Universal Monsters are back on Horror Channel and Kim Newman is here to tell you all about them
By James Whittington, Thursday 14th October 2021
Kim Newman

Respected journalist, film critic, and fiction writer Kim Newman takes us through the Universal monsters joining Horror for our Classic Horror Halloween event running from 30th-31st of October.

With Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Wolf Man (1941) and The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), Universal Pictures introduced the lasting icons of horror... combining the presence of stars Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr with the make-up artistry of Jack P. Pierce (except for the Creature who came later in the day and was designed by the extraordinary Millicent Patrick ). These are the genre's cornerstone fiends, and - despite the way they have been domesticated and parodied (notably in The Munsters), the original films retain the power to instil terror, awe, pity and reverence. These are the films where the story starts...

But another thing Universal more or less invented was the sequel. Decades before Marvel decided to have a Cinematic Universe, Universal decided that all their monster films were interconnected and a night would come when Dracula, the Wolf Man and the Monster would prowl together (until they ran into Abbott and Costello, which is another story). One or two silent monsters had mini-franchises - there were three Golem movies, though only one survives - but we never saw Son of Nosferatu, Bride of Dr Caligari or The Phantom of the Opera Returns.

Initially, Universal opted for follow-ups rather than sequels... after Dracula, they made Frankenstein. The reasoning was that the main acts died in their first films. It took a few years to realise monsters probably couldn't die in any lasting sense - even if they were irrevocably turned to dust, they might still have relatives around to take over the business of terrorising unwary souls who crossed their paths.

Horror Channel's Classic Horror Halloween Weekend includes Channel premieres of some of the greatest follow-ons of all time.

The Invisible Man (1933)
The Invisible Man pops up (played by Vincent Price) in the tag scene of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, confirming that he's a part of the monsterverse - though his screen career is an odd mix of science fiction, horror, humour, heroism (in Invisible Agent, he's a Nazi-fighting proto-superhero) and villainy. James Whale's The Invisible Man, based on the novel by H.G. Wells, was the last of Universal's first slate of monster movies and a special effects showcase which is imitated by every invisible man movie down to the recent reboot. Claude Rains gives raspy voice to the megalomaniac title character, sometimes under bandages and dark glasses (and a disturbing false nose) and sometimes as an unseen presence. His misdeeds range from mischief like stealing a postman's bicycle and tweaking noses to wholesale murder (by crashing a train, the Invisible Man racks up a bigger body count than Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster and the Mummy put together).

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The first great horror sequel, this is also a sly send-up, shot through by director James Whale with satirical, camp, sacrilegious and whimsical humour even as it delves even more deeply into the nastily grotesque. The Monster (Karloff) survives the burning mill of the first film and wanders through the countryside one clumping step ahead of the angry mob, only to fall in with a blind hermit who teaches him rudimentary speech ('bread, gooood ... fire, baad') and the pleasures of friendship and cigars. Dr Frankenstein (Colin Clive) is tempted back into the mad science business by the supremely eccentric Dr Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger), who thinks a suitable challenge would be the creation of a mate for the Monster. In the finale, we meet Elsa Lanchester as another indelible Jack Pierce creation, the shock-haired bride.

The Mummy's Hand (1940)
Though it lifts Egyptian flashback footage from the 1932 movie, The Mummy's Hand isn't strictly a sequel but a reboot. It is, in fact, the template for almost all later mummy movies, with a linen-wrapped thug limping after those who have dared violate the sacred tomb and screaming victims backed into a corner to be strangled. Unwary archaeologists Dick Foran and Wallace Ford, not to mention stage magician Cecil Kellaway and his hotcha assistant Peggy Moran, trespass in the tomb of Princess Ananka and the fez-wearing high priest (George Zucco) doses up the living mummy Kharis (Western star Tom Tyler) with a brew of 'tana leaves' that keep him stumbling and invokes the curse whereby all the infidels must die. Whereas The Mummy is a romantic supernatural melodrama on the model of Dracula, The Mummy's Hand is a lively adventure movie - this is where that Brendan Fraser version got its tone - with thrills, spills, laughs, and a bandaged bogeyman.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
Grave-robbers disturb the resting place of werewolf Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr), who returns to life and travels to middle Europe in the hope that the surviving notebooks of Dr Frankenstein hold the secret of curing his affliction. This was the first great team-up monster movie, simultaneously a direct sequel to The Wolf Man, in which Chaney Jr created his most lasting monster character, and The Ghost of Frankenstein, in which he had taken over from Boris Karloff as the flat-headed, big-booted Frankenstein Monster. Since Chaney couldn't play both title roles, it was a clever, if ironic casting stroke to put Bela Lugosi, who missed out on playing the Monster in the 1931 film that made Boris Karloff a star, into the make-up. Silly but enormous fun, complete with gypsy musical numbers and a battle royal finish as the monsters rip each other apart while some loon dynamites the dam and the castle is swept away in a flood.

Return of the Creature (1954)
In the 1950s, Universal retired their gothic monsters and concentrated on science fiction fiends - the mutant of This Island Earth, The Mole People, Tarantula! But only one of this generation earned sequels, and approached the iconic status of Dracula, the Frankenstein Monster, and company. The Creature From the Black Lagoon was such a hit that the Gill-Man, sinuously played underwater by swimmer Ricou Browning, was revived for a follow-up in which he was kidnapped from his South American habitat and transplanted to a Florida aqua park for study... only to resent captivity and rampage again. Returning director Jack Arnold stages plenty of action and remembers to include those odd lyrical moments that - as Guillermo del Toro's virtual remake The Shape of Water bears out - make the Creature one of the oddly sexiest monsters in the menagerie. Watch for a tiny bit by young hopeful Clint Eastwood as a lab assistant.

Horror Channel announces raft of premieres for February
Posted on Thursday 13th January 2022
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February on Horror Channel keeps genre fans alive with the UK TV premiere of What Keeps You Alive - another suspenseful knife to the throat of 21st Century genre cinema from the deliciously warped mind of Colin Minihan, director of It Stains The Sand Red.

And expect more total shock and abject terror in the UK TV premiere of Paul Hyett's sinister sci-fi horror fantasy Peripheral. This twisted cross between Ex Machina and Videodrome boasts an astonishing performance from Hannah Arterton.

Plus, there are channel premieres for the gore-filled, stomach-churning zombie chiller Death Trench, Producer M. Night Shyamalan's claustrophobic supernatural thriller Devil, the...

Horror Channel ushers in 2022 with zombie invasions
Posted on Tuesday 21st December 2021

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January weekends on Horror Channel are invaded by the undead with the UK TV premiere of Lin Oeding's newly-flavoured zombie horror-comedy Office Uprising, and the two highly acclaimed Zombie apocalypse road movies - Stake Land, receiving its Channel premiere, and the sequel The Stakelander, enjoying a UK TV premiere.

Plus, there are channel premieres for the bone-chilling The Wretched, directed by The Pierce Brothers, Sam Raimi's classic Evil Dead 2, once again starring the demon battling Brue Campbell and the original Dolph Lundgrem/Jean-Claude Van Damme futuristic thriller Universal Soldier.

Here's everything you need to know:

A VHS classic on the 8th as Je...

Horror Channel premieres zombie musical Anna And The Apocalypse on Xmas Day
Posted on Tuesday 30th November 2021
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There is a Xmas Day treat in store for genre fans, with the Horror Channel premiere of Anna And The Apocalypse, a pure gore delight with a mental, maniacal and magical edge. John McPhail's infectious zombie musical stars Ella Hunt, Mark Benton and Paul Kaye.

Anna is looking forward to the end of high school. But while her widowed father dreams of university, she has other plans - jet-setting around the world to experience life before settling down. Suddenly a zombie apocalypse threatens her sleepy Scottish town, forcing Anna and friends to struggle, slash and sing their way to survival, facing the living dead in a desperate race to reach their loved ones. Shaun O...

Horror Channel unwraps eight UK TV premieres for December including Tales From The Lodge, Aquaslash and Sacrifice
Posted on Tuesday 16th November 2021
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Horror Channel comes bearing gory gifts for the Xmas season, presenting eight UK TV premieres, including Abigail Blackmore's gruesome and comically dark Tales From The Lodge, starring Mackenzie Crook, Sophie Thompson and Johnny Vegas, cosmic chiller Sacrifice, starring horror icon Barbara Crampton and Aquaslash, a mad exploitation slasher harking back to the classic 1980s era of gushing blood and teenage turmoil.

Also showing for the first time on British TV are Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's romantic body horror Spring, Greg McLean's supernatural horror The Darkness, starring Kevin Bacon, deadly thriller, Desolation, Brit mon...

Horror Channel takes off with premiere of action series Airwolf from Thursday 25 November
Posted on Thursday 11th November 2021

Horror Channel is dedicated to bringing great cult action thrillers to its audience and this trend continues with Season 1 of the 1984 US military drama series Airwolf, created by Donald P. Bellisario and produced over four seasons.

A renegade helicopter pilot, Stringfellow Hawke, played by Jan-Michael Vincent, is given the chance to know the whereabouts of his imprisoned brother if he conducts daring missions for a shadowy intelligence agency. Hid first mission is to go to Libya and steal back a high-technology military helicopter, code-named Airwolf, at all costs. With its riveting, high-tech, battle scenes, AIRWOLF is consid...

Horror Channel invaded by week of Sci-Fi Horror
Posted on Wednesday 3rd November 2021

Horror Channel goes extra-terrestrial with Sci-Fear Week (Saturday 20th to Friday 26th, 9pm), in which strange science, terrifying tech and insidious invasions takes control, highlighted by the Channel premiere of jolting sci-fi thriller The Last Days On Mars, starring Liev Schreiber, Romola Garai and Olivia Williams. It also includes the channel premieres of 1980 British science fiction movie Saturn 3, which stars Farrah Fawcett, Kirk Douglas and Harvey Keitel and XTRO, an unsettling slice of Sci-Fi Horror and one of the few British films that landed on the UK film censors' infamous 'Video Nasty' list. The week also includes Scanners, Ce...

Horror Channel unveils an unholy host of premieres for November
Posted on Thursday 21st October 2021
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Long weekends just got scarier as Horror Channel announces eleven premieres for Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights across November, including five UK TV premieres, three by emerging female directors.

Being shown for the first time on the small screen are Elle Callahan's allegorical paranormal thriller Witch Hunt, Amelia Moses' lyrical lycanthrope horror Bloodthirsty and Coralie Fargeat's directorial debut, the slickly gruesome Revenge. Also getting their first showings on TV are Nicolas Pesce's smartly sadistic Piercing and John Berardo's subversive slasher Initiation.

Neil Marshall makes a welcome return with the channel premiere of Doomsday, as do the Sosk...

Interview with Michael Mayer and Guy Ayal from the acclaimed movie Happy Times
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
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Happy Times, which is showing at Grimmfest Online, is a movie that takes the home invasion genre and turns it inside out! Directed by Michael Mayer and co-written with composer Guy Ayal, the movie is a bombastic, bloody and hilarious piece of cinema. I chatted to them both about this dinner party from hell.

HC: Where did the idea for Happy Times come from?

MM: The idea for the movie started forming when I was invited to a Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year's) dinner in Los Angeles. It was the first year of Trump's presidency and wherever you went all people wanted to talk about was politics. One thing to know about the Israeli expat com...

Interview with D.M. Cunningham, writer and director of The Spore
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
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If you like your horror with a huge lashing of gruesome effects and a strong story then The Spore is for. Showing at Grimmfest Online, the movie from D.M. Cunningham is a smart take on the body horror genre. Here he chats about this movie which is guaranteed to get under your skin.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a director?

DM: I started out wanting to be a makeup effects artist. After seeing Night of the Living Dead and discovering Fangoria magazine I was hooked. Tom Savini was a huge influence on my trajectory toward becoming a filmmaker. It wasn't until later that I discovered that you could boss the monsters around on set being the director. That's...

Interview with Ben Charles Edwards, co-writer and director of Father of Flies
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
Father of Flies director

A vulnerable young boy finds his mother pushed out of the family home by a strange new woman in Father of Flies, and he must confront the terrifying supernatural forces that seem to move in with her. This intense and chilling movie is showing at Grimmfest Online Edition so we chatted to director and co-writer Ben Charles Edwards about this movie.

HC: Where did the idea for Father of Flies come from?

BE: It came from my childhood experiences. When my good friend and journalist Dominic Wells was talking to me about my next project, he told me to draw on real life experiences. So, I did. My own experiences were neither as heightened nor as traumatic as they may...

Interview with Marcel Sarmiento co-writer and director of Faceless
Posted on Friday 15th October 2021
Faceless Director

Showing at Grimmfest Online Edition is the incredibly inventive horror/sci-fi hybrid Faceless. Here, co-writer and director Marcel Sarmiento speaks about this superb movie.

HC: Have you always been a big horror movie fan?

MS: Definitely as a kid. My first movies made with my Betamax were all about scaring one other and how gross we could push makeup effects. We mostly strangled, stabbed, and threw each other off buildings. I think as I got older, I appreciated what you could do with horror more than horror for horror's sake. I love that you can make characters do things that in any other genre you couldn't make them do and still come out the other end liking them and routi...

Horror Channel goes out of this world to bring Channel premiere of Brit sci-fi thriller series UFO from October 20
Posted on Wednesday 13th October 2021

Horror Channel will be continuing its commitment to bringing great cult and classic sci-fi to its audience with Season 1 of the 1970 British science fiction TV series UFO, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and produced by the Andersons and TV mogul Lew Grade.

One of the best of its genre, the 26-part series combines the remarkable talents of the Andersons with those of special effects director Derek Meddings. And with a stellar cast including Ed Bishop, Michael Billington and George Sewell, it proved a popular hit at the time.

Following syndication in the US and favourable ratings, a possible second series was plann...

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