry Tree Lane we have the unhappy middle-class family who don’t talk about their problems, akin to the family we see in Hellraiser. These are families made up of narcissistic individuals who do not relate to one another, which I have argued represent a middle-class Thatcherite ideal gone to a horrific extreme. In both Hellraiser and Cherry Tree Lane the parents are struggling to maintain affection for one another and in both a secret from other family members is related to the horrors the family endures.[14] The family unit is, in these middle-class families, deeply broken in such a way that encourages the horrors which happen to it.

Dream Demon fits more with the heritage film notion (though it came years before) of an upper-middle-class woman in a beautiful inherited family home. However, all three films are presented in a more social realist style, where the streets they walk, the clothes they wear, their homes and their actions are far from perfect, bearing no resemblance to the heritage homes in posher areas of central London. Even Diane’s home is stark and plain and her impoverished, goth friend lends an air of relatability to her story. There are no softened filters, bright lighting, and idealised friendly neighbours as in Curtis films, or which are made use of in Shaun of the Dead

Though there is a certain element of social realism in the choice of an average North London neighbourhood, and the average routine lives of Shaun and Ed, in Shaun of the Dead there is also an undeniable presence of Curtis’ British heritage. Shaun of the Dead is, literally, a brighter film than any of the previous ones. With vivid colours, a lighter mood, and more recognisable actors than Hellraiser, Dream Demon or Cherry Tree Lane. True Shaun of the Dead is not jammed with Hollywood stars, but Shaun’s step-father is played by Bill Nighy who stared in Curtis’ Love Actually (2003) a year before, and Shaun’s roommate is played by Peter Serafinowicz who voiced Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (George Lucas, 1999). This is aside from the cult popularity of Pegg and Frost who play the male leads, and a host of cameos by well-known British television comics.    

With these elements, Shaun of the Dead speaks to a Britishness that is related to, and influenced by, the heritage films by which Hugh Grant and Richard Curtis are known. However, Shaun of the Dead makes a move that the other films do not in the balance of realism and the representation of a universal Britain: it embraces the millennial middle class. This is not the upper-middle-class of Notting Hill (1999) or Love Actually where people have jobs that exist only in the periphery and are able to spend their lives on drama and intrigue with friends in beautiful restaurants and lavish flats.[15] Shaun and his girlfriend Liz both live in small (though reasonable for London) flat-shares, Shaun has a boring job at an electronics store which you can see is under-stimulating but necessary, he goes to the corner shop, and even the local pub has avoided the gastro-pub revamp.  These are not idealised spaces of heritage film, and nor are they the idealised lifestyles of the upper-middle class. This is a glossed-up variation on the reality of living in London, and even Britain, for the mass middle class.

The effect of focusing on the middle class is to destabilise the identity of North London, making Shaun and his story British rather than Londonish. In London On Film, Paul Newland dissects the famous parallel scenes in Shaun of the Dead in which Shaun makes the trip from his house to a corner shop to buy a Cornetto, in specific relation to setting the film in an unremarkable area of London as conscious a creation of cult space.[16] Newland argues the use of lesser-known North London streets highlights the contrast between the vision of the contemporary city of London as an active and promising space with the genuine mundanity in which millennials, in particular, live.[17] Newland speaks about Shaun’s life as opposing the life of the city, fitting in better with the suburbs, where most of the country lives. Even within the M25, the film acknowledges, the promise of a high-pace life and luxury when moving to the city is not a reality for most people.  This contrast allows, as we saw in Hellraiser, for a specific area of North London, whose road signs are clearly posted, to dissolve into an area that could be replicated throughout the country, or at least England. While Shaun of the Dead is not a social realist film, or even aiming to be, the touches of reality in the lives and locations in North London, rather than a set or in iconic central London locations, allow for this very London film to represent so forcefully an idea of ‘Britishness’.  

Shaun of the Dead and its predecessors suggest that the use of North London as a representation of wider British culture or life is tied in with the trappings of suburbia – lives revolving around homes, streets, and gardens rather than restaurants, the tube, and clubs. The ability of familiar suburban set dressing helps dissolve the specificity of a London location is perhaps typified in the recent The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Case (James Wan, 2016).  This film is part of an American trilogy but makes use of an actual poltergeist experience in an Enfield council house in 1977-9. The Enfield Poltergeist, as it is often referred, occurred at 284 Green Street in the family home of Peggy Hodgson and her four children. Two of the children, daughters Margaret and Janet, experienced paranormal activity including levitation, objects moving, and disembodied voices over the 18-month period. The case was investigated and sparked controversy, with various experts and witnesses uncertain if the poltergeist was real or if the girls were working together to create these illusions.[18] The film approaches the poltergeist as a real entity and the story focuses on a husband and wife team of paranormal investigators, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga). These characters are also based on a real couple who founded the New England Society for Psychic Research and did travel to Enfield to help free the girls from their spiritual pest.[19] The film takes place predominantly in Enfield, and inside the house on Green Street, the street sign for which is prominently displayed at various points throughout the film.

conjuring 2

Enfield is a London borough and often referred to as a suburb just north of East Finchley and Crouch End where much of Shaun of the Dead was filmed. As a liminal borough, it is ideally suited for the London/not-London identity of North London in horror films. The Conjuring 2, in making use of an actual historical poltergeist story, was tied to a specific location in North London, and a particular storyline. Still, the effect of the film is to present this specific story as a reflection of a more general Britain, with the cultural distinction outlined between the American Warrens and the quintessentially British Hodgsons rather than considering the Hodgsons as distinctly ‘Londoners’. The sense of class in the film is also unsettlingly middle-class. The Hodgsons, in life and in the film, were a working-class family, yet the film focuses more on Ed and Lorraine and their middle-class life. The film begins with Lorraine and Ed’s minor celebrity for their involvement in the Amityville case in America, and then turning the poltergeist of Enfield into a pawn used by a ghostly nun who is haunting Lorraine for her special abilities. The family comes second in the film’s ghost tale, and as characters: they are not even interesting enough to be haunted in their own right.

The Hodgson family in the film represents a sort of normal, both within British society and as a counterpoint to the very unusual family life of Ed and Lorraine. Ed and Lorraine do not have children, and their lives as paranormal investigators see them living an unusual life for the time involving travel, danger and public appearances. There is an obvious contrast to the domesticity of the Hodgsons whose working mother cooks and cares for the kids who go off to school and come home for family dinners and to listen to the radio or play with their toys. The scene at Christmas where the Warrens buy gifts and decorations to ensure the impoverished Hodgsons can have what they consider a good family Christmas shows off the family as a display of normalcy: there are no ghostly interruptions, just toys and laughter and dancing and food. This family is not a London family, they are a British family, following British middle-class traditions and representing only a loving family with British accents that contrast the dangerous, exciting, and adventurous public life of the American Warrens.

This version of Britishness is idealised at moments, but also has moments of real working-class concern: the family simply cannot afford to move out of the possessed house, and the working-class mother is too exhausted to handle the poltergeist situation as well as her other children’s struggles at school. Still, the overall image is one of a happy calm loving family rather than one that is as complex and layered as those of Hellraiser or even Shaun of the Dead where Shaun is unwilling to embrace his father-in-law.

No matter the specificity of a film’s location, or how explicitly it is defined as a North London film, horror films present North London as a kind of everyplace that can stand in for wider British middle-class life. This allows for a powerful critique of British society within the horror film, even while using London-specific locations. The exception to this rule of North London horror films as middle-class British horror lies (literally and figuratively) in Highgate Cemetery.

Highgate Cemetery

Nestled amid the leafy streets of North London is a grand, famous Victorian Cemetery. One of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries – seven large private Victorian cemeteries within the city of London – Highgate Cemetery was once a noble place to be buried, for a fee. Today, the East Cemetery is still open for famous burials and is now a tourist attraction where visitors can visit the headstones of famous Londoners from Karl Marx to George Elliot. On the other side of Swain’s Lane lies the West Cemetery, carefully preserved so it remains largely true to its 19th-century century condition and limited in visitation. The West Cemetery is a visual wonder, ivy crawling over headstones and trees shadowing the immaculate Egyptian avenue of tombs, the famous columbarium, and terraced catacombs. Stepping into the West Cemetery is stepping into a Victorian past, and the overgrowth held at bay and aged tombs sink one into the Gothic.

 This sense of history and ruin in a cemetery is visually spectacular and as a result Highgate cemetery appears in period films like Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (Terence Fisher, 1974) even though it is ostensibly set in Bavaria. It makes an ideal setting for the Gothic dead with eerie visuals and stunning funerary architecture. Still, this use of Highgate Cemetery as a generic Victorian cemetery ignores its distinctive character and reveals nothing about the cemetery as a location within the London of horror films. If we examine those films which use Highgate Cemetery as a specific, recognisable, location for the action of the film, then a pattern emerges. The films which actively use and depict Highgate all appear in the early seventies: Taste the Blood of Dracula (Peter Sasdy, 1970), The Body Beneath (Andy Milligan, 1970), The Abominable Dr Phibes (Robert Fuest, 1971) and Son of Dracula (Freddie Francis, 1974). It is no mistake that three of these four films are about vampires and the fourth, The Abominable Dr Phibes, uses the tangential thread of a person returning from the dead, for Highgate Cemetery, in horror and real life, is the home of the undead.

If you are hoping to see a vampire in London, go to Highgate Cemetery.  While horror cinema has dotted vampires throughout London – notably, Chelsea, Soho, and the City – the 1960s and 70s brought with it the real-life tale of the Highgate vampire. The vampire sightings on the borders and within Highgate Cemetery have forever cemented it as a supernatural and occult space within the city of London. There are earlier and more recent stories of unusual happenings in the area, but to those less familiar with the occult from 1969-1974 Highgate Cemetery was defined by its resident vampire and the media coverage that surrounded it.

The Highgate vampire, for all the media coverage and subsequently inspired horror films, began with sightings that were not vampiric at all.  In the late 1960s, the Hampstead and Highgate Express carried a series of editorials and commentaries where people relayed their experiences at having seen a tall, shadowy man looming around Highgate Cemetery. The image was recalled more like a spectre than a vampire, though some noted the figure had sharp red eyes and others felt they were paralysed when looking at the figure. David Farrant, as president of the British Psychic and Occult Society, led the society’s investigation into the sightings and experienced a similar paralysing sensation when he saw the tall spectre in the cemetery himself in December of 1969. Though the experience led Farrant to conclude what he saw was not human, he originally found the entity more spiritual than vampiric.[20]

The other major name in the Highgate vampire story was Sean Manchester, a bishop who immediately claimed the sightings in Highgate as a vampire. Further, Manchester claimed to know the vampire’s history which, curiously, matched up with the story of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.[21] Manchester maintained that Highgate had been home to a vampire for decades but that recent use of the cemetery for Satanic rituals had awakened him. While Farrant and Manchester disagreed about the nature of the entity looming over Highgate Cemetery, both emphasised that the cemetery was clearly being misused. Once a well-respected Victorian cemetery, the East side of Highgate Cemetery had fallen into a poor state and within this was evidence that teens and other young people were breaking into tombs and catacombs. Both Manchester and Farrant believed that the disruption of the dead was the result of black magic or Satanic rituals.  

Manchester and Farrant were, thanks largely to the press, presented as the two conflicting experts in the case of the Highgate vampire, building on the fear and interest in the case while playing up Manchester’s notion of the vampire and the Satanists who awoke him.  This culminated in an ITV interview with both men outside Highgate Cemetery which aired on Friday the 13th of March 1970. The special included a series of ghost stories and detailed instructions by Manchester, a Church of England bishop, on performing an exorcism.  Shortly after the show aired the streets around Highgate filled with crowds of people – some wishing to hunt vampires, others to see one. In the chaos, police were called, though the crowds already caused some damage. The police successfully dispersed the crowd and arrested Farrant in the fray. In his thoughtful analysis of the Highgate vampire scare, Ben Ellis noted this mob response as part of a wider phenomenon known as ‘rumour panic’. In this instance, speculation and media coverage of the vampire caused a cacophony of public rumour and interest which spilt over into actual desecration of the tombs on that night.[22]

Highgate_Cemetery_East

A few days later Manchester claimed to have performed a ceremony like an exorcism to safeguard the tombs and stop the vampire. However, interest in the vampire did not end there. During the next four years, and arguably longer, the story of Highgate Cemetery and its vampire continued to spark interest. The BBC aired a 24 Hours special which included an interview with Farrant and a recreation by Manchester of his famous exorcism in October 1970.[23] Building on the press following, Manchester spread rumours of a magic battle between himself and Farrant in 1973. During this time Farrant was helping study the Highgate Cemetery phenomenon which included finding vandalism and evidence of Satanic damage.

While active interest in the Highgate vampire was cooling as the decade wore on in 1976 then-president of the Ghost Club, Peter Underwood, dedicated two chapters of The Vampire’s Bedside Companion to the vampires spotted in and around Highgate cemetery. Underwood highlights a series of sightings between 1968 and 1970 before turning a chapter over to Sean Manchester, who details his own investigation of the Highgate vampire.[24] Manchester begins this story slightly before the flurry of sightings in the Hampstead & Highgate Express, focusing on an investigation into the 1967 vampire encounter of a young girl, Elizabeth. Elizabeth claimed to be bitten and she and a friend call on Manchester for a two-year-long investigation which ends with Manchester’s confirmation of the Highgate vampire he saw for the first time himself in 1970.[25] The continued interest in both Manchester and the Highgate vampire this late into the seventies suggests the continued impact of the legend.

No matter one’s belief in the Highgate vampire or ghost, the frenzy which it sparked made a lasting impression, including influence on the film industry.  One of the key interests in the story was the use of Highgate Cemetery for Satanic and Dark Magic rituals. As occult historian Scott Poole argued, the Highgate vampire rumour panic happened at the height of the British evangelical movement. Poole noted that the sixties and seventies saw a growing interest in Satanism, both as a fashionable concept and a source of fear and moral degradation, and that this spike in interest collided with and fuelled the social fascination with the Highgate vampire.[26] This interest in Satanic ritual and the rumours of the Highgate vampire had a noticeable effect on the British horror film industry.

It is well known that Ellis argued one of the main influences of the Highgate vampire on Hammer horror was Dracula A.D. 1972 (Alan Gibson, 1972), discussed in greater detail in the chapter on Chelsea. Within the narrative, the presence of Satanic rituals – performed to raise Dracula – along with the desecration of a ruined church mirror key intrigues surrounding the Highgate Cemetery story. However, by setting the action in Chelsea rather than Highgate, Hammer took on the clash between youth rebellion and the establishment at the heart of Swinging Sixties counterculture.[27] While such resonate with other Highgate-based horrors of the time, one should look to the earlier Hammer horror, Taste the Blood of Dracula, to consider the depiction of the cemetery in horror and how the location relates to the terrors in the film.

Taste the Blood, in contrast to the Highgate vampire scare and Dracula A.D. 1972, is set in the Victorian era shortly after Van Helsing kills Dracula in the first film. The story follows a clutch of well-to-do gentlemen who play ideal husbands in the day and enjoy the brothels of Soho at night. These men soon encounter the enigmatic Lord Courtly (Ralph Bates), who embodies a devil-may-care attitude reminiscent of Sixties counterculture. Courtly convinces the gentlemen to seek out immortality by reincarnating Dracula. Fitting with the film’s 1970 release date, Courtney selects an overlooked church in Highgate Cemetery as the ideal place to raise the vampire. Though the church of the film is in fact St Andrew’s Church in N20, the cemetery surrounding the church is recognisably Highgate Cemetery. Courtly traverses the cemetery’s well-known Columbarium several times on his way to and from the church, ensuring the setting in the minds of the audience.

At the church, Courtly leads the gentlemen in a ceremony in which they drink Dracula’s preserved blood. Seeing Courtly take the first sip, the men panic and attack Courtly, killing him. Their disruption of the ceremony is too late, however, and Dracula successfully arises, making Highgate Cemetery his new home. While not injecting vampires into contemporary life, the dubious ritual causing a dormant vampire to rise fits with the Manchester-approved story of the Highgate vampire declared months before the film’s release. In fact, by the time the film came out, the ITV-inspired vampire hunt had come and gone, so the film was likely playing up to the popularity of this story.

taste-the-blood-of-dracula-9-600x345

Taste the Blood of Dracula uses the Highgate Cemetery location and story, but by moving the action into another era, the Gothic setting of Highgate Cemetery is amplified.  Ironically, however, the Gothic feel of the cemetery does not spring from its Victorian past. In the era in which Taste the Blood of Dracula is set, the cemetery would have been well maintained and manicured, as it was a respectable place for city burial. The East Cemetery, unlike the West Cemetery which continues to be actively used for burial today, was dilapidated at the time of filming in the late 1960s, giving Highgate Cemetery a traditionally gothic atmosphere in a way that other cemeteries, even members of the Magnificent Seven, did not. Writing in 1975, architectural historian James Stevens Curl insisted ‘Highgate Cemetery has first claim to the most unashamedly romantic of all the cemeteries in Britain,’ though he notes that the cemetery has become overgrown.[28] This combination of beauty and overgrown decay contribute ideally to the gothic mood of these vampire films along with what Curl called the ‘most astonishing feature’ of the cemetery: the row of arched tombs and catacombs which make up the Columbarium featured in each of these films.[29]  His sentiment and astonishment at the beauty and dilapidation of the cemetery demonstrate the odd arcane and fallen beauty, which Curl aptly describes as romantic in the sense of romanticism, distinguished Highgate Cemetery from the remaining magnificent seven.

This beautiful ruin was an essential component to the look and feel of Taste the Blood of Dracula. The cemetery feels and looks rotted and overgrown – it is ruinous Gothic in the most traditional sense, making it perfect for the revival of that great Gothic villain, Dracula. The film plays on traditions of Gothic depiction which made Hammer famous – the cemetery is usually shown at night with the aid of a fog machine transporting the viewer back in time and to a location that is obscured and eerie. There are intentional similarities here to the depiction of the Gothic East End, discussed in the first chapter.  

The ruinous Gothic feel may seem to fit the Victorian narrative, but the aesthetic was actually a product of the cemetery’s long abandonment.  When the Highgate vampire story was at its peak the desecration of the cemetery was at its worst. Vandalism and satanism followed the Cemetery into the 1970s and contemporary films made the most of this occult space, expanding upon – rather than merely mimicking – the Highgate vampire story. The Body Beneath and The Son of Dracula are paramount examples, for both use Highgate Cemetery at the time of the Highgate vampire furore while adding to newly-established legend. 

Andy Milligan’s The Body Beneath brings an entire family of vampires together in Highgate Cemetery and its adjacent building, fictionally dubbed Carfax Abbey (referencing Bram Stoker’s Dracula). The Body Beneath’s vampires are led by Reverend Ford whose legacy of Ford vampires has been muddied by marriage with normal humans. He seeks to revivify his vampiric line by any means necessary, which include murder, kidnapping, and forced breeding. Highgate Cemetery is present in this narrative from the start. The original posters for the film declared ‘filmed in the graveyards of England’ and a chilling opening scene takes place in the recognisable Highgate Cemetery.[30] Alice Ford (Susan Clark) walks through the cemetery, past the famous Columbarium, to the grave of her relative. A guard ominously warns her not to stay late in the cemetery before three female vampires appear. We are left to imagine the scene that follows but from that moment on Alice has changed.

We discover later in the film that the Ford family of vampires have called Highgate Cemetery home since Roman times. The vampires consider Highgate Cemetery their home but changes in London culture are forcing them to consider leaving, much to Reverend Ford’s dismay. In a meeting of the collective vampire family at the end of the film, the Ford cohort of vampires talk about the hardships of living in London. Their cemetery home is no longer safe from vandals and hoodlums and, as the Reverend acknowledges ‘London is a police state after midnight’.[31] This is an interesting take on the Highgate vampire mythology, one that suggests the vandals and Satanists who continue to break into the cemetery at night are actually driving away the forces they desire to harness and contact. It is a chastisement of the hype around the Highgate vampire, in particular those who were, as a result, inspired to enact occult rituals within the cemetery. In the film, those seeking vampires are driving them away, or at least most of them as two vampires remain once the Ford cohort leaves.

the body beneath

The two who remain are young people, new vampires and young when bitten suggesting that the older vampires may no longer fit within London, but a new family can be born and thrive in the new London. This fits in with a wider social upheaval occurring in Britain at the time which culminated in student protests, riots, and the rise of youth counterculture. As Poole argued: ‘A vampire walked the ruined paths of Highgate at a moment when British society descended into a maelstrom of economic chaos and free-floating cultural anxiety’ and this anxiety was manifest in the youth rebellion as much as the fascination with Satanism and the occult.[32] In the Chelsea chapter, I highlight this same social upheaval in Chelsea where the youth movement is viewed with trepidation and outright fear. In The Body Beneath, the change is embraced with the final image of two happy young vampires surveying the Cemetery with anticipation and happiness, notably in the daylight. The new generation is taking over, but in this film, that is a hopeful prospect. This creates something of a mixed message in regard to the desecration of graves in Highgate Cemetery, but the overall message is one of respecting the cemetery rather than invading it.

Though Highgate is a central location for the film, in Gutter Auteur: The Films of Andy Milligan, film historian and critic Rob Craig argues, ‘the setting of Body is vague, perhaps deliberately so’. He goes on to explain how Highgate cemetery helped establish this sense of agelessness: ‘The use of a real location (Highgate Cemetery), with its exquisite foliage and decrepit tomb-stones introduces Body’s anachronistic look, a genius stroke on Milligan’s part, which takes a neo-realistic setting and turns it into something abstract, theatrical and timeless’.[33] Though Craig repeatedly emphasises the use of Highgate Cemetery in the film, it is always a Victorian setting that encourages time displacement. As we have seen in Taste the Blood, Highgate Cemetery lends a Gothic atmosphere which is both ruinous and Victorian, which does lend an anachronistic setting for The Body Beneath. However, perhaps because Craig is American, he ignores the blatant relationship between the narrative and the Highgate vampire lore happening at the time the film was made and released.  

Though not every audience may connect the story of The Body Beneath with the Highgate vampire, it should not be ignored.  While The Body Beneath was filmed, some of the first stories of the Highgate vampire appeared in the local Hampstead and Highgate Express, and Sean Manchester’s investigation on behalf of the British Occult Society had been underway for a couple of years. The televised vampire hunt took place just six months before the September release of The Body Beneath. Even if somehow Milligan ignored the rising interest in the Highgate vampire while filming there at this climactic time, the audience in Britain certainly would not have. The story of The Body Beneath itself reads almost as an explanation for the Highgate vampire, suggesting a ‘family’ of vampires has always lived there and that recent sightings may be tied to changes happening as that community faces changes in British society.

The cemetery is part of this story as a place where the past collides with the present. One can visually understand how Highgate Cemetery stands for the past: the Victorian design and architecture recall the previous century while the overgrowth and wear demonstrate the passing of time.  As a space of the past, it also fits with the ancient and Gothic character of the vampire.  In this film, Reverend Ford and his family go back to the Romans, lending an even deeper sense of history to the vampires of London. The cemetery is the home to this historic creature and his family and is itself a space of history and the past, which then clashes head-on with the modern world of the sixties and the changes that come with it. I have already discussed how the old vampires feel they cannot continue to live in modern London. Ford is also worried for the future of his race because the Ford vampires are breeding with non-vampires, diluting the family line.  The signs of progress – both social equality and counterculture raucousness – are a burden on the ancient vampires and their home.

The sense of past and history that is visually brought by Highgate Cemetery is forced to clash with the modern, and we see positive aspects of this – the laying of flowers on the grave and the use of the sight as a haven for the young vampires – and negative – with the destruction of some tombs and the visible mishandling of the space. Highgate Cemetery visually represents the failure to care for the past and is the site of a clash between past and present, bringing in new mourners and new graves, pushing out the old vampires and allowing a fresh start for the new.  This lends a positive spin to the Highgate vampire story suggesting that the upheaval around the vampire should spark a new appreciation for the cemetery. As Ellis pointed out, life imitated art and the Highgate vampire media frenzy led to the creation of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery group which preserves and cares for the East Cemetery to this day, ensuring it never reaches the sorry state of the sixties again.[34]

son of dracula

A very different take on the Highgate vampire story, though one equally supportive of the counterculture is the 1974 rock-n-roll horror Son of Dracula.[35] The titular son of Dracula is half-human, and his human side struggles with his duty, for he has reached the age where he can ascend his father’s throne as the king of darkness. While the coronation is arranged in London, Dracula’s son, Count Downe (Harry Nilsson), gets acquainted with the area, singing in a club in Soho and sensually feeding off beautiful young women in a crypt of Highgate Cemetery. The feeding scene is reminiscent of The Body Beneath: a beautiful young woman with a bouquet of white flowers walks through the cemetery, passing along the tombs of the Columbarium. Downe watches her and follows her through more wooded areas of the cemetery into a tomb, where she places flowers on a sarcophagus. When she sees Downe and there is an instant sense of attraction, and without a word bares her neck to him. Downe embodies the ideal of a musician at that time, perhaps as Nilsson was or wanted to be seen: hip, alluring, musically talented, and intense.

The emphasis on Dracula as a participant in the youth counterculture and aligned with the Swinging Sixties is helped by the casting of Ringo Starr as Downe’s mentor, Merlin, and Keith Moon and John Bonham as members of Downe’s band.[36] There is no question of this vampire representing the establishment or the past – he is about as Gothic as The Rolling Stone’s Sympathy for the Devil. The film itself is obscure, never having an official video or DVD release (if a DVD exists, someone let me know), but its emphasis on the contemporary included a more seductive and appealing interpretation of the Highgate Vampire. This depiction reframes the Highgate vampire scare, which was in part fuelled by a fear of youth interest in Satanism.[37] While the press fuelled evangelical fears in the 1960s of youth culture engaging in Satanism, and thus in the fall of British society, Son of Dracula suggested that this interest in the occult was thoughtful and that youth culture was, in fact, deeply moral. The anxiety at the heart of the film is Count Downe’s decision to be the leader of the damned or to become mortal and be with the woman he loves. Downe feels the weight of responsibility in both directions and realises that his choices determine the fate of humanity’s future. This existential weight reflects the weight on sixties youth of huge social change, commercialism, the cold war, and events like the Vietnam War where the choices they made would forever shape the future. Downe ultimately gives up his role as the King of Darkness, showing the seductive vampire to have a conscience. 

In both The Body Beneath and Son of Dracula we see the Highgate vampire lore reconsidered to present a more positive view of the younger generation and the social changes occurring in Britain. Though social upheaval may have fuelled the panic surrounding the Highgate vampire, these films present a deep, upsetting change to project hope for the future. Ford’s ancient vampires leave but the young remain to start anew and Downe breaks up the ancient Council of Evil to become human, both seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel (and indeed in both films the main, young, vampires walk in daylight at the conclusion).

In all of the above films, no matter when they are set, the identity of Highgate Cemetery remains Gothic, both Victorian and ruinous. Even for Son of Dracula, the minor scenes of feeding fall into the traditional Gothic look of shadows and fog amid the tombstones. In this way, no matter what the relationship with the Highgate vampire story, each of these vampire horror films uses Highgate Cemetery for its distinct Gothic setting. The Gothic, both in its Victorian roots and its filmic depiction, is tied to the depiction of vampires through the representation of Dracula. The first vampire story came 80 years before Stoker’s novel, but Dracula was a decidedly Victorian creature and his image in film is equally tied to the Romantic Gothic images of castles, fog, shadows, and nightfall. Even Count Downe plays on these traditions, ensuring the Gothic look to the cemetery scenes contrasts completely with the scenes of Downe singing in a Soho nightclub or walking through Piccadilly.

Given the tie between the vampire and the Gothic one might be inclined to conclude that the Highgate Cemetery of horror films is defined purely as a Gothic location in which the Victorian past is able to live on in, and clash with, the present. However, there is a non-gothic depiction of the cemetery in seventies films that still relates to the Highgate vampire.  I am referring to Robert Fuest’s non-vampiric horror The Abominable Dr Phibes, set in 1920s London. In a pivotal scene, the detectives investigating a series of elaborate murders realise that all of the murders have some relation to a fatal car accident which killed Dr Phibes and his wife. On a hunch, they go to Highgate Cemetery to the mausoleum where Phibes and his wife are buried, only to discover that Dr Phibes’ casket is empty, and his wife’s coffin contains an urn of ashes. At that moment the audience and detectives discover that the masked murderer is the eponymous Dr Phibes (Vincent Price), seeking revenge on everyone he believes shares the blame for his wife’s death. 

the-abominable-dr-phibes

The Highgate Cemetery of the film is neatly mowed, carefully curated, bright, and airy with grey and pink pervading the scene. Even the coffins do not make the cemetery feel particularly Gothic. The Highgate Cemetery setting is not there to add a gothic allure. Instead, it speaks to Dr Phibes’ social standing because of the substantial cost of a mausoleum in the famous cemetery, and it provides a shock to the audience with the reveal of an empty coffin. The scene is unlike the rest of the film. Before this moment, each murder in the film is visually engaging and theatrical, drawing sequentially on the ten plagues of Egypt. The rich visuals of the film help define it and scenes of a room filled with bats or a man frozen into his car contrast heavily with the barren coffin.[38] At that moment we expect to see a rotting body in the vivid detail of other murderous scenes and are greeted instead with nothing but a clean silk lining.

One might argue that being set in the 1920s the film does not reflect the more contemporary sightings of the Highgate vampire, but the film was shot and released amid the flurry of interest in the Highgate vampire, and that surprisingly empty coffin immediately gives thoughts to the other empty coffins of vampire lore. In Dracula films and the novel, the vampire sleeps in his coffin by day, but at night the coffin is found empty while its occupant hunts the living. Dr Phibes is not a vampire, but his empty coffin brings to life the man once thought to be dead. In fact, Phibes, though alive, inhabits an interim world between life and death, living alone in a theatre and speaking almost exclusively to his dead wife. Phibes’ monstrous look and incessant organ playing are more akin to the Phantom of the Opera than to a vampire, but there is still a sense of the living dead about him, particularly once his coffin is found empty. By the time Phibes sets up the machine to embalm himself alive, it is clear he has felt dead for a long time, even as he killed his victims.

Phibes is not a vampire, but the similarities continue the connection between Highgate Cemetery and the undead. Even without its gothic dressing, the cemetery can send chills down one’s spine with an empty coffin. Across all of these films, Highgate Cemetery is a place where the seemingly miraculous happens – from Satanic rituals to housing generations of vampires, to making a corpse seemingly disappear. The dead of Highgate Cemetery are not always dead, and that in and of itself is frightening because the cemetery is then failing in its fundamental role: keeping the dead separated from the living.

As such an influential occult space, with such an unusual history, it is surprising to find Highgate cemetery a star in horror films of the seventies and no subsequent era. Though the cemetery has appeared occasionally in recent horror films, it is limited to a small scene where it plays the role of a generic Victorian cemetery (as in the 2009 Dorian Gray (Oliver Parker)). As a key location and source of narrative intrigue, Highgate Cemetery is limited to the seventies, and linked to the Highgate vampire lore.  Though it offers possibilities of the gothic and astonishing mix of Romantic beauty, this has come secondary to the vampiric and occult expectations of the location. 

It is possible that Highgate struggles to renew its horror identity in part because it is in North London, which has been consistently representative of generic suburban Britain when used in horror films of the new millennium.  It is equally feasible that the cemetery is tied so much to the vampire films that it has followed the fortune of British vampire gothic films and all but disappeared, waiting to be resurrected again. Certainly, the limited depiction on film is down to restrictions the Friends of Highgate Cemetery have put on filming in the cemetery. While Dorian Gray made it into the cemetery recently, there is a general distaste for bringing up hauntings or ghoulish stories about the cemetery among those who run it. Even mentioning the Highgate Vampire on a tour will get you a stern look from the volunteer guide. Instead, we must be satisfied in knowing the significant role the Highgate vampire lore has on the filmic depiction of Highgate Cemetery in horror. It marks the space as a home to vampires, an occult space where the dead do not necessarily stay buried.

Sources:

Beames, Robert. ‘Richard Curtis: A Glamorized and Idealized London’. In World Film Locations: London, edited by Neil Mitchell, 106–7. Bristol: Intellect Books, 2012.

Beresford, Matthew From Demons to Dracula: The Creation of the Modern Vampire Myth (London: Reaktion Books, 2008);

Boot, Andy. Fragments of Fear: An Illustrated History of British Horror Films. 3rd ed. London: Creation Books, 1999.

Brunsdon, Charlotte. London in Cinema: The Cinematic City since 1945. London: BFI, 2007.

Chibnall, Steve, and Julian Petley. British Horror Cinema. Edited by Steve Chibnall and Julian Petley. Vol. 53, 2002. doi:10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004.

Cooper, Ian. Frightmares: A History of British Horror Cinema. Leighton Byzzard: Auteur, 2015.

Craig, Rob. Gutter Auteur: THe Films of Andy Milligan. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company Inc., 2012.

Curl, James Stevens. ‘The Archetecture and Planning of the Nineteenth-Century Cemetery’. Garden History 3, no. 3 (1975): 13–41.

Dave, Paul. Visions of England: Class and Culture in Contemporary Cinema. Oxford: Berg, 2006.

Ellis, Bill. ‘The Highgate Cemetery Vampire Hunt: The Anglo-American Connection in Satanic Cult Lore’. Folklore 104, no. 1–2 (1993): 13–39. doi:10.1080/0015587X.1993.9715852.

Ellis, Bill.  Raising the Devil: Satanism and the Media (Louisville: The University Press of Kentucky, 2000)

Farrant, David. ‘HPANWO Radio – THe Highgate Vampire Unlimited’. Accessed 1 January 2019. http://www.davidfarrant.org/hpanwo-radio-highgate-vampire-unlimited/.

Farrant, David Beyond the Highgate Vampire: A True Case of Supernatural Occurrences and Vampirism That Centred Around London’s Highgate Cemetery, 3rd edition, (London: British Psychic and Occult Society, 1997)

Farrant, David ‘Ghostly Walks in Highgate’ in The Hampstead & Highgate Express (6 Feb, 1970) p. 26

Forshaw, Barry. British Gothic Cinema. London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013.

Fryer, Ian. British Horror Film: From the Silent to the Multiplex. Croydon: Fonthill, 2017.

Gibson, Pamela C. ‘Imaginary Landscapes, Jumbled Topographies: Cinematic London’. In London: From Punk to Blair, edited by Joe Kerr and Andrew Gibson, 2nd ed., 321–30. London: Reaktion Books, 2012.

Hawkes, Rebecca. ‘What Did the Enfield Haunting Have to Do with Ed and Lorraine Warren?’ The Daily Telegraph, 12 May 2015. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/the-conjuring-2–the-enfield-poltergeist/haunting-ed-lorraine-warren-true-story/.

Hutchings, Peter. Hammer and Beyond: The British Horror Film. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993.

James, Simon R.H. London Film Location Guide. London: Batsford, 2007.

Jenkins, Mark Collins Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend (National Geographic Society: Washington DC, 2010).

Kermode, Mark. ‘A Capital Place for Panic Attacks’. The Guardian, 7 May 2007. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2007/may/06/features.review.

Leggott, James. Contemporary British Cinema: From Heritage to Horror. London: Wallflower Press, 2008.

Manchester, Sean. ‘The Highgate Vampire’. In The Vampire’s Bedside Companion, 67–95. London: Coronet Books, 1976.

Mangravite, Andrew. ‘The House of Hammer’. FIlm Comment1, 1992, 51–53.

Marriot, James, and Kim Newman. Horror: The Definitive Guide to the Cinema of Fear. London: André Dutch, 2006.

Meikle, Denis. A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer. London: The Scarecrow Press Inc., 2009.

Newland, Paul. ‘Shaun of the Dead and the Construction of Cult Space in Millenial London’. In London On Film, edited by Pam Hirsh and Chris O’Rourke, 193–203. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

Newman, Kim. Nightmare Movies. London: Bloomsbury, 2011.

Pirie, David. A Heritage of Horror: The English Gothic Cinema 1946-1972. London: The Gordon Graser Gallery, Ltd., 1973.

Playfair, Guy Lyon. This Hause Is Haunted: The Investigation of the Enfield Poltergeist. 2nd ed. London: Sphere, 1981.

Rigby, Jonathan. English Gothic: Classic Horror Cinema 1897-2015. 4th ed. London: Signum Books, 2015.

Rose, James. Beyond Hammer: British Horror Cinema Since 1970. Leighton Buzzard: Auteur, 2009.

Steven, Mark. Splatter Capital: The Political Economy of Gore Films. London: Repeater, 2017.

The Highgate Vampire’ DavidFarrant.org <http://www.davidfarrant.org/the-highgate-vampire/>  [Visited: 27 May 2019]

Underwood, Peter, Peter Allan, Crispin Derby, Richard Howard, Sean Manchester, James Turner, and Devendra P. Varma. THe Vampire’s Bedside Companion: The Amazing World of Vampires in Fact and Fiction. London: Coronet Books, 1976.

Walker, Johnny. Contemporary British Horror Cinema: Industry, Genre, and Society. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016.

 Worland, Rick. “Faces behind the mask: Vincent Price, Dr. Phibes, and the horror genre in transition.” Post Script 22, no. 2 (2003): 20.

[1] Charlotte Brunsdon, London in Cinema: The Cinematic City since 1945 (London: BFI, 2007), 57.

[2] Ibid., 58.

[3] On Shaun as a lad, and the evolution of ladism in Shaun of the Dead,  see: Johnny Walker, Contemporary British Horror Cinema: Industry, Genre, and Society (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016), 62–65.

[4] Several critics and historians have noted Hellraiser as the lone British standout film of the 1980s, including: Jonathan Rigby, English Gothic: Classic Horror Cinema 1897-2015, 4th ed. (London: Signum Books, 2015), 282; Ian Fryer, British Horror Film: From the Silent to the Multiplex (Croydon: Fonthill, 2017), 195.  Newman went so far as to suggest in the 1988, when Nightmare Movies was first published, that the future of British Horror ‘may well rest with Clive Barker’:  Kim Newman, Nightmare Movies (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), 39.

[5] The external shots are on Dollis Hill Lane NW2, and interior filmed at the production Village Studio on Cricklewood Lane. Simon R.H. James, London Film Location Guide (London: Batsford, 2007), 225.

[6] James Rose, Beyond Hammer: British Horror Cinema Since 1970 (Leighton Buzzard: Auteur, 2009), 65.

[7] James Marriot and Kim Newman, Horror: The Definitive Guide to the Cinema of Fear (London: André Dutch, 2006), 201.  They are not the first to find the dubbing frustrating, see also: Andy Boot, Fragments of Fear: An Illustrated History of British Horror Films, 3rd ed. (London: Creation Books, 1999), 253; Ian Cooper, Frightmares: A History of British Horror Cinema (Leighton Byzzard: Auteur, 2015), 177.

[8] Mark Steven, Splatter Capital: The Political Economy of Gore Films (London: Repeater, 2017), 109.

[9] This is commented upon in: Fryer, British Horror Film: From the Silent to the Multiplex, 195; Peter Hutchings, Hammer and Beyond: The British Horror Film (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993), 187.

[10] Walker, Contemporary British Horror Cinema: Industry, Genre, and Society, 86.  Another of these hoodie horrors is the 2009 film Heartless.

[11] Barry Forshaw, British Gothic Cinema (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013), 176.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Simon Pegg quoted in Rose, Beyond Hammer: British Horror Cinema Since 1970, 125.  On ‘Britishness’ as central to Shaun of the Dead see, among others: Rose, Beyond Hammer: British Horror Cinema Since 1970; James Leggott, Contemporary British Cinema: From Heritage to Horror (London: Wallflower Press, 2008); Fryer, British Horror Film: From the Silent to the Multiplex; Mark Kermode, ‘A Capital Place for Panic Attacks’, The Guardian, 7 May 2007, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2007/may/06/features.review.

[14] In Hellraiser, Julia’s secret affair with Frank and her hiding that Frank in the attic both lead to Larry and Julia’s death; in Cherry Tree Lane, the family’s son, Sabastian, is part of the group who hold the family hostage, unbeknownst to the parents before their home is taken over.  Sabastian ratted out one of the other group members and that is why they seek revenge on Sabastian and his family.

[15] For more on Curtis’ films presentation of an idealised middle and upper middle-class see, among others: Robert Beames, ‘Richard Curtis: A Glamorized and Idealized London’, in World Film Locations: London, ed. Neil Mitchell (Bristol: Intellect Books, 2012), 106–7; Pamela C. Gibson, ‘Imaginary Landscapes, Jumbled Topographies: Cinematic London’, in London: From Punk to Blair, ed. Joe Kerr and Andrew Gibson, 2nd ed. (London: Reaktion Books, 2012), 321–30; Paul Dave, Visions of England: Class and Culture in Contemporary Cinema (Oxford: Berg, 2006).

[16] Paul Newland, ‘Shaun of the Dead and the Construction of Cult Space in Millenial London’, in London On Film, ed. Pam Hirsh and Chris O’Rourke (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 194.

[17] Ibid., 200.

[18] Investigators Joe Nickell and Melvin Harris found the poltergeist to be a hoax at the time, though one of the investigators who believed the poltergeist was present, Guy Lyon Playfair, staid with the family for a year and wrote of his experience: Guy Lyon Playfair, This Hause Is Haunted: The Investigation of the Enfield Poltergeist, 2nd ed. (London: Sphere, 1981). 

[19] While the film takes historical liberties, Ed and Lorraine Warren did investigate the Enfield Case in 1977 and declared it to be a case of demonic possession. Rebecca Hawkes, ‘What Did the Enfield Haunting Have to Do with Ed and Lorraine Warren?’, The Daily Telegraph, 12 May 2015, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/the-conjuring-2–the-enfield-poltergeist/haunting-ed-lorraine-warren-true-story/.

[20] Farrant has spoken and written about this experience extensively as well as the ensuing vampire scare. See, among others: Farrant, David Beyond the Highgate Vampire: A True Case of Supernatural Occurrences and Vampirism That Centred Around London’s Highgate Cemetery, 3rd edition, (London: British Psychic and Occult Society, 1997); Farrant, David ‘Ghostly Walks in Highgate’ in The Hampstead & Highgate Express (6 Feb, 1970) p. 26; ‘The Highgate Vampire’ DavidFarrant.org <http://www.davidfarrant.org/the-highgate-vampire/>  [Visited: 27 May 2019]

[21] This similarity is commented upon in multiple analyses of the Highgate Vampire scare, including: Ellis, Bill  Raising the Devil: Satanism and the Media (Louisville: The University Press of Kentucky, 2000); Beresford, Matthew From Demons to Dracula: The Creation of the Modern Vampire Myth (London: Reaktion Books, 2008); Jenkins, Mark Collins Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend (National Geographic Society: Washington DC, 2010).

[22] Ellis, Bill Raising the Devil, pp.204-239.

[23] Farrant’s interview can be found on Archive.org.  “David Farrant BBC 24 Hours Oct 1970” in Archive.org, <https://archive.org/details/DavidFarrantBBC24HoursOct1970> [Accessed: 1 May 2019].

[24] Peter Underwood et al., THe Vampire’s Bedside Companion: The Amazing World of Vampires in Fact and Fiction (London: Coronet Books, 1976), 61–95.

[25] Sean Manchester, ‘The Highgate Vampire’, in The Vampire’s Bedside Companion (London: Coronet Books, 1976), 73–82.

[26] Poole, W. Scott ‘The Vampire that Haunts Highgate: Theological Evil, Hammer Horror, and the Highgate Vampire Panic in Britain 1963-1974’ in Kim Paffenroth and John W Morehead, ef. The Undead and Theology (Eugene, OR: Pickwich Publications, 2012) pp. 54-76.

[27] This is analysed at length in the chapter on Chelsea.

[28] James Stevens Curl, ‘The Archetecture and Planning of the Nineteenth-Century Cemetery’, Garden History 3, no. 3 (1975): 25.

[29] Ibid., 27.

[30] An image of the poster is on IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065483/

[31] Milligan, Andy The Body Beneath (Cinemedia Films: 1970) 82 mins.

[32] Poole, ‘The Vampire that Haunts Highgate’, p. 56

[33] Rob Craig, Gutter Auteur: The Films of Andy Milligan (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company Inc., 2012), 180.

[34] Ellis, Raising the Devil, p.239.

[35] Not to be confused with the 1943 black and white film.

[36] Both trade roles as the drummer in Count Downe’s band. Keith Moon is a member of The Who; and John Bonham of Led Zeppelin.  Ringo Starr’s part in producing the film ensured that other musicians including Peter Frampton and Klaus Voorman make brief musical appearances.

[37] For more on the ear of youth rebellion and Satanism see: Poole, ‘The Vampire that Haunts Highgate’, and Ellis Raising the Devil.

[38] The spectacular nature of these murders is at the core of the film; Ian Cooper makes a point of likening Dr Phibes to other murder-as-spectacle films like Se7en. Cooper, Frightmares: A History of British Horror Cinema, 109.  See also: Worland, Rick. “Faces behind the mask: Vincent Price, Dr. Phibes, and the horror genre in transition.” Post Script 22, no. 2 (2003): 20.

Picture of Lauren Jane Barnett

Lauren Jane Barnett

Lauren Jane Barnett is a horror ficiton and non-fiction writer and founder of the first London Horror Film Walks. Her short story “The Fog” was shortlisted for the WriteHive Horror Fiction Prize and her book “Death Lines: Walking London Through Horror Cinema” is coming out in 2022 with Strange Attractor Press.

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