Hammering Home The Message

Tuesday, August 17 2010
Hammering Home The Message

It’s one of the most famous names in horror, one that is now being revitalized after lying dormant for some years; the release of Beyond The Rave, via 4DVD, sees the Hammer studio rising from its slumber. It’s the first of a series of programmes and films that is aiming to restore the studio to its position as the leading proponent of chills in the UK and beyond.

But Beyond The Rave isn’t necessarily where you’d expect Hammer to return to the fray with its first new product for 20 years. It began its life online – where it has been seen by no less than 2 million people, boasting 5 million hits, 400,000 individual plays of songs from the soundtrack (compiled by Pete Tong, no less) and 30,000 friends across MySpace. An unusual route, maybe, but for Hammer and parent the Exclusive Media Group it’s very much a conscious decision.

“The aim was to produce and distribute some new content in a way that both told existing fans that Hammer was back in business, and that also introduced the brand to a new audience,” said Nic Ransome, senior digital executive at Exclusive and Hammer.  “Digital was the fastest and most direct route to both groups.”

It’s not ignoring traditional programming – the company is aiming to make a “big splash” with its first new feature, Let Me In, which Icon is distributing in the UK, but with Beyond The Rave it is exploring new routes to market.

“Hammer and its parent company Exclusive Media Group both have a strong interest in new media in terms of production, distribution and also marketing. As well as being about releasing something in the short term, Beyond The Rave was about trying a new model.

“In terms of exposure for the Hammer brand and gaining a new generation of fans, it was a great success,” said Ransome. “It was also something of a first in terms of technology, as it was MySpace’s first HD broadcast.”

However, Beyond The Rave isn’t just a gimmick, ensuring quality was paramount to Hammer. “Along with Pure Grass Films, we developed Beyond The Rave as a story first and foremost. The live action content was produced in the same way that an independent film would be, with due attention given to all the core elements of a film or TV production. Then it was about providing a platform so that the new media extensions and elements such as the MySpace profiles and the ARG [alternate reality game] could be integrated.

“Overall we’re very pleased with the finished product. It’s an engaging and contemporary return-to-production for the Hammer brand. More importantly, a whole new generation of Hammer fans loved Beyond The Rave – watching the content, interacting with the profiles and playing the ARG, in some cases for over twenty hours per week.”

The DVD was always planned to follow, although Hammer has been waiting for Let Me In to fall into place, so Beyond The Rave can be promoted alongside it.

After Let Me In arrives at the end of October,  the next project, slated for 2011, is The Resident, starring Hilary Swank and Jeffrey Dean Morgan alongside Hammer veteran Christopher Lee. Icon has that too, although its next project, The Woman In Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe and currently in pre-production, has been co-financed by Momentum. Beyond that, Vertigo has Wake Wood, also due in 2011. The Icon deal also takes in Hammer’s “legacy titles”.

“There would be no Hammer without the classic titles,” said Ransome. “They are the cornerstone of the brand and have a sizeable and loyal fanbase. We are currently planning some new UK DVD releases of classic titles.

“Watch this space,” he added.

So where does Hammer fit into today’s horror market? It has, Ransome said, always been about “commercial film-making”, something that still stands true today.

“Simon Oakes, Hammer’s ceo, has a very clear vision for Hammer’s place in today’s genre market. Hammer films won’t just be about the visceral shock and awe that so many current horror movies thrive on. Of course Hammer films will chill, scare and terrify, but they will also be about a strong story with engaging characters. Plus they will have a certain level of intelligence. Hopefully they will make you think a little longer and a little deeper than your average horror film.”

And that’s something that’s true of Beyond The Rave. And, of course, it has that legendary brand to help it through.

“The brand is key, but like all companies there will be a certain amount of finessing to suit particular markets and audiences,” said Ransome. “Although Hammer is pretty much a household name in the UK, there are some territories were it doesn’t have quite the same impact. In terms of Beyond The Rave, which was Hammer’s return to production after almost 25 years, the brand is absolutely front and centre.”

The title is due out on September 6, with 4DVD’s support behind it.