‘The Hammer House of Cornish Horror: The Plague of Zombies (1966) and The Reptile (1966)’

Heholt, Ruth (2014) ‘The Hammer House of Cornish Horror: The Plague of Zombies (1966) and The Reptile (1966)’. In: Locating the Gothic, October 2014, Limerick University.

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Abstract / Summary

‘By the 1790s it was no longer necessary to leave Britain in search of a rugged landscape which would inspire ecstasy, tranquillity, sweet melancholy or Gothic horror .... The transformation of Cornwall in the English imagination depended on rocky shores and surging seas taking their place with dark forests and snowy summits as approved sites for romantic sublimity’.
Cornwall is different. The geographical shape of Cornwall accentuates peripheralism. Hanging off the very edge of England, split from the mainland by the Tamar, Cornwall accentuates the strangeness of both the inside and the outside and epitomizes the Uncanny. English yet not quite of England, Cornwall is uniquely categorized. Cornwall is most often seen as somehow lacking: in law, ‘normality’, in the ordinary, orderly progression of time; in Englishness. A place represented as ungovernable and transgressive, Cornwall is full of fissures in space, time and reality.
This paper examines two Hammer Horror films, The Plague of Zombies and The Reptile. Filmed back to back, using the same sets and actors these films form a pair. Both films are set in Cornish villages and they depict horrors from elsewhere that are unearthed and rise up. Zombies created by voodoo practices from Haiti kill and terrorize the locals and a reptile-woman from Malaysia brings death and destruction to an isolated Cornish village. In these fictions about Cornwall, the landscape itself allows space for something to come in. And as with these Hammer Horror films many of the Gothic texts set in Cornwall have postcolonial themes equating Cornwall with an exotic Other that is far away. Cornwall represents the non-English within England; the foreign at home. The supernatural, superstition, witchcraft and ritualistic practices all saturate fictional accounts of Cornwall. Cornwall seems never quite complete in itself and presents a permeable boundary. Secrets, older religions, sexual threats and death find space in Cornwall. Like the dark passages of the tin mines, there is something underneath Cornwall. Peel away the top layer and there emerges something else; something older, some entity, knowledge or secret that has been hidden.
This paper argues for a specific Cornish Gothic based on specificity of place and history. Cornish Gothic does not begin and end with Du Maurier and these Hammer Horror films attest to the fact that darkness still seeps up through the Cornish granite.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: Film & TV
Writing & Journalism > Literature
Courses by Department: The School of Writing & Journalism > English & Writing
Depositing User: Ruth Heholt
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2015 09:39
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2017 16:05
URI: http://repository.falmouth.ac.uk/id/eprint/1318

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