The British Museum’s collection includes some fairly ghoulish exhibits. For instance, there’s the ‘unlucky mummy’ dug up in Thebes – blamed for the sinking of the Titanic, among other disasters – and the various blood-curdling depictions of hell that adorn artefacts in the Medieval Collection.
It should prove a surprisingly apt venue for the latest venture of the British Film Institute (BFI), then – a Monster Weekend that’ll see three classic horror films screened at the museum later this month.
The weekend is the launch event for Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film, a major four-month film season at BFI Southbank that explores how the genre has consistently appealed to the British – from Mary Shelley to Hammer Horror – and how it’s been brought to life on the silver screen.
Each screening will take place in the open air on the British Museum’s spectacular forecourt – a fittingly atmospheric setting for these spine-chilling works of supernatural cinema.
Proceedings kick off on August 29th with Night of the Demon. Described by the BFI as “gripping, intelligent, eerily entertaining and chillingly plausible”, this Jacques Tourneur classic tells the story of a sceptical American scientist who meets an occultist in the halls of the British Museum itself. Informed he’ll die within four days, he embarks on a desperate race to escape his gruesome destiny.
On August 30th, film-goers have an opportunity to see Hammer’s 1958 reworking of Dracula – often considered the definitive film adaptation, not least because of its stellar cast. Christopher Lee gives a career-making turn as the ancient vampire, while his equally venerated contemporary Peter Cushing plays the obsessive Van Helsing.
This landmark creative partnership is revisited on the final night of the Monster Weekend (August 31st), when audiences will be treated to The Mummy. Here, Cushing plays an unassuming archaeologist whose orderly world is invaded by the reanimated ancient Egyptian Kharis – played by a mute but hauntingly expressive Lee.
Tickets cost £15 per screening and can be booked through the BFI website. The British Museum is easily accessible via tube, so getting there shouldn’t be hard for those staying in luxury London hotels this summer.