As we slug through another seemingly endless awards season the very thought of another life-affirming prestige film may well churn your stomach, and those industry executives, suits worn down from all the back-patting, are in dire need of a trip to the tailors. What better way to give everyone a break then by descending into a network of tunnels under Waterloo station to watch some classic (and not so classic) Hammer Horror? The screening room (or vault) at the Vault Festival, currently showing a selection of Hammer’s literary adaptations, was apparently rather fittingly used in years past to store corpses before they could be transported, via London’s Necropolis railway line, to the cemetery. For those doubting that a railway line called Necropolis actually existed in London, I’ve already wikipediad it. Wikipedia doesn’t lie.
The vault’s dusty stone walls, chill in the air (central heating is lacking) and intermittent rumblings from trains overhead, often coinciding with tense scenes, add new dimensions to Hammer’s monsters, zombies and lesbian vampires. Of course if you like your horror uninterrupted by National Rail, and can’t stand the odd wrinkle on the screen, this won’t be for you. But those who embrace the experience are rewarded generously with introductions and readings. Last night Mark Gatiss gave a superb candlelit reading from ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’, deerstalker ‘n’ all, before a screening of Hammer’s adaptation, where Peter Cushing seizes the role of Sherlock Holmes with zest. There are a few weeks left to seek a similar experience, and you’d not only be doing yourself and those champagne-swigging execs a favour, but preventing more corpses piling up in the vault (the body heat provided by a full house is the only real safeguard against pneumonia).