Scotland: Global Cinema: Genres, Modes and Identities

By David Martin-Jones | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Horror Film: History Hydes in the
Highlands

This chapter engages with horror films, with a particular emphasis on two werewolf movies, Dog Soldiers (2002) and Wild Country (2005). It begins with an introduction to the relationship between Scotland and the horror film. Dog Soldiers is then analysed with a dedicated focus on its depiction of English and Scottish masculinities, its engagement with a British tradition of war movies, the myth of Tartanry and the allegorical connotations that surround werewolves in horror movies. The ambivalence demonstrated in its treatment of Scotland as a location further illustrates the complexities raised by British films set in Scotland that aim at broader, often international markets. Dog Soldiers is contrasted with the lowbudget, indigenous Scottish production Wild Country, which focuses on the local concerns of its teenage protagonists. In both films, conventions of the horror genre enable very different types of engagement with existing myths of Scotland and Scottishness.


Crime in the City, Horror in the Highlands

The horror films usually associated with Scotland are the body snatcher films set in Edinburgh. These films are often inspired by true stories of grave robbing, an illegal activity mainly pursued for the treasures found in the grave, but which, during the early decades of the nineteenth century, was also done to procure bodies for dissection in Edinburgh’s medical college. In the infamous case of William Burke and William Hare, grave robbing was replaced by murder, causing a public scandal involving Dr Robert Knox of the medical college that eventually shook up the legal constraints surrounding the provision of cadavers for medical research. This history of the Edinburgh-based grave robber films – The Body Snatcher (1945), The Greed of William Hart (1948), The Flesh and the Fiends (1959), Burke and Hare (1971), The Doctor and the Devils (1985) – has been discussed by Duncan Petrie in Screening Scotland (2000). Petrie notes in particular the influence of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson on this tradition, Stevenson’s short story The Body Snatcher (1884) being

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