20 weirdest period dramas
Heaving bosoms, sweeping country estates, clandestine glances... Period dramas are all about those tied-down emotions, secret passions and, yes, impressive National Trust locations.
With Far From The Madding Crowd hitting screens this week (directed by Thomas Vinterberg and starring Carey Mulligan), we couldn't help thinking back to some of the greatest period dramas we've ever seen.
And when we say 'greatest', we really mean 'weirdest'. Here are some of the oddest, bloodiest and creepiest films set in past times...
The Mummy (1999)
The Period: It's a loose remake of the 1932 Universal monster movie, and Stephen Sommers' film sticks to that period, setting its action mostly in 1926.
The Drama: Hero Rick O'Connell (Brendan Fraser) joins siblings Jonathan (John Hannah) and Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) on their quest to uncover ancient Egyptian treasure but only if they can beat the competition.
Why So Weird? The threesome's quest sees them inadvertently resurrecting an ancient Mummy and going up against his undead army. Oh, and those terrifying, flesh-eating beetles.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)
The Period: The early 1800s the film begins with a flashback to 1818 before skipping forward nine years to 1827.
The Drama: Indiana-dwelling Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) falls out with plantation owner Jack Barts (Marton Csokas) when he witnesses Barts mercilessly beating his mother, leading to her untimely death.
Why So Weird? Uh, Barts turns out to be a vampire, prompting young Lincoln to become a vampire hunter. You won't find THAT in the history books.
The Conjuring (2012)
The Period: Inspired by the real-life investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren, James Wan's chiller is set in 1971.
The Drama: When the Perron family move into their new Rhodes Island home, strange things start happening.
Why So Weird? Ed and Lorraine Warren are paranormal investigators who quickly establish that the Perron's home is haunted. Which is when things start getting really weird.
The Period: California in the 1840s.
The Drama: Branded a coward after playing dead during the Mexican-American war, Lieutenant Boyd (Guy Pearce) is banished to Fort Spencer.
Why So Weird? 'You are what you eat' reads the film's tagline. Yep, we're in cannibal territory, as a newcomer at the fort (Robert Carlyle) comes with stories of cannibalism. And he may have first-hand experience of that...
The Period: Howard McCain's Viking era genre-splicer is set around 709 AD.
The Drama: Soldier Kainan (Jim Caviezel) is on a mission to track down a beast that is terrorising a Norwegian village.
Why So Weird? Uh, we may have neglected to mention that Kainan crash landed his spaceship in Norway, where he accidentally unleashes the terrifying monster Moorwen. Sort of explains why he wants to track it down so badly.
Dorian Gray (2009)
The Period: Like Oscar Wilde's 1891 novel, Oliver Parker's adaptation is set in Victorian era London.
The Drama: Dorian Gray (Ben Barnes) inherits his uncle's London estate and promptly moves in, where he's seduced by the city's party scene and the charismatic Lord Henry Wotton (Colin Firth).
Why So Weird? In order to remain young and attractive, Gray gives his soul up. So while he remains young, a portrait of him bears the signs of his sinful misdeeds.
Interview With The Vampire (1994)
The Period: The story begins in 1791, though it also covers the next 100 years, notably stopping off in 1870.
The Drama: New Orleans plantation owner Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt) makes friends with a guy called Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise).
Why So Weird? Lestat is revealed as a neck-chewer who transforms Louis into his undead companion. Together, the two wreak bloody havoc throughout history.
From Hell (2001)
The Period: The late 19th century, or 1888 to be more precise.
The Drama: A group of London prostitutes including Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) are being targeted by a savage killer, prompting the 'psychic' inspector Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp) to investigate.
Why So Weird? Like the graphic novel it's based on, the film's a bloody, gothic horror that plays out more like a slasher flick than a true period drama. Plus, y'know, psychic detective...
Ginger Snaps Back (2004)
The Period: This prequel to the cult werewolf flick is set in 1818.
The Drama: Two sisters Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) seek refuge at Fort Bailey when their father drowns during a trading ship accident
Why So Weird? The fort's being targeted by werewolves. Meanwhile, Ginger becomes infected and starts transforming into a werewolf herself...
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
The Period: Though it's loosely inspired by a short story from 1820, Tim Burton's film is set a little earlier in 1799.
The Drama: Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is dispatched to investigate a spate of killings in the remote town of Sleepy Hollow, New York, where people have been found with their heads lopped off.
Why So Weird? The one doing the head-lopping is none other than The Headless Horseman (Christopher Walken), a vengeful ghost who, as his name suggests, has no head.
Brotherhood Of The Wolf (2001)
The Period: Inspired by real-life killings in 18th century France, Christophe Gans' film is set in 1764.
The Drama: When a mysterious beast is deemed responsible for deaths in the province of Gvaudan, the king sends the Chevalier de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) and his native American buddy Mani (Mark Dacascos) to help.
Why So Weird? As if the mix of swashbuckling fights and martial arts wasn't weird enough, that 'wolf' part of the title is entirely apt, as we discover the scary beast is a monstrosity from Africa that has implants in its jaw and metal armour.
Army Of Darkness (1992)
The Period: The third film in Sam Raimi's Evil Dead saga is set in 1300 AD.
The Drama: Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) is captured by Duke Henry, who believes he's a spy sent by Lord Arthur (Marcus Gilbert). Then Ash is tipped into a pit where he fights, well...
Why So Weird? So, Ash has actually time travelled from present day. He has a chainsaw for an arm and he fights evil deadites, which apparently existed in medieval times, too. Yeah, this is pretty much the weirdest period drama ever made.
Mary Shelly's Frankenstein (1994)
The Period: Though Mary Shelley's book is set in an unspecified time during the 18th century, Kenneth Branagh's gothic adap begins in 1794 before flashbacking to an earlier time.
The Drama: Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh) is a grief-stricken scientist who's mourning the death of his beloved when he comes up with his greatest idea yet...
Why So Weird? ...That idea is, to put it bluntly, raising the dead. Which he manages to do when he creates his jigsaw-puzzle monster (Robert De Niro).
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (2007)
The Period: Inspired by real events (plus Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's musical), Tim Burton's film takes place in 1846.
The Drama: Barber Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) sets up shop in London with a new name Sweeney Todd and swears revenge against the judge who brought false charges against him.
Why So Weird? The 'demon' part of the title isn't entirely accurate, but the horrific throat-slashing is pretty shocking as is Mrs Lovett's love of a fleshy pie.
The Time Machine (2002)
The Period: Simon Wells' adaptation of HG Wells' classic tome opens in the year 1899.
The Drama: Inventor and Columbia lecturer Dr. Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) attempts to build a time machine so he can go back and save his friend from being killed by a mugger.
Why So Weird? Uh, Dr Hartdegen succeeds in building his time machine and ends up in the year 802,701, where humanoid Eloi are hunted by monstrous Morlocks.
The Others (2001)
The Period: The 1940s, during the aftermath of World War II.
The Drama: When Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) hires three new staff members at her country home, strange things start happening and she begins to suspect the house may be haunted.
Why So Weird? Ghostly occurrences abound, including a piano playing itself and the sudden arrival of Grace's husband, whom she assumed dead. And then there's that awesome final twist.
The Woman In Black (2012)
The Period: Though the film's Edwardian setting is never explicitly dated, gravestones suggest it's set around 1916.
The Drama: Young lawyer Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is sent to Eel Marsh House in order to sort out the affairs of Alice Drablow, its recently deceased owner.
Why So Weird? It's not long before Arthur discovers strange things have been happening in the nearby village, and then he starts glimpsing a woman all in black...
The Devil's Backbone (2001)
The Period: Guillermo del Toro's film is set during the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939.
The Drama: Casares (Federico Luppi) and Carmen (Marisa Paredes) run an orphanage, and take in a young boy called Carlos (Fernando Tielve), who's been left behind by his parents.
Why So Weird? Carlos starts seeing apparitions, one of whom could be Santi, a young boy who disappeared the same day a bomb appeared by the orphanage.
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
The Period: The majority of the action takes place in 1897, though we do also get a flashback to 1462.
The Drama: Solicitor Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) heads to Transylvania to talk to Count Dracula (Gary Oldman) about his estate, but discovers the man isn't exactly, well, all man.
Why So Weird? Apart from the fact that the film stars Keanu Reeves as a British solicitor? Well, there's also the small matter of Dracula, who's basically king of vampires, plus all that wolf-y and coffins full of earth activity.
The Period: Michael J. Bassett's war-torn drama is set during the First World War.
The Drama: A platoon of British soldiers take refuge in a German trench when they're caught behind enemy lines. But something's hunting them...
Why So Weird? The soldiers have a lot more to fear than Germans, it turns out, as they encounter mud that spews blood, rotting corpses, and something roaring inhumanly among them. Then the dead bodies start coming to life...