BFI unveils Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film

The BFI is taking Britain to the dark heart of film with Gothic, this year’s BFI blockbuster project celebrating one of Britain’s biggest cultural exports as revealed through four compelling themes: Monstrous, The Dark Arts, Haunted and Love is a Devil.


The BFI will take Britain back to darker times and thrill the nation by uncovering as never before the dark heart of film. With over 150 titles and around 1000 screenings Gothic features spectacularly terrifying special events to thrill every corner of the UK. The project also incorporates the longest BFI Southbank season yet (4 months), UK wide theatrical and DVD releases, an education programme, a new BFI Gothic book and a range of exciting partnerships, special guests and commentators, including project ambassador Sir Christopher Frayling. Gothic will explore film’s most popular theme, spawning some of the medium’s most iconic, powerful and terrifying scenes and characters whose lasting popularity just refuses to die.

Gothic will celebrate the very British genius – rooted in literature and art – that gave rise to some of the most filmed characters in our on-screen history: Dracula, Frankenstein and Jekyll & Hyde. Gothic introduced the nation to sex, unleashing dark passions and breaking taboos along the way, circumventing what was acceptable to view on screen and then selling it to America – who imported the genre with true bloodlust.

Heather Stewart, Creative Director, BFI said:

With BFI Gothic, Britain will be filled with dread and fuelled by lust. Gothic has never been more potent or popular, reflecting the turbulent times we are living in, our deepest fears and hidden passions.

The British discovered sex in vivid Technicolor through Gothic. With a new generation gripped by the post modern Gothic world of Twilight’s ‘vegetarian’ vampires, Harry Potter’s spells and E.L. James’s 50 Shades, its meaning has mutated yet again. It’s now time to look back into the deep dark beating heart of Gothic film and give audiences the authentic thrill of this shape-shifting, perennially popular genre.

The Woman in Black (2012)

The Woman in Black (2012)

Gothic will feature…

  • Spectacular screenings and events in stunning locations across the UK:

• the BFI Monster Weekend at the British Museum with outdoor screenings of Night of the Demon, Dracula and The Mummy (29/30/31 August)
• an exciting new partnership with The National Trust that will take us to some of the most historic places in the UK including Calke Abbey, Derbyshire and The Sticklebarn Pub in the Lake District
• a new partnership with Film4 that will find us celebrating ‘Dark Arts’ together over the Hallowe’en period, with a season on the channel that includes titles from Gothic and other films in a similar vein
• a return to Somerset House on 15 August with a special BFI talk by Jasper Sharp on ‘Asian Gothic and the Japanese Ghost Story’, part of the Behind the Screen strand of Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House, before the evening’s outdoor screening of the BFI’s 35mm print of Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood
• The Edinburgh International Festival (9 August – 1 September, presents composer Philip Glass’s magical reimagining of Jean Cocteau’s 1946 La Belle et la Bête during this year’s Festival on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 August. La Belle et la Bête is organised and presented by the Edinburgh International Festival and is part of the BFI Gothic season
• working with the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in conjunction with their ‘Witchcraft & Wicked Bodies’ exhibition, 27 July – 3 November 2013 and Filmhouse, Edinburgh which will be presenting a Gothic season of films and events
• The Shining (1980) presented outdoors at Mapledurham House, Oxfordshire by Cult Screens (13 September)
• a Gothic double bill (film tbc) on 26 October at Cornerhouse Manchester by Manchester Metropolitan University as part of their city-wide Gothic Manchester events programme
• a new partnership with Abertoir: Wales’ International Horror Festival (5 – 10 November)
• a new partnership with the UK’s oldest costume house, Angels Fancy Dress, will give audiences all over the UK the opportunity to get into the spirit of Gothic with discounted costume hire and purchase during the project

  • The longest-running season (4 months) of film, television and events ever to be held at BFI Southbank with special guests appearing on stage alongside exclusive previews including Roger Corman, George A. Romero, Jane Goldman and many more
  • Eight new BFI DVD releases with DVD and Blu-ray premieres including the much-wanted BBC TV adaptation of Sheridan Le Fanu’s Schalcken the Painter. For younger viewers there will be Bumps in the Night; three scary stories from The Children’s Film Foundation film library
  • Nationwide BFI cinema releases of Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre – launching with Hallowe’en previews – and Jack Clayton’s The Innocents, released on 13 December
  • The lavishly illustrated new BFI publication Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film, featuring new essays by filmmakers and scholars such as Guillermo del Toro, Sir Christopher Frayling, Marina Warner, Roger Corman, Mark Kermode and Jane Goldman
  • ‘13 x 13’ – a major BFI Education programme inspiring a Gothic imagination in younger audiences, launching on Friday 13 September

The Shining (1980)

The Shining (1980)

Charlie Higson, Gothic aficionado, author and actor said:

The gothic is straight-laced, buttoned-up, boring kitchen sink Britain letting its hair down, and shows there’s more to our crusty old ruins than another Grand Designs makeover. It’s a genre I’ve always been fascinated in ever since studying it at University. I love the idea of decent, upstanding citizens stripping away layers of mystery to discover the craziness and horror at the heart of things. A whole season of gothic horror and TV at the BFI is a delicious prospect. Bring on the dark.

Reece Shearsmith, Gothic aficionado, author and actor said:

It’s so lovely the BFI should be celebrating a subject so close to my heart.

The Mummy (1932)

The Mummy (1932)

Further information

BFI Monster Weekend at the British Museum

The Monster Weekend features three classic titles from the golden age of British Gothic horror from the forecourt of The British Museum. On Thursday 29 August the BFI Monster Weekender at the British Museum will launch with the world premiere of the new digital re-mastering of Night of the Demon (1957) directed by Jacques Tourneur and introduced live by the film’s heroine Peggy Cummins. Dracula (1958) screens on Friday 30 and The Mummy (1959) on Saturday 31 August – both starring Sir Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and directed by Terence Fisher.

BFI Southbank

A major BFI Southbank season spanning four months, from 21 October 2013 until 31 January 2014, will feature a four-part season of seminal films, from the earliest days of silent cinema with seminal European films The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920) and Nosferatu (1922), through The Haunting (1963) and The Masque of the Red Death (1964) to howling terror with An American Werewolf in London (1981), before bringing audiences up-to-date with The Woman in Black (2012). The four key Gothic themes will be explored when cinematic luminaries from around the world, from both sides of the camera, will take to the stage and talk about their work, including Roger Corman, and Madeline Smith (Vampire Lovers, 1970).

Night of the Demon (1957)

Night of the Demon (1957)

There will be terrifically exclusive television previews with Gothic subjects including a major new BBC 2 commission The Thirteenth Tale, a psychological mystery which moves between the present and the 1950’s, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Olivia Colman in an adaptation by Christopher Hampton of Diane Setterfield’s best-selling novel.

BFI Southbank’s popular regular music / film crossover event, Sonic Cinema is working with our partners Chapter in Cardiff, to develop a range of vibrant live music projects. This will include a series of live performances and talks that tap into the vibrant British ‘Hauntology’ electronic music scene, with artists such as Demdike Stare, Scanner, Gazelle Twin and the Haxan Cloak with partners Wire magazine. An exciting live experience with British (and GOTHIC) author Glen Duncan and The Real Tuesday Weld , is in development to create a show that will blend new short film, new music, theatre and readings from Duncan’s eagerly awaited new novel By Blood We Live, the third and final instalment of The Last Werewolf trilogy. There will also be BFI IMAX all-nighters, panel discussions and family fun-days thrown in to the bubbling mix.

DVD and Blu-ray

Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

The screaming starts with M R James’ Classic Ghost Stories (1986), narrated by Robert Powell, which include The Mezzotint and O, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad. Children’s Film Foundation films will bring a creepier note to Hallowe’en with a DVD volume featuring James Hill’s The Man from Nowhere (1975) and John Krish’s Out of the Darkness (1985). Two long-unseen archive TV titles, guaranteed to scare and delight in equal measure are the 1970 Play for Today entry Robin Redbreast and the surviving, terrifying episodes of 1972’s Dead of Night. 18 November sees Rupert Julian’s newly restored silent classic Phantom of the Opera (1925) and the BFI National Archive digital re-mastering of Thorold Dickinson’s Gaslight (1940) come out in Dual Format and the much sought-after 1979 TV adaptation of Sheridan Le Fanu’s Schalcken the Painter and the star-studded vintage ghost story series Supernatural (1977), featuring Billie Whitelaw, Denholm Elliott, Jeremy Brett, Ian Hendry and Robert Hardy, return to haunt the screens of anyone daring enough to watch them.

BFI Distribution

Two key titles will be released nationwide and feature as Extended Runs at BFI Southbank. The first of these will be Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre (Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht, 1978), on 1 November – following Hallowe’en previews in selected cinemas. Klaus Kinski delivers a superb silent-movie style performance, alongside Isabelle Adjani as the object of his desires in this stylish, thoughtful vampire film. The Innocents (1961), Jack Clayton’s celebrated adaptation of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw (1898), will follow. Released on 13 December, it is a brilliant exercise in psychological horror, starring Deborah Kerr as an impressionable and repressed governess who agrees to tutor two orphaned children. It is now widely considered to be one of the greatest of all cinematic tales of terror, and continues to inspire today’s ‘haunted house’ movies.

Gaslight (1940)

Gaslight (1940)

BFI National Archive and Special Collections

The BFI National Archive is making a major contribution to the Gothic project with a range of important restorations of key British films, some of which are newly available to audiences for the first time in decades. Working from 35mm negatives a new High Definition version of Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon will be unveiled at the BFI Monster Weekend at The British Museum. Cross-Roads (1955) is a real discovery, a 19 minute short featuring Christopher Lee in a powerful Gothic tale, made two years before he took on the mantle of Dracula, featuring a fascinating first glimpse on film of his piercing eyes in close-up. The Mistletoe Bough (1904), based on traditional folksong, features a lost love, a Gothic castle and a terrifying discovery. Other rediscoveries of note include The Face at the Window (1939), a richly satisfying frightener featuring a murderous apparition, and a virtually unknown version of The Fall of the House of Usher notable as the only film to be awarded an ‘H’ (for Horrific) certificate by the British censor in 1950. Thorold Dickinson’s Gaslight (1940) is possibly the most important new copy which will be presented as a digital re-mastering, offering a new generation a chance to engage with this rarely seen Victorian drama, unfairly suppressed in favour of its more famous later version.

The BFI National Archive’s special collections will showcase Haunted: The Innocents at BFI Southbank – an extraordinary archive of filmmakers papers, design and photographs to chart the journey of cinema’s greatest ghost story from script to screen. The exhibition will highlight never-before-seen objects from the collection – scripts, posters, stills and correspondence, which illuminate this ghostly masterpiece – including the recently acquired Jack Clayton archive, Truman Capote’s handwritten screenplay for The Innocents, costume designs by Motley and production designs by John Piper.

Education: 13 x 13 – 13 must-see Gothic films for teens

The Innocents (1961)

The Innocents (1961)

Teenagers are the prime audience for Gothic, with the emerging adolescent ready to begin exploring the darker side of human behaviour and emotions. With this in mind BFI Education will launch 13 x 13 on Friday 13 September: the list of key films expressing the Gothic imagination – which all children should see. With new examples released on a weekly basis throughout the programme, 13 x 13 will provide lesson resources and teaching materials to support teachers around the UK to make the most of the list – with resources from Special Collections or explanatory films featuring Gothic experts, specially commissioned for the project.

For the thousands of fearless GCSE and A level Media students who read Media Mag (produced by the English and Media Centre) a Gothic horror special will feature in the Autumn, sparking new ideas and understandings on the roots and reach of Gothic on film. A two-week Gothic film school will transform BFI Southbank, along with Gothic weekenders, events for schools, and a special partnership with Penguin books and Zombie creator Charlie Higson to create a new trailer for his latest flesh-eating blockbuster The Fallen.

BFI Education is also partnering with the National Association of Teachers of English on a conference for 150 English teachers in December, themed around the Gothic. Across the country the BFI will be supporting Gothic conferences for teachers and students, with the help of FILM NATION UK as the UK wide partner over the next 6 – 9 months. For older learners a variety of lectures, Library talks, study days and illustrated presentations – with a range of partners – will run throughout October to January.


The forthcoming, lavishly illustrated BFI publication Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film will feature a range of new articles exploring the extraordinary and enduring appeal of Gothic cinema. The essays are written by some of the Gothic’s leading filmmakers, scholars and critics, including Guillermo del Toro, Mark Kermode, Sir Christopher Frayling, Marina Warner, Roger Corman, Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith, Jane Goldman, Ramsey Campbell, Anne Billson, Kim Newman, David Pirie, Jonathan Rigby and Roger Luckhurst, among many others. In addition, the BFI and Palgrave Macmillan will publish eight Gothic-related BFI Film Classics, including new titles on The Shining, FW Murnau’s original 1922 version of Nosferatu, Pan’s Labyrinth and, in a new book by Sir Christopher Frayling, Jack Clayton’s The Innocents. Complementing those are four reprinted titles, with new cover artwork and introductions, on Cat People, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Nosferatu (Werner Herzog) and Vampyr. 

The Mummy (1959)

The Mummy (1959)

BFI Mediatheques

Visitors to the BFI’s network of eight Mediatheques around the UK can explore a range of Gothic film and TV from the BFI National Archive for free. Alongside some of the key British titles screening at BFI Southbank, you can discover archive material unique to Mediatheques, including spooky delights specially chosen for children and families. Highlights range from The Medium Exposed? Or, A Modern Spiritualistic Séance (1906) and At the Villa Rose (1920) to The Woman in White (1982) and Moondial (1988). Viewers can also revisit the BBC’s entire Ghost Story for Christmas series, and dip into the ‘Book Group’ strand to enjoy classic and rarely seen screen adaptations of Dracula, Rebecca and Wuthering Heights.

Partners and Support

To bring Gothic to life the BFI is marshalling powerful forces across the UK, including the National Trust, the British Museum, FILM NATION UK, Hammer Films, StudioCanal, Lionsgate/Icon, Park Circus, Eureka!, Universal, Sony, the Edinburgh International Festival, Derry~Londonderry City of Culture 2013, Wales Goes Dark, Abertoir: Wales’ International Horror Festival, Cambridge Film Trust, Gothic Manchester, Screen Machines, Film4, Somerset House, Cult Screens, Luna Cinema, Drake Music, Penguin, Angels the Costumiers, and Birkbeck, University of London, the National Association of Teachers of English, Teach First and the National Youth Film Festival 2013.

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