Aside from the Hammer Horror films at their peak and the work of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, the British have had a hard time making a big impact on American horror audiences. Whether it be the cultural divide, the differing sensibilities in both comedy and scares, or simply the secret truth that Americans don’t like much of anything from anywhere but America, British independent horror has had trouble gaining a foothold in the States. However, a new generation of filmmakers who were raised on American indie horror of the 1980’s have cropped up, paying homage to (and building upon) the low-budget shockers of the slasher decade. Names like Neil Marshall come to mind; and in this case, the focus falls on horror auteur Christopher Smith.
Though auteur might be a strong word to use so early in a career, it seems to fit with Smith, whose entire work output (with the exception of his upcoming “Get Santa”) has fallen nicely into the horror/fantasy arena. A self-professed film fan before he got behind the camera, Smith quickly rose to prominence in the horror genre with a series of universally liked and yet distinctly British horror films, each gaining scope and sophistication as he moved through his career.
His most recent film release, the Sean Bean medieval plague film “Black Death,” is a surprisingly mature rumination on religion and disease in the midst of one of the great horrors of Europe’s ancient past, with an excellent cast that supports Bean well, from Eddie Redmayne as the monk to two other recognizable genre faces, John Lynch and David Warner.
Though his upcoming films (“Get Santa” and “Cherub,” a film he is adapting from a children’s book series) would seem to be steering him out of the genre for which he gained his notoriety, Smith has made an indelible mark in horror on both sides of the ocean.