Exploring Hammer Films’ in-development horror projects

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Since the success of Let Me In and The Woman In Black, we’ve seen fewer new Hammer horror movies – we explore the studio’s in-development feature slate.

Around a decade ago, Hammer Films rose from the grave. Starting with the Marvel-esque ident that debuted before 2010’s Let Me In, its American-language remake of Swedish vampire movie Let The Right One In, the studio was ramping up to a new era of British-backed horror films.

Alongside a string of lower-profile titles like The Resident, Wake Wood, and The Quiet Ones, it was 2012’s The Woman In Black that truly announced the return in a big, bad way. Reconfiguring Susan Hill’s ghost story as a jolty 12A hair-raiser starring a post-Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe, the film was a blockbuster success around the world and seemed to suggest that, under the leadership of CEO and president Simon Oakes, the studio was back and better than ever.

However, the studio has had a long gap between 2015’s underwhelming sequel The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death and 2019’s snowbound chiller The Lodge, which has yet to receive a UK release after last year’s worldwide festival run.

In that time, the company has diversified into books, comics, stage shows, and visitor attractions, as well as developing marketing partnerships with Skype and Topman.


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As strategies go, you could do worse to follow Marvel’s lead in doing versions of characters in their comics and other media that will gradually make their way into their live-action films, generating their own intellectual property to then adapt for the screen. We’ve also seen the company make a deal with StudioCanal to distribute its films, and there’s probably a nice line in home media releases and cinematic revival screenings to be done with that rich catalogue of horror titles, once things have settled down with distribution.

Alas, even before the pandemic threw the industry into disarray, this strategy hasn’t translated into many new film projects being made of late, but there have been several announced over the last decade.

From adaptations of their Hammer Books imprint titles to numerous remakes and reboots, here’s a selection of the as-yet-unmade Hammer horror films that have been in different stages of development in recent years…


The Daylight Gate

Back when Hammer was just getting going again in 2010, the company struck a deal with Arrow Books to publish original novels and film novelisations, with a focus on authors who don’t normally write in the horror genre. One of the stated goals was to generate new film projects from its multimedia partnerships.

The Hammer imprint started strong with The Daylight Gate, a speculative novella about the Pendle witch trial of 1612, written by Jeanette Winterson of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit fame. Putting a more supernatural spin on historical events, Winterson’s story offers a dash of grand-guignol horror that would feel very on-brand in a modern Hammer film, and the studio duly exercised its screen rights option shortly after the novella was published in 2012.

According to a 2013 blog post on the author’s site, Winterson also wrote a first draft of the screenplay for the film. At some point during the project’s development, BBC Films has joined in with backing the project and according to agency websites, writers Philippa Lowthorpe (director of this year’s Misbehaviour) and Andrea Gibb have co-written another draft of the script too.

While we haven’t seen much movement on the film for a while, Winterson’s book received rave reviews when it was published, so don’t be surprised to see this come back around. What’s more, both historical fiction and female-led horror have become more popular in the years since, and Hammer fully owns the rights when the time comes for this one to reach our screens.


The Abominable Snowman

Various remakes of previous Hammer films have been suggested and mooted over the years, but one of the first big announcements after the success of The Woman In Black was that 1957’s The Abominable Snowman would be getting the reboot treatment. Directed by Val Guest and written by Nigel Kneale, the original film follows Peter Cushing’s British scientist joining a dangerous American expedition in the Himalayas, where the explorers tangle with the existence of the legendary yeti.

For the most part, Guest’s film is more morality play than monster movie, Oakes confirmed to Empire Magazine in 2014 that the new script, co-written by Jon Croker and Matthew Read, would follow a similar tack, saying: “Our version of The Abominable Snowman will have something of the uncanny about it. It’ll have the mythology, and all the big Nigel Kneale ideas of man and beast and nature. It won’t be heavily special effects-driven. It’ll align itself with the characters and the threat.”

He added “inevitably somebody not understanding the history and mythology of it will see a word like ‘abominable’ and take the piss, but more fool them!”

Funnily enough, that prophecy sort of came true last year, with some of the sniffier reviews of DreamWorks’ perfectly adorable yeti movie Abominable, (the working title of Everest had been snaffled by Baltasar Kormákur’s 2015 survival thriller) but we’re no closer to seeing Hammer revisit the film. However, the original’s post-human angle is staggeringly ahead of its time and we could imagine it feeling very timely in a modern update.


Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter

Perhaps less well known than its takes on Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Mummy, 1974’s Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter may seem an unlikely candidate for a 21st-century remake, but Hammer has considered revamping the franchise since 2014.

Written and directed by Brian Clemens, (best known for his work on TV’s The Avengers and The Professionals) the film sees the tights-wearing, swashbuckling hero of the title (Horst Janson) and his hunchbacked companion Professor Grost (John Cater) arrive in a village where the vampires are draining the youth of young women rather than their blood. Knightly vigils and swordplay ensue.

In that same interview with Empire, Oakes revealed he’d told Ben Wheatley, an outspoken fan of the cult classic original, that a remake is “his whenever he wants it”. At that point, the ever-prolific Wheatley was directing episodes of Peter Capaldi’s first series of Doctor Who in between films like A Field In England and High-Rise, and seemingly hasn’t yet taken Hammer up on the offer.

Oakes further enthused about the ambition and imagination of the original and has stated that it’s “one of those things where we need to find a way in.” The film has since inspired a 4-issue Titan Comics series written by Dan Abnett, which was published in late 2017.


The Unquenchable Thirst Of Dracula

Here’s one that goes back a long, long way. The Unquenchable Thirst Of Dracula was originally written by Anthony Hinds in 1970 and was intended as a sequel to that year’s Scars Of Dracula, which starred the mighty Christopher Lee in the title role. When financing for the ambitious production fell through, it was shelved in favour of the contemporary London-set horror Dracula AD 1972, but the script was unearthed by De Montfort University’s Cinema and Television Archive in 2014.

Set in India in the 1930s, the film would have found Lee’s Count Dracula joining forces with an ancient blood cult and menacing Penny, a young British woman who is searching for her lost sister abroad. As well as having a premiere live reading at the 2015 Mayhem Film Festival in Nottingham, the script was adapted for BBC Radio 4 by writers Mark Gatiss and Laurence Bowen.

Broadcast around Halloween 2017, it was performed by a full ensemble cast, including Nikesh Patel, Anna Madeley, Meera Syal, and Lewis McLeod, and narrated by experienced screen vampire Michael Sheen. If you could get that cast in front of a camera, with that title, you’d have a heck of a Dracula reboot right off the bat, and at the time the audio play was announced, Oakes commented that the studio was also exploring a new screen adaptation of the script.

Of course, the difficulty with this one is that there are numerous takes on Dracula, a public domain character, already ongoing elsewhere, ranging from Adam Sandler’s doddering dad in the Hotel Transylvania animated franchise or Claes Bang’s postmodern version in the recent BBC One trilogy that Gatiss himself co-wrote with Steven Moffat. You can see why Hammer might be pursuing their own properties like Captain Kronos or, say…



Coming back around to the oeuvre of Kneale and Guest, Hammer has long held the rights to the Quatermass franchise, which comprises various TV serials and three Hammer-produced film adaptations, 1955’s The Quatermass Xperiment, 1957’s Quatermass II, and 1967’s Quatermass And The Pit. The most recent screen incarnation of British Rocket Group scientist Professor Bernard Quatermass was played by Jason Flemyng in a remake of the original serial that was broadcast live on BBC Four in 2005.

Over at the revived Hammer, a new Quatermass has bounced between the big screen and the small screen, with TV projects in development by writers ranging from Steve Thompson (who was reportedly working on 90-minute episodes in the vein of Moffat and Gatiss’ Sherlock, for which he wrote episodes in the first two series) to Jeremy Dyson (who was attached to a BBC America revival of the property). Through all these iterations, Oakes has spoken about modernising the character and asking “what would Bernard Quatermass be today?”

As of last year, Professor Quatermass is coming back to the movies, with Legendary Entertainment partnering with Hammer on the reboot. The Night Manager writer David Farr is writing the script for the reboot.

Whether the American co-production means this is going to have a case of the Let-Me-Ins remains to be seen, but with major Hollywood backing in place, it’s the Hammer project that’s shown the most recent signs of movement. With the future of the industry up in the air as it is, Hammer Films still has a way to go to get to that goal of producing a film a year, but there are several possible routes back to box-office success…

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