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Carry on screaming - new push to put bite back into British horror

28/01/2005. Contributed by Jessica Martin

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The UK Film Council's Development Fund is hoping to emulate the successes of sixties Hammer horror classics starring Christopher Lee, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing, as they search for fresh souls with imaginative ideas for new British screamfests.

In the 1960s and '70s home made horror from studios including Hammer chilled audiences across the country, and whilst the majority of the best known horror films tend to be US dominated (Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, The Blair Witch Project, The Wicker Man, Candy Man, The Omen, Hellraiser), there have been recent hit British bloodcurdlers including 28 Days Later, Dog Soldiers, and Shaun of the Dead.

UK and international audiences regularly demonstrate a taste for terror. Horror was the eighth most popular genre at the UK box office in 2003, with 22 films making up just over 5 per cent of the total number of features released, and grossing 39.8 million at the box office between them. In 2003 low budget lottery funded smash 28 Days Later took $72 million dollars around the world, (including $45.1 million in the US and Canada) and in 2004 horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead scooped more than $13 million in the US alone.

Now would-be Stephen Kings are being invited to submit truly horrifying ideas - exploring supernatural and supernormal powers and practices, including witchcraft, satanic worship, and voodoo and summarised in 25 words or less - to receive 10,000 in National Lottery funding so that they can be fast-tracked to a full screenplay.

A UK Film Council spokesman told the 'Nest;

"It's truly spine chilling to see just how successful horror films can be at the box office and British filmmakers have proved they can scare with the best of them.

"The success of 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead shows how popular spine chillers can be at the box office. We want to identify fresh blood to breathe life back into British horror.

"It would be a grave mistake to think we can't deliver top frights out at cinemas, so the call is out for writers to deliver the next batch of bodies... of work to the Big Scream."

'25 Words or Less' is a film industry term used to describe an idea where a film is encapsulated in one sentence. For example, using the 25 Words or Less method four hit films could be described in the following way:

1. Jaws in Space - Alien.

2. Those who foretold it are dead. Those who can stop it are in grave danger - The Omen

3. Six soldiers. Full moon. No chance. - Dog Soldiers

Only writers with an agent or Writers' guild membership are eligible and have until 1 February to apply for the next round of the 25 Words or Less scheme in the genres of occult horror, animal adventure (examples include Call of the Wild, Born Free, Babe, 101 Dalmatians, Two Brothers, Beethoven, National Velvet, Homeward Bound, Free Willy, and Fish Out Of Water - (examples include Private Benjamin, Witness, Beverly Hills Cop, Never Been Kissed, Big, Trading Places, The Princess Diaries, Crocodile Dundee, Legally Blonde).

The latest Lottery backed British horror film Creep opens this month, starring Bourne Supremacy star Franka Potente. Trapped in a London subway station after midnight, a woman who's being pursued by a potential attacker, heads into the unknown labyrinth of tunnels beneath the city's streets.

For more details check out www.ukfilmcouncil.org.uk

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