The debacle of To the Devil a Daughter was by far from Hammer’s first attempt to shake itself free from the artistic rut it had driven itself into. Although it churned out plenty of old-style films following its classic formula during the early 1970s, the same period also saw Hammer attempting a range of experiments to see how it could shake up its habits and thereby rekindle its fortunes. There were flirtations with more sexually explicit material in The Vampire Lovers, various attempts to transplant classic monsters to modern day settings such as Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb or Dracula A.D. 1972, recasting of beloved series as horror-comedies (Horror of Frankenstein), and more besides.
One of these experiments involved producing more in the way of psychological horror. Despite being overwhelmingly associated with supernatural horror, Hammer had always produced a trickle of non-supernatural fare, some of which had been received quite well – for instance, the Bette Davis vehicle The Nanny from 1965 was both uncharacteristically gritty by Hammer’s standards and also something of a critical and commercial success. Could a shift in focus to more mundane terrors help restore Hammer’s credibility? Let’s take a look at two 1972 attempts…
Fear In the Night
This was originally released as part of a double bill with Straight On Till Morning entitled Women In Terror!, though to be honest I think this was a misstep – both movies are heavy enough going that I feel like watching one after the other would be too much, and it would have been better to pair each of them with something lighter as a palette-cleanser.