Entertainment & Arts

BFI Gothic season explores 'dark heart of film'

The Innocents - Night of the Demon - The Woman in Black
Image caption The season will include screenings of The Innocents (left), Night of the Demon (centre) and The Woman in Black (right)

It promises vampires, dark passions and bumps in the night - and there's even a special programme aimed at children.

The BFI has unveiled its plans for Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film, its most extensive project yet.

The programme includes 150 titles and around 1,000 screenings across the UK from August 2013 to January 2014.

"Britain will be filled with dread and fuelled by lust," said Heather Stewart, the BFI's creative director.

"Gothic has never been more potent or popular, reflecting the turbulent times we are living in, our deepest fears and hidden passions."

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Media captionMarina Warner: It is part of the current darkness of our times.

The season will explore how gothic spawned some of cinema's most filmed characters such as Dracula, Frankenstein and Jekyll & Hyde, and why it has endured through to the Harry Potter and Twilight films of recent years.

"Gothic is the most influential and most enduring global cultural export that we have in the UK," said Stewart, at Thursday's season launch at the BFI on London's South Bank.

"There's been an explosion of gothic-ness at the end of the 20th century - in music videos, film, TV, stage musicals, computer games - from Michael Jackson's Thriller to Count Duckula."

The launch event included a panel discussion featuring Jane Goldman and James Watkins, writer and director of last year's box office hit The Woman in Black, as well as Hammer actress Madeline Smith, writer Charlie Higson and The League of Gentleman's Reece Shearsmith.

Image caption Madeline Smith (above right with Ingrid Pitt in The Vampire Lovers, 1970) will talk about her Hammer film career

Stewart stressed that the season was not about showing straight horror films with a "jump and squeal" effect on audiences.

"Horror is very much challenging you to look at the screen," she said. "In gothic there is always something just beyond the screen."

The four-month season - the longest-running project ever put together by the BFI - will include the nationwide cinema release of Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre (1978), in which Klaus Kinski delivers a silent movie-style performance.

Another cinema release will be 1961's The Innocents, Jack Clayton's adaptation of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, starring Deborah Kerr as a repressed governess who tutors two orphaned children.

At the end of August, the British Museum will host outdoor screenings of a new digital re-mastering of Night of the Demon (1957), and Hammer classics Dracula (1958) and The Mummy (1959).

Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980) will be presented outdoors at Mapledurham House, Oxfordshire in September.

Image caption Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre (1978) will be shown in cinemas

One of the earliest filmed ghost stories, 1904's The Mistletoe Bough, will be released online, which Stewart predicts will "go viral".

There are also collaborations with Edinburgh International Festival, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Abertoir: Wales' International Horror Festival.

Full programme details are on the BFI Gothic website.

Among the Gothic-themed strands is a section aimed at children that includes The Nightmare Before Christmas, Beetlejuice, Wallace and Gromit adventure The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and RKO's 1944 film The Curse of the Cat People.

Stewart described the Cat People sequel as "great for eight to 10 year olds."

"It's a film about loneliness in a gothic setting," she told the BBC.

"We want children to engage with our art form and enjoy the look of it as much as the story."

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