The Satanic Rites of Hammer : Religion and Horror

“Religion defeats all” seems to be an overpowering theme within Hammer Horror, we only have to watch a film featuring Dracula to see that a crucifix can indeed fend off and kill the beast that threatens the residents of the nearest town. Of course, the good old stake through the heart never fails but nothing is quite as powerful as that highly polished crucifix glistening in the candlelight as Dracula screams and recoils, eventually turning into dust or bursting into flames. This doesn’t just work for the King of the Vampires – within The Devil Rides Out crosses and Holy Water appear to be their only saviour. But I must mention at this point that it always sticks in my mind about the use of a crucifix – you must always have faith, this and belief is what defeats evil rather than the object itself.

It isn’t just Hammer but many other movies are broken into two sets of characters – the good and the evil. The perception is that anything supernatural is evil and is somewhat connected with the devil and the other half are the heroes, the ones that use religion to defeat all and make the world a safer place to live. The word safe is key here as things we do not understand can lead us to believe it may be a threat for example the occult and the supernatural are thought of as “hidden” and within horror religion becomes our saviour; a safe haven that can protect and defeat.

The Dracula films use a lot of religious imagery and symbolism. We see Christopher Lee screaming in pain as a crucifix is thrust in his direction and it is clear that the battle is between good and evil which carries a strong religious moral lesson. Terence Fisher who directed many of the Hammer films was indeed interested in using this idea and Christopher Lee has been quoted to mention that “the Church doesn’t object to these films…” ( – simply because they are tales of good triumphing over evil. But one thing Hammer does pretty well is make evil look attractive, just watch next time the excitement in the eyes of those women that are about to be bitten by Count Dracula – evil and the forbidden is attractive, mystery leads us to be curious by nature and this is very evident in the Hammer Horror films.

The bottom line is no matter who seduces who, how much blood is shed – good always reigns in the name of God! Until the next sequel of course…

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