Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Scary Films to Watch (And Avoid) This Halloween on British TV

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Halloween isn't such a big deal in the UK, weirdly. I envy America every 31 October, although the reality of going trick-or-treating as an American probably isn't like Hocus Pocus made it seems. Or is it? Anyway, at least the British broadcasters make an effort when it comes to airing horror films on Halloween. Sort of. The lineup this year isn't exactly stellar—a mix of overexposed classics, obscure mediocrity, and cheap direct-to-video crap—but I thought I'd write a handy Halloween film guide anyway. The only rule is this: the movies listed can't be hidden behind a paywall (*ahem* Sky Movies). Onwards...


The Addams Family (1991, dir: Barry Sonnenfeld)
- Film4, 7pm
The '90s Addams Family adaptations aren't mentioned very much these days, but both have withstood the test of time. It helps that the Addams clan haven't themselves evolved beyond 1910, of course. I prefer Barry Sonnenfeld's funnier sequel, Addams Family Values, but this is probably the best one if you're after a sustained spooky tone suitable for Halloween. It's also the only film on this list suitable for kids.

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992, dir: Francis Ford Coppola)
- Film4, 9pm
It has its critics, but I absolutely love Coppola's lavish adaptation of Stoker's original novel. It's pure cinema and spectacle. Gorgeous costumes, amazing production detail, and very memorable visuals. Gary Oldman makes for a fantastic Dracula (almost setting the modern standard for these types of villains) and one can forgive Keanu Reeves' posh English accent a few decades later, right? Or have I "offended you with my ignorance?"

Fright Night (2011, dir: Craig Gillespie)
- BBC2, 9pm
I love the 1985 original, partly because it was the first adult horror and vampire movie I ever saw on video. It was also the first film to give me nightmares. How can a remake hope to compete with such legacy burned into my childhood? Very well, as it turns out. This remake isn't as frightening, being more of a supernatural romp, but I just love the tone and playfulness it has. Oh, and this end credits song is the bomb.

The Sixth Sense (1999, dir: M. Night Shyamalan)
- More4, 11.05pm
A definite modern classic, although it's a film I haven't revisited because so much of its power lies in that twist-ending—a surprise I guessed about halfway through my first viewing, hate to say. Haley Joel Osment is ridiculously good as the little boy who can see ghosts, and it remains Shyamalan's best movie.

You're Next (2011, dir: Adam Wingard)
- Film4, 11.30pm
This is probably my top pick of the evening, simply because I'm guessing most people haven't seen it compared to the other choices. This is a brilliant slasher film that mines great pleasure in reversing many of the genre's ropes and playing with the clich├ęs of what happens when a group of people are attacked inside a mansion by animal-mask-wearing killers. A fresh, gripping approach to well-worn material.


Dark Skies (2013, dir: Scott Stewart)
- 5*, 10pm
I haven't seen this sci-fi horror about a family under attack by extra-terrestrials, but it stars good actors like Keri Russell and J.K Simmons and I've heard enough positive things to consider taking a risk on it for Halloween. Just don't blame me if it's awful.

A Lonely Place to Die (2011, dir: Julian Gilbey)
- 5*, 12.05am
Another film I haven't seen, which concerns a group of mountaineers in the Scottish Highlands who discover a kidnapped girl and find themselves pursued by her kidnappers. Sounds promising. Melissa George and Sean Harris are the big star names, presumably playing hero and villain. It would be a surprise if it was t'other way round.

Fragile (2005, dir: Jaume Balaguero)
- Film4, 1.20am
Horror about a nurse working in a rundown children's hospital on the Isle of Wight, who helps keep her patients safe when they come under mysterious attack. It stars ex-Ally McBeal star Calista Flockhart and Richard Roxburgh. It could be worth a look because it won awards for special effects, cinematography and was the audience's Best Film at the 2006 Gerardmer Film Festival.

Horror Express (1972, dir: Eugneio Martin)
- BBC2, 1.40am
If you're after something a bit unusual and you're suffering from insomnia, tune into this 1972 Spanish-British horror starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Telly Savalas. It's based on the classic short story "Who Goes There?" which was the basis for 1951's The Thing From Another World and its more famous remake The Thing by John Carpenter in 1982. Yes, I bet you didn't know there was a version of The Thing from the early-'70s starring two Hammer Horror legends, did you? Set record!


The Covenant (2006, dir: Renny Harlin)
- Sony Entertainment TV, 7pm
If you're looking for a bad horror movie (some people are!), try this Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2) thriller about four men with supernatural powers battling a mutual enemy. Some of the reviews suggest it's not too bad.

Fright Night 2 (2013, dir: Eduardo Rodriguez)
- Syfy, 9pm
No, not the 1988 sequel. This is a not-really sequel to the 2011 remake, in title only. It's a direct-to-video bit of tosh that genderbends the villain and switches the action to Europe. Not really worth bothering with, unless you're intrigued to see Jaime Murray (Dexter, Defiance) with fangs.

Omen IV: The Awakening (1991, dirs: Jorge Montesi & Dominique Othenin-Girard)
- Movie Mix, 9pm
And you thought the original Omen trilogy couldn't get any worse? Just wait until you sample this made-for-TV crime, which basically remakes the original film with a Daughter of Satan "twist". Very badly.

The Ring Two (2004, dir: Hideo Nakata)
- Sony Entertainment TV, 9pm
One of the biggest letdowns of modern horror was this sequel to the hit 2002 remake of Japan's Ring, again starring Naomi Watts. What's surprising about this film is that the Japanese director, Hideo Nakata, made the original Ring 2, and J-Horror classic Dark Water... but somehow his slam-dunk Stateside debut was a stinker that killed the franchise and sent him scurrying back home.

White Noise (2004, dir: Geoffrey Sax)
- Channel 5, 12.15am
A post-Batman, pre-Birdman Michael Keaton plays an architect obsessed with communicating with his drowned wife, so turns to electronic voice phenomena (EVP) as a means to do so. From the director of the 1996 Doctor Who telemovie and Alex Rider: Stormbreaker. Be warned.